The latest cat sensation sweeping the globe is a simple Japanese app that lets players collect cute kittens in a virtual backyard. Neko Atsume (“Cat Collector”) is creating a feline frenzy as players come up with creative ways to attract stray cats to stop by for some tasty treats.
Equally popular on Android and iOS devices, the cat collecting game has amassed a combined 10 million downloads around the world. Deemed “intensely quirky” and “increasingly compelling,” the app has also earned multiple awards for best game design and best games of the year since debuting on October 20, 2014.
An Unexpected Rising Star
The attention has surprised developer Yutaka Takasaki, whose only goal was to create an easy interactive app that cat lovers of every age could enjoy. This simplicity is exactly why Neko Atsume is such a hit. Players describe the game as relaxing and providing a sense comfort. They can log on to the app at any time, spending just a few moments checking to see if any new cats have sauntered into the backyard, refilling food bowls and buying little treats to make the cats happier. Despite the lack of challenges, new players find themselves impulsively checking on their virtual collections a dozen times a day.
Although the game was never meant to support complex operations, the Internet is filled with tips and tricks to lure the cats into the yard. While the developer Hit-Point plans to keep the concept simple, it does release limited-time events and updated versions that introduce more cats, toys and wallpapers. The latest rendition, 1.7.4, of the free app launched on September 26, 2016.
Building Your Kitty Garden
You start the game with a colorful patio scene and a few bags of Frisky Bits. Once a cat stops by to eat the food, it leaves behind a silver fish. Collect enough fish — or purchase a bundle of niboshiin the app store — to exchange them for better toys, upscale furniture and fancier food. While common cats are satisfied with balls of yarn and oversized pillows, the rare neko require a swankier environment that is complete with outdoor heaters, colorful cots and grand cat towers. These special cats thank you by leaving more valuable gold sardines. Once your purchasing power grows, you can expand your garden and upgrade to one of six outdoor locations.
You are not only trying to collect all 56 cats but also the little mementos that they leave as gifts. These peculiar trinkets range from Bolt’s fishstick board, Breezy’s hourglass and Gabriel’s raffle ticket to Pepper’s toy mirror, Spooky’s ribbon and Frosty’s snowman. The trickiest part is capturing the elusive cats on camera since they often visit when the app is closed.
Cast of Kitty Characters
All 56 cats each have a unique name, personality and appearance. Many look like realistic cats, sporting strips, spots and all-black fur. Among the group are 20 rare cats that require more sophisticated toys and visit less frequently, making it difficult to catch them on camera. This quirky cast of characters includes baseball lover Joe DiMeowgio, the regal Xerxes IX, who prefers to perch on a fluffy cushion, and Conductor Whiskers, who flips over toy trains.
Egyptian Ramses the Great is a Siamese cat who peeks his head from the pyramid tent while the rugged Bob the Cat loves climbing the Cat Metropolis. Finicky feaster Tubbs is a frequent visitor, but the shy calico, Peaches, prefers a less crowded yard. As you get to know these adorable kitties, you’re sure to find a favorite one whether you prefer the diva Lady Meow Meow, the karate master Mr. Meowgi or the romantic adventurer Señor Don Gato.
A Social Media Sensation
The app’s cuddly kitties have become a social media sensation because Neko Atsume players love posting their purrfect pictures on social media. Whichever channel you prefer, you’ll discover discussions on how to attract more cats and ways to grow your garden.
Reddit has an active community, and Pinterest is overflowing with funny memes, nail art ideas, whimsical merchandise links and party planning inspiration. You can even navigate over to Playbuzz to discover “Which Neko Atsume Cat Is Your Spirit Animal.”
The furry felines have inspired a wide variety of tangible merchandise. Online vendors sell everything from plush animals, smartphone flip cases and tote bags to folding fans, tissue covers and umbrellas. Expand your game play further with the Neko Atsume Official Book: Neko Atsume Nekozukushi Hyakkei, which features hide-and-seek challenges, counting games and sticker pages for building your own calming garden offline.