Today I had five cats visit my yard: Pumpkin, Peaches, Snowball, Smokey and Marshmallow. You may think I’m the neighbourhood cat lady, but you’re wrong. I’m just an avid fan of Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector.
The premise of the game is straightforward. Buy goodies from the online shop, which range from inexpensive items like rubber balls and buckets in a variety of colours (60 grey fish each) to the more elaborate, like a v. tasteful art deco cat tree (800 grey fish). You purchase these goodies using the free fish ‘gifts’—either grey or the more valuable gold—the visiting cats leave behind after playing with your toys. (You can also buy your own gold fish for the reasonable sum of $5.49 per 300.) The more toys you purchase and leave out, the more cats come to play, and the more fish are left behind for you to buy more toys. But don’t forget to fill the food bowl with Frisky Bitz (30 grey fish), or else no one is showing up.
This may be reminiscent to the Tamagotchi craze of the late 1990s, but Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector avoids the guilt factor. If you don’t put out toys and treats, cats simply won’t stop by. No one is withering away on your watch if you have a crazy day.
I check in on my feline friends daily. What hooked me? At first it was the surprise of the unknown and the overall kawaiiness of the design. This game was developed in Japan, and the animated cats are adorbs; seeing Fred and Ginger bat around the Mister Mouse toy, or Conductor Whiskers paw at the ball in the Twisty Rail could warm even a cat-hater’s heart.
However, this is more than just fun and games; there is some strategy involved, should you want to get All Caps Abbi about it. And if you do—no judgment here—may I suggest checking out this dedicated subreddit? Just bear in mind the advice isn’t foolproof, at least according to disgruntled Redditor NekoTubbs: “I started leaving Thrifty Bitz on the advice of someone on this sub and it was a mess. I got around 150-200 silver fish for 2 nights in a row and normally I get like 300-500. I think it’s because Tubbs and Xerxes don’t like the Thrifty Bitz.”
As you may have caught from NekoTubbs’ comment, different cats are attracted to different goodies, and will leave a certain number of fish behind. This information is collected in the Catbook, which records the number of cat visits and pertinent statistics like names, personalities (Fred, the orange tabby, is reported to be quite the ladykiller), power level (which ranges from 0 to 250) and preferred amenities (Lady Meow-Meow loves the hammock). You can take photos of cats to put in an album, and they will on occasion give you random mementos—thanks for the damp matchbox, Callie!
According to the online pages in my Catbook, I am waiting for four felines to visit: Frosty, Ms. Fortune, Sassy Fran and Ramses the Great (a Sphynx, obvs!). These are the elusive premium cats; the ones who will only stop by when a particular toy or high-quality food, like the Deluxe Tuna Bitz (12 gold fish), is left out. Kathmandu, who likes to bat around the temari ball (25 gold fish), and Chairman Meow, who enjoys lounging by the sunken fireplace (70 gold fish), have visited only a handful of times, but rewarded me with more fish than the other cats. Perhaps dropping 280 gold fish on a Zen garden remodel will bring all the kitties to the yard. But I’m going to pose that theory on Reddit first.