Japan: Tokyo’s “cat cafes”
By now it is a known fact that pets can help to combat stress symptoms. So it is a logical conclusion to combine two pleasurable activities in order to achieve a positive result: have a tea or coffee break and pet a cat to feel relaxed. The Japanese solution: visit a “Cat Cafe”.
What can you expect? I visited the “Calico Cat” on the 6th floor of an unpretentious office building (ater all, there is no need to have a fancy ground floor shop, the cats wouldn’t appreciate it) and was first asked to take off my shoes, put on felt slippers, put my coat and belongings in a locker, wash my hands thoroughly and read the rules of the house: petting and playing with the cats is allowed, picking them up or disturbing their sleep isn’t. That will be 900 Yen = $10 = 9 Euro for the first 60 minutes, please, lint/cat hair remover included. Drinks and a cat food snack (for the cats, not the human) are extra.
Enter the spacious, wall-to-wall carpeted lounge at the risk of being overrun by one of the 49 (!) cats in residence here having one of its silly moments (we cat lovers know about these) and succumb to bliss. Cats being cats, they will mostly ignore you or graciously allow you to pet them. All the cats here are pure bred, very well groomed and kept: Abysinnian, Mau, Siamese, Persian, Russian Blue, Birma, Bengali (this one almost ran me over) and even two of the new, short legged Dachshund-like breed. Non-chalant is the best word for their behavior. They are all used to having guests fawn over them and take all this adoration in their stride - meaning that most of them are sleeping on one of the many pillows, wall perches or in boxes. I approach a magnificent Maine Coon and it briefly allows my stroking its silky fur before it decides to walk away. The Bengali sets his sights on me as the next likely victim to play with and even brings me his favorite toy as an invitation to do so. I am in heaven!
Not all the 49 cats are on duty every day, today it is just 26, and even if they are “working” they always have the opportunity to go into their own off-limits lounge next door. Discretely, there are several litter boxes hidden from sight. Most importantly, there is absolutely no tell tale odor. In fact, several air purifiers/humidifiers are placed in the large room, surely contributing to the level of comfort for humans and cats.
For the hard-working Tokyo resident, living in a small apartment that possibly does not allow pets and away from home most of the day, a cat cafe offers a welcome bit of R & R. A gentleman sitting on the low couch in the corner seems to be a regular visitor as he has three cats around him and has now dozed off himself, lulled by the soft music and the hushed voices of the other customers. Often, there is a waiting line, as there is a limit to the number of guests allowed in at one time. There are about 13 such cafes in Tokyo and all are an oasis of peace and quiet in the turbulent capital. There is even a department store - the Ikebukuro branch of Tokyu Hands - that has a an area - the Neko (cat) bukuro House - with 20 cats running around where visitors can interact with them (1000 Yen for 60 minutes). But then, we cat lovers know that even a brief encounter with our beloved furries is worth waiting for.
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