I can say that Japan is a unique country where has various kinds of animal cafes such as cats, owls, rabbits, and Shiba-dogs, etc. In rare cases, we can even find hedgehog and otter cafes in Tokyo, and they have become quite popular among people not only local Japanese but also foreign guests in recent years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Animal cafes have emerged more than 10 years ago as the new business market in Japan. The reason why they are so popular is that people would like to admire and to be healed by touching animals in such a heavy stressful society. Just looking at animals at zoos or pet shops is not enough for us, and many apartments are prohibited to keep pets. Therefore, these animal cafes where we can touch and play with them grabbed the heart of stressed people and settled down as one of the characteristic Japanese cultures.
The cat café is the convenient place to have animal therapy for me
As for me, I would like to have some pets at home, but my apartment is prohibited to have any pets, in addition, my husband is not willing to have them because he is anxious about whether we can take care of them throughout our life. So that, I sometimes visit my favorite cat café in my neighborhood to play with cats and to heal my heart. All of the cats there were protective stray cats or ones which were abandoned by owners because of the collapse of multi-head breeding, which have become one of the serious social issues. When they were protected by cat rescues, they were very afraid of or full of hostilities to human beings. So, the owners of the café and volunteer supporters give them training to get used to human beings for a month or so before taking them to the café, otherwise, they act to visitors like biting and scratching badly. When they came to the café at the beginning, they tended to hide or stay higher and didn’t come down to the floor except for a feeding time. According to get used to human beings, they gradually get closer to guests and are OK to be touched /carried in the arm by us. Basically, they are so friendly and affable. Some of them are always coming to my side, sometimes trying to sit on my knees. It seems as if they had already learned from their experiences that someone takes them home if they act to be friendly to visitors. The final purpose of the cat café is to reduce cat slaughter and to find new foster parents/families for them. When you want to be a foster parent, you have to meet certain criteria including your age, income, living environment, preparation to keep a cat.
Some cats were taken by new foster families, but almost 20 cats usually stay in the café because new cats have continued to come one after another. Running a cat café is not easy when it is considered the cost for their feeding, medical care, castration surgery, and staff hiring. The fee by the visitor is the most important income, which is 1,200 – 1,500 yen per hour per person with a free drink. The owners are now striving to keep the café under this pandemic situation which is prohibited to gather people in smaller space and people refrain from visiting there. Now, they are trying to strictly limit the number of people who can enter the room with sufficient ventilation and disinfection. They cannot let it go bankrupt due to keeping animals’ lives. The café seems to be supported by many repeaters like me and foster families. They are supported by not just visiting the café, but also donating cat foods, daily goods, or sometimes money.
There are so many fancy cat cafés with commercial purposes here in Tokyo, but I try to choose and visit the ones like my neighbors with socially meaningful activities. Of course, it does not mean that commercial purpose is bad, but I just would like to support the activities for reducing animal slaughter as much as possible. (From my experience, cats at the commercial purposed café are not as friendly as rescue cats and sometimes too elegant because they are with pedigree and photogenic… )
My unforgettable memory to stay with the cat
Originally, I preferred dogs to cats because I had a kind of trauma in which I was scratched by them badly when I was a child. However, the one experience completely changed my image of a cat. The first time I lived with cats was during my home staying with an American family 20 years ago. The family had a dog and 2 cats, and one of the cats was extremely friendly and he really liked a newcomer. Therefore, he was curious about me soon after my arriving and he was always staying in my bedroom all day and waiting for me outside of the room in the morning (Because I didn’t allow him to sleep together and let him go outside of the room at night). He liked to spend the time on my knee and was always beside me especially when I felt down or got slightly homesick. Whereas they are very free without being concerned, they are also sensitive to catch how we feel. I heard from my host family that he has gone to heaven after my coming back to Japan, but I still recall him from time to time. (Actually, he really liked new comers and he was snuggling up to my friends from Japan who visited to me at my host family while they stayed as if he totally forgot about me!! Then, he came back again to me after they went back…)
After the COVID-19 pandemic, I heard many people are spending more time at home and considering keeping some pets. It is not bad if they can take care of them sufficiently throughout their life, but I also heard the sad news that some people abandon the pets bought at pet shops or ask to return. It is because their time to work from home has reduced and cannot take care of their pets, especially businesspersons living alone. We need to be well prepared to take responsibility and we should not decide to keep pets easily. Considering this point, I may not be ready to keep any pets yet and it may also be more reasonable to visit the cat cafes to meet my favorite cat members.
Anyway, please visit animal cafes, in particular, rescue cat cafes for the purpose of supporting their activities if you are interested. For your information, a rescue cat café is “Hogo-Neko Café” in Japanese!
References of Rescue Cat Cafes in Tokyo :
*Some websites provide info in ONLY Japanese, so please use online translation to read the contents.
*Neco Republic: https://www.neco-republic.jp/
*Kaname Nyanko-tei: https://nyankotei.com/
*Asakusa Neko-en: https://www.asakusanekoen.com/index.html#page-top