We explore the hidden secrets of Neko Atsume, the curiously moreish cat collecting mobile game for iOS and Android, to bring you the best tips and tricks for building your fluffy collection.
Neko Atsume has become something of a sleeper hit for Japanese developers Hit-Point, whose usual stock in trade is RPGs. Its creator, Yutaka Takasaki, has no idea why it’s become so popular, but he's probably not complaining much.
Obsessive cartoon cat fans probably know the drill already and are desperate to know how to get all of those elusive rare cats. If you have no idea what we're talking about, read our write up of the game here, then immediately download it on your phone and come straight back.
Neko Atsume tips & tricks
1. The silver-to-gold fish exchange rate isn’t great... but it’s free
If you want to unlock the best toys, and therefore attract those elusive rare cats, you’re going to need to invest in some gold fish.
Departing cats are more likely to pay you in common or garden silver fish than gold - but you can use this to your advantage.
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You can trade in 500 silver fish for 10 golden ones in the shop. It’s not a brilliant exchange rate to be honest, but it means you don’t have to spend actual real money on IAPs and, as we said, you’re likely to accumulate reserves of silver fish far more quickly than you are gold.
Of course, if you’re impatient or you feel that Hit-Point should earn some extra crust, you can always open your wallet for some gilded fishies. It is possible, however, to quickly amass a stockpile of golden fish without spending a single penny.
2. Take advantage of the 15 per cent off deal, use fancy food sparingly
Plates of sashimi and other expensive foods are often key to luring those rare cats into your garden. These normally cost 5 gold fish a piece but at the time of writing, Neko Atsume is running a 15 percent off deal, which sees you getting three plates for the cost of 12 fish. There’s no telling if this deal is a limited time thing or not, so take advantage of it while you can.
While we’re on the subject of sushi, it’s worth noting that you don’t always get a good return on your investment, fish-wise.
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Cats aren’t likely to give you any more credit for laying on the fancy food than they would be with the yellow bowl Frisky Bitz - which cost 30 silver fish and last a lot longer anyway. Use the expensive food only when you need to, if money’s tight.
3. Change your phone's date and time settings to feed your cats at night
On the subject of food, you should know that it’s possible to keep those bowls and plates topped up overnight. You can do this by going into your phone’s settings and changing the date and time.
Everyone knows that no food = no cats and no cats = no fish. You can get around this by fast forwarding into the small hours. This means you can leave out fresh food, change the time back to what it should be and get some sleep. Then when you wake up in the morning, you won’t be greeted by the tragic sight of a garden devoid of cats (and you’ll have earned more fish than you would have).
Note that after you’ve put the clock back to the correct time on your phone you won’t be able to play Neko Atsume properly until the game’s internal clock has caught up with the real, actual time.
4. Buy the Yard Expansion before anything else
When you start playing, your garden will only have enough room for one food bowl, five small item spaces or one large item and three small items.
You can increase this by shelling out 180 gold fish for the Yard Expansion. This gives you a total of two food bowl spaces, ten spaces for small items or two large items and six small items.
Doubling your space means you'll be able to attract twice the number of cats and therefore earn more fish.
5. Choose your first Remodel upgrade wisely
Once you’ve amassed enough gold fish, you’ll be able to break out of the ready salted original garden (above) and pick from some swanky new digs. There’s a steamy onsen bath house, a wild west ranch, a Constructivist-style art house pad that for some reason reminds us of BoJack Horseman and a leafy upmarket garden.
Unfortunately, you don’t get a complete overview of these new venues from the game itself, so you’re being asked to make your choice based on an obstructed view. We’ve included screen grabs of all of them for you.
Whichever one you pick, the amount of space for toys and food is the same; the difference is purely aesthetic.
We say you should choose your first extra garden wisely, because the first one you buy is at a reduced price of 140 gold fish, down from the regular price of 280.
6. Fill up quickly after Tubbs has been to visit
Tubbs is one of the earliest rare cats you’ll encounter in the game and he’s a big spender. Which is just as well, because when he comes to visit, it’s usually to eat all of the food in one go.
As we said above, no food means other cats will stay away. You can make Tubbs leave right away by just filling up the bowl of food he’s snoozing next to, but doing this appears to diminish the size of his tip. It’s in your interest to let him sleep it off, pay and leave.
Once he’s gone though, you’ll want to get some new food out pronto if you want to keep attracting visitors.
7. How to get as many cats on screen as possible
If you want to get as many cats as possible together for a photo op, it’s simply a case of putting down all four of the cubes - Orange (320 silver) Navy Blue (320 silver) Tiramisu (28 gold) Dice (32 gold) - as well as the Giant Cushion (25 gold). These mega-cushions can have up to two cats on them at once, but they only occupy one space in the garden.
In one of the large spaces, put down the Cat Metropolis (50 gold), which is currently the only item that can support up to six cats. In the other large space, you can install either the Cat Condo Complex (500 silver) or the Bureau with Pot (950 silver), which can both house up to five cats.
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In that final spot, you should put down the Lacquered Bowl (25 gold) because this has the potential to attract two visitors - one cat that sleeps or sits inside it as well as the rare cat Kathmandu.
Finally, there’s also a chance that Tubbs might show up and inhale a bowl of food. This means the highest number of cats you can have on screen at any one time is theoretically 24.
The screenshot above is actually three that we pieced together in Photoshop; it’s unlikely you’ll get 24 on screen at the exact same time.
8. How to enable English in Neko Atsume
This can easily be turned on by tapping the Menu button and heading to Settings, represented by the white cog on the bottom left.
From here you can switch between the game’s native Japanese and English as well as toggle sound levels.
9. How to make a cat wear a top hat
Place the Cardboard Café (50 gold) or the Cardboard House (40 gold) in the garden area of the Modern Style house and wait for a cat to hang over the left-most side of the roof.
10. How to recreate the Back to the Future: Part III train sequence in Neko Atsume
Arrange the DeLorean (Cardboard truck - 15 gold) so that it’s in front of the Locomotive 131 (Cardboard Choo-Choo - 60 gold) and put the Presto Log (Scratching Log - 30 gold) up on the top.
11. You can expand your photo album - but only up to eight pages
Cat fanciers who want to build up a truly impressive album in their Catbook should know that there’s only enough room for 48 pictures per cat in total.
Each page in your Catbook has enough room for six snaps and you get three pages by default.
Expanding this costs 10 gold fish per extra page; that’s a total of up to 50 fish per cat. Based on the current number of cats out there, that’s a total of 2,450 gold fish you’re spending.
Because you might want to spend that gold on rare items, it’s a good idea to hold back on expanding your photo album until a little later in the game. Luckily, we’ve found a way for you to keep reserves of silver fish topped up every day, regardless of how many cats come to visit.
12. Get free silver fish with the daily password
There's also a secret daily password in Neko Atsume which bags you a small amount of silver fish every day. Check out our daily password guide for more info.
Pro tip: On the iOS version of the game, entering the password is a simple case of tapping the icon. Android users will have to manually enter the password; it might be a good idea to change the language of the game to English (see tip 8) unless you’re also proficient in Japanese (we manifestly aren’t) and you’ve got SwiftKey, or another multi-lingual keyboard installed.
Thanks to Maddi for this one.