Katha is 12 hours by rail north of Mandalay through the railroad junction town of Naba which is 23 km (14 mi) to the west of Katha. A small branch of railway runs east from Naba to Katha. Katha can also be reached by ferries that run on the Irrawaddy River between the upstream town of Bhamo down to Mandalay. There is also direct bus service from Mandalay to Katha, but it is a bumpy ride.
Katha has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate classification Aw) bordering on a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa). Temperatures are very warm to hot throughout the year, with milder winter months (December–February). There is a winter dry season (November–March) and a summer wet season (April–October).
Katha is the administrative seat of Katha District which comprises seven small townships. Katha is populated with government offices and many of the early town settlers were from every part of Burma and usually had background history of civil service under at least one of ministerial departments. The main economy of the town is fisheries and farming of kidney beans. Production of rice in the Katha Township is less than its consumption and Katha has to depend on imports from the nearby townships such as Indaw or Kawlin. Katha is a legendarily bureaucratic stronghold, and its prosperity is crippled by it.
Katha is known in literature as the real place underlying the fictional Kyauktada, setting of George Orwell's first novel Burmese Days (1934). Orwell himself served at Katha in 1926-27 in the Indian Imperial Police. The British Club (including active tennis court), police station, and town jail are locations mentioned in the novel that can still be visited today. More accounts on this section is readable in Emma Larkin's "Finding George Orwell in Burma". Katha links with prominent Burmese writers such as Shwe U Daung, Thaw Tar Swe, Theik-Pan Muu Tin, and AFPFL leader Kyaw Nyein from Stable faction.