In a vibrant city such a Tokyo, many people live in small apartments stacked up on each other creating plenty of high-rise buildings. Because these apartments are often rented, the people are prohibited to own any pets and even if it wasn’t prohibited the places would just be too small. But Japan would not be the modern country as we know it if it had not come up with a solution; animal cafes!
The first animal café was a Neko café (neko means cat) and was established in 2004. Ever since, the cafes started to gain more popularity and nowadays Japan is full of them.
Cats are not the only animals with cafes dedicated to them, Japan also features dog, goat, rabbit and snake cafes. All of these establishments are created to satisfy the need of the animal lover. People who only like to watch can settle in the café area and look through the glass while enjoying their cup of coffee. But what differs these cafes from a zoo, is that people can actually come in and play or cuddle with their animalistic little friends.
Recently I had the opportunity to check out one of the Neko cafes myself near Ōmori Station (Ota-ku). Before stepping in to the place I had to put on special slippers due to sanitary reasons. I drank some juice while talking to the owner and another guest while in the background the cats were either sleeping or running around, waiting for some attention. The cat area could not be entered without thoroughly washing the hands and putting some kind of sanitary lotion on them. The furry little animals were quite relaxed as I came up to them. It was immediately noticeable which of them were into some quality time and which were not, they turned their heads as I let them smell my hand. In total, the place consisted of approximately 15 cats of which three kittens.
While some remained sleeping (in the most uncomfortable positions) the entire time I stayed there, others played around and came to me. All cats looked healthy and happy, which was something I was a little worried about to be honest. Luckily, regulations for animal cafes have recently been changed, some cafes used to stay open until past midnight but they now have a limited amount of opening hours per day. Also, cafes where it gets really busy have created shifts for their cats so they get some rest.
For the first half hour, I spend 600¥. Had I stayed longer than I had to pay per every 10 minutes. The café itself is free of charge, excluding the drinks naturally.
While cat cafes are for non-owners who still want to enjoy their furry friends, dog cafes are a complete different thing. Here, people bring their own dog to be able to eat with them or spoil them with treats on their birthday. For non-dog owners, there are special places renting dogs for an hour or part of the day, giving them the opportunity to walk the dog around town.
While it probably wouldn’t work anywhere else in the world, animal cafes are all the rage in Japan.