Cats by the Hour? The Cat Café Culture of Tokyo

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6th Nov, 2012

Tokyo: a supercity of the future with unique culture, entertainment and …. cat cafés. By cat cafés, I mean supervised indoor cat rental (with caramelized lattés).  For a cover charge according to the desired amount of ‘cat time’, guests can cuddle with feline friends while having a catch-up coffee with human friends, surf the net or take pictures of fur balls reclining on top of a drinks machine for that all-important cat blog.

One cat blogger (this exists), and a regular at cat cafés, loves going to see how his favorite cats are growing up. “Cat cafés make me feel nostalgic, because I had cats in my childhood,” he says. “My hobby is photography — I think the cat is one of the best subjects.”

The world’s first cat café opened in Taiwan in 1998 but became a phenomenon in Japan in 2004 when a boom of feline establishments began opening in Osaka and Tokyo, attracting tourists and locals alike. Why? Well it turns out Japanese landlords are pretty much pet-hating demons (sort of) who prohibit animals in most rental apartments in the city. So cat cafés enable young Japanese animals lovers who can’t have pets to get their squee on.

It’s proved so popular that rabbit cafés have even emerged in fashionable areas of the city with a largely female clientele. Although the animal cafés are also an increasingly popular date spot. Japanese are generally known to be quite shy people and young couples find the silent caressing of animals the perfect ice-breaker! Tokyo alone is home to around 50 cat cafés, some of which feature specific cat breeds or styles such as rare breeds, fat cats or ex-stray cats.

The cat "staff" on the menu.

Strict requirements to obtain a license and comply with the regulations of the Animal Treatment/Protection Laws are very much in play here to ensure cleanliness and animal welfare. Guests must also abide by certain in-house rules such as not being permitted to pick the cats up or disturb them during nap time. Many of the cat cafés also take part in raising awareness of cat welfare issues, such as animal cruelty or abandonment.

Although you might catch a staff member enhancing the café experience by strapping on a “cat hat” or two.

Visit a Cat Cafe website here.

Images via OhSoLovely, here, here, and here

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