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Monday, October 15, 2012

Cat Cafe

What's your favorite animal? Picture it. Now, imagine a place where you can be with your favorite animal anytime you want. Unless your favorite animal is a 12 foot mako shark, ready to tear you, Samuel L. Jackson, or anybody else in half. Sharks are just dangerous.

My favorite animal is a cat. I love cats: small, large, any kind of cat. And if you live in Japan, you're in luck. Japan (which should be nicknamed CCCW: the Cute and Cuddly Capital of the World) has cat cafes. These places are small cafes, serving coffee, snacks, and bundles of fur and happiness.

I live near Hiroshima and there is a cat cafe about 40 minutes away. What are these oases of cuteness? Cat+cafe= cat cafe. Often small, these places look like any decent coffee shop. Warm decor, tables and counters for sitting and relaxing. But I noticed the tables were low, the chairs legless. And furry animals were everywhere.

Cats own this place and they know it. They roam free, having run of the place except for the kitchen areas. (As much as I love cats, I hate cat hair in my coffee). Scratching posts and toys are scattered about. Cats ranging from kittens to full grown, and of different breeds, live here, providing warmth and a stress-free place to unwind.

I pay for an hour, around $10, for time with the cats, and an included beverage; coffee, tea, or such. They serve light cafe-style food as well, cakes and sandwiches and the like. Time after the allotted amount is extra, you often pay for 15 or 20 minute extensions.

For my time and money I get a quiet environment. Depending on the time of day, the cats maybe playful, chasing balls or feathers attached to the ends of sticks. Sometimes, everyone is tired, and they are curled in balls or stretched out. And these cats sleep where they want: in the window, under tables, in the shoe case, on the counter. No place, except the kitchen/food service area, is off-limits.

And who might patronage this kind of place? If your image is young girls yelling out "CUTE!" every five minutes, you're mistaken. Many cat cafe owners, especially the ones in the major cities, say their best customers are salarymen. Office workers, stressed out after working until 8 or 9 PM often come to cat cafes before heading home. They order a drink and unwind, petting their cares away And since most of them are repeat customers, they have point cards. Each visit get a stamp and when the card is filled, you get a free visit. I've filled up a couple of cards.

Where I live now, I'm not allowed pets. I love the cat cafe, it allows me a brief time to have a pet of my own. The breeds of the cats are ones that are known for being tame and domicile: Russian blue, Scottish fold, and the like.

With space a premium in Japan, not everyone can afford pets. Cat cafes provide people a place to have a pet of their own for a short time. The success of these cafes have spawned similar ones for different animals, dogs and rabbits being the most popular.

But nothing will beat a cat cafe. Bushy tails, soft paws…what's not to love?

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