I just read a fascinating story about what’s called a “Cat Café.” No, it’s not what you may think. I made the same mistake, in thinking it was a fine eating establishment run by food-loving feline entrepreneurs, with a desire to test their culinary skills on a human population. A cat cafe, is actually a coffee and pastry shop, with a separate area containing cats. Customers pay an hourly fee to relax with delicious food and beverages, while either watching, or playing with our wonderful feline friends.
The first cat café was opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. The idea quickly spread to Japan, Europe, and finally to North America. Even Australia, has a selection of cafes catering to the needs of people looking for a little comfort from our furry friends. I understand, the first endeavor in the land down under involving human animal interactions, was a “Kangaroo Café.” The idea was scrapped about two hours later, after the male kangaroos, kept punching and kicking the living daylights out of customers. I guess that’s killed my idea of a “Hyena Café.” I heard someone tried one once. Not only were the hyena’s hard to handle, ravenous eaters, and didn’t like to be petted, but they kept laughing at the customers.
Do you know there are over 150 cat cafes in Japan? It makes sense. Japan has a lot of urban areas with tiny apartments and condominiums. Most, do not allow any pets. The popularity of cat cafes in Japan is often attributed to a desire to interact with cats to relieve the stress of a busy work life. Scientific studies have shown that periodic interactions with cats, helps to lower blood pressure, ease stress, and relieve anxiety. That is, unless you get up at 1:00 am in the morning to go to the bathroom, and either step in an enormous pile of hairballs, or inadvertently step on your cat’s tale. I love my cats, but take it from me – it’s not very relaxing.
I’m not an expert on the subject, but from what I understand about the cafes; the cats basically do whatever they want. They eat, sleep for hours, lounge around on soft cushions, groom themselves constantly, and ignore you if you talk to them. They also lay in the warmest spots, hack up prodigious amounts of hair balls, foul the litter boxes, and have people fulfill their every desire. When I learned this, I thought to myself,
“I guess I don’t have to visit a Cat Café. I can experience all that, just by walking in my front door, and observing my own two cats, Harper and Molly!”
If you think about it; cat cafes are a pretty awesome idea. They’re kind of like when you visit relatives for the Holidays or go to your children’s houses to babysit grandchildren. You get to enjoy their company for a while, and then you get to leave.
Most cat cafes have specific rules that are prominently posted and must be adhered to. They include: being respectful to the cats, no feeding of the cats, no flash photography, no loud noises, no disturbing of sleeping cats, no mistreatment of cats by pulling on whiskers or fur, no children under eight allowed, and no picking up cats, unless a staff member tells you it’s okay. To be honest; that kind of takes all the fun out of interacting with cats! Experts have also said that contrary to popular belief, cats, much like my wife – don’t like to be held.
One good thing has come out of the establishing of cat cafes. Many, especially in America, have teamed up with local agencies, such as animal rescue leagues, humane societies, and the SPCA. Most of the cats in the cafes are adoptable to good homes. One bit of controversy has arisen concerning cat cafes. Some well-meaning cat lovers, believe the environment may be unsuitable to cats, due to the stress of interacting with so many humans on a daily basis. I’m not sure if this is true. If I could read the minds of cats, visited a cat café, talked to a resident cat, and asked him how he was doing – I might hear,
“Hey dude. This is like living in a five-star hotel. Three weeks ago, I was living under a dumpster behind Ming Chow’s Famous Sushi House. Talk about stress. If I wasn’t fighting other cats over rancid fish heads; I was running like heck, and climbing trees to escape hungry, feral dogs, looking to make me into dog chow. Go ahead. Pet me all you want. If it makes you happy, you can even toss me high into the air. I know I’ll land on my feet. I have to go now. They just cleaned my litter box, I have at least twenty human faces I can rub my butt against, and I think I just heard the sound of a tuna can being opened.”
I probably won’t ever need to visit a cat café. I have two cats at home that keep me extremely busy, and adequately entertained. If I do long for the company of multiple cats, I’ll just do one of two things. First, I’ll hit the drive through at Dunkin Donuts, order a dark roast coffee, and a tuna salad sandwich, and leave my windows open. If that doesn’t attract enough cats, I’ll open two or three cans of tuna, and stroll casually through my neighborhood. I guarantee, within five minutes I’ll have enough cat companionship to relieve my stress for – the next ten years!
The more I think about Cat Cafes, it seems many things could go wrong. I’ve been a cat lover my entire life, and I can say this – some cats are nuts! They are also unpredictable, strange, finicky, and at times out of control. My cat, Harper will suddenly, and with no warning, sprint through the house at twice the speed of a Cheetah. He’ll leap up curtains, hurdle sofas and beds, and knock things off tables and countertops. Five minutes later, as I stand among a sea of destruction, he’s behind the couch, beginning a twenty-two-hour nap.
What if twenty cats did this at the same time? What if you’re allergic to cats, but didn’t know it until you sat down in a corner, and forty cats swarm all over you? I can only image if ten or so cats decide to rub their butts in your face at the same time. Here’s something to think about. What if a deranged person comes in with an electric can opener, plugs it in, turns it on, and then runs out the door? Pretty horrifying, huh? I know what happens at my house when the little devils hear that sound, and I only have two cats.