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Mon, 23 Apr '12

Cafe Meowchiatto: Japan's Cat Cafes

Yes, this is exactly what you think it is.

File this under evidence that the Internet is leaking or further proof that Japan is the quintessential generator of all things strange but adorable: in recent years, people have been flocking to cat cafes to get their fix of both caffeine and cuteness. After the first cat cafe appeared in Taiwan in 1998, the concept rapidly caught on in Japan, particularly in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka where many apartment dwellers aren't permitted to keep pets (thankfully, Ninja Cat is an exception to that rule). Reddit, eat your heart out.

Although there's no word on whether they serve cheeseburgers, the cafes typically charge a cover fee or a premium on their coffee and, in exchange, customers get to play with a cuddly cadre of cats while sipping on cafe au lait. Another interesting fact about these cafes: the cats in question aren't rare purebreds or anything like that; rather, they're just Average Joes, mixed breeds that you'd sooner see scampering through an alleyway than posing for this month's issue of Cat Fancy. Basically, it's the film Rent-a-Cat in real life.

All of this begs the question, "why?" Given Japan's reputation for extremely strenuous working schedules, restrictive apartment policies and the ironically-named "one-room mansions" (the equivalent of a studio apartment, but smaller), the rise of cat cafes makes complete sense. For many single 20-and-30-somethings living alone, some of whom are extremely shy, the cafes provide an outlet to unwind by playing with adorable felines. For people like this, the cafes have proven to be a perfect compromise. Despite recent legislation aimed at curtailing the cafes' activities, they continue to persevere and provide the cuddle-starved citizens of Japan (or those with spotty wi-fi) with a valuable service, making these cafes the undeniable wearers of the cat's pajamas.

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