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Cafe for Cool Cats, or anyone who likes Cats

JAPAN | Friday, 18 February 2011 | Views [1565]

Cafes seem to be the new pub. One doesn't meet at a pub for a quick drink and catch up at lunch. Workplace safety has rightly caused a decline in such sinful behavior. It is cafes where we now catch up, gossip, show new facebook photos, create the new facebook to make us all immeasurably rich...

Japan is not immune to the march of the cafes. Along with the chains such as Starbucks, Tully's Coffee and Dotour, there is hundreds of small coffee shops to choose from. Smoking is still a common thing in most cafes (Starbucks is a welcome relief from the smoke), and lets face it...the coffee on average is perhaps of a mediocre standard. So why am I getting excited about writing about a place for all you cool cats to go, sip on bad coffee and being able to sit back and read a manga??? Easy answer...CATS.

Not the Andrew Lloyd Webber type (although that is still playing in Yokohama if you want to see it), I am talking the fluffy, mewing, clawing, allergy inducing, smooching kitty type. So if a latte is not enough, how about a latte with a kitten playing with your sock. Sick of the lame excuse for a biscuit you have been served up. Tell the fluffy persian curled up on your lap.

Cat cafes (Neko Cafe) are becoming more popular in Japan, and if you look not too hard you are sure to find one in a city near you. I know of one in Yokohama, numerous in Tokyo, one in Kannai and one just 3 blocks away from my home at Ishikawacho. Japanese homes are usually very small and having a pet can be difficult in such small places. Visiting a cat cafe is one way that people can share in looking after and having the company of a pet cat.

This is how they work. You enter and pay for the 'option' you would like off the menu. The longer you stay the more you pay. Simple. Coffee, tea or drink (sometimes alcohol is served) or food may be a part of this fee. After payment, you ditch your shoes, wash you hands according to the instructions (they usually have different bacteria killing hand washes) then you can go into the cafe room with the cats.

The cafe rooms are a good size and the cats have the run of the place. There may be up to 20 cats in the room with you! There will be many different breeds, all with their different temperaments and personalities. The rules are often laid out in English for us stupid Gaijins. These include don't wake up the cats, don't hold them if they want to get down, don't feed them and don't be rough with them. Common sense for any cat lover really. there is also usually an age limit so younger children may not be allowed to enter in with the cats. Cats that are being rested will be in a cage and you are not to disturb these cats. All the other cats you can play with, pet, and if they let you, pick up and they might even sleep on your lap.

The staff are always supervising, to make sure that no one is being rowdy. Unless it is a cat - the cats can be as rowdy as they want. The staff also sort out you food or drink and change the cats litter. The places I have been to have a little door into another room where the cats have rows of kitty litters to use, so no accidents in the main common room.

The room is set up with huge scratching posts/activity towers for the cats. Look up on the wall and there will be a cat asleep on the top book shelf. There are boxes and hidey hole baskets for the cats to sleep in and lots of toys for you to use to play with a cat that wants to play. Cats are cats...if kitty doesn't want to play with you, no matter how long you wave the mousey on a string in front of him, all you will get is a withering look in return.

What are the ethics of such a place? This worries me. I LOVE cats. I LOVE animals. But is this good or bad for the cats? I just don't know. My observation is they are well looked after, no cats seemed overweight or underweight. They have access to vets and get lots of loving attention from the staff and the public. The downsides are that the get lots of loving attention from the public. I am not a cat and I don't know whether all the cats would like this. Most of the cats in the cafes have 'worked' at the cafes since they were kitten (Sounds like feline prostitution). Some were rescue cats, some rescued from the street in the local area. Others a big purchase rare breed cats. (Still sounds like a cat brothel...)

The patrons of the cafe that I have seen vary, young ladies, middle age ladies, and I was surprised one Saturday lunchtime - almost exclusively middle age men. I suppose that if you don't like cats you won't go to a place like this. If you love cats, respect them and treat them well, you will go to a place like this and will treat the cats well. So maybe it is a market to be filled and hopefully it will be continued to be run by people who just love cats and will look after them.

So I liked them. I go and treat the cats with the respect I would give any living creature. In return these cats are cute, active, playful, sleepy... they are just cats and that's would all patrons should expect-just cats doing cat things. They are lovely little fluffy critters and when you time is up, you may have to try and slide the cat that is fast asleep on your lap off onto the sofa, otherwise you will have to pay for the next half an hour.

Now if cats are not you thing, next door to the cat cafe at Ishikawacho a rabbit cafe has opened...

Tags: cafes, cat cafe, cats, coffee, japan, neko, pets, rabbit, starbucks, tea

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