An Idea Flourishes
Cats, dogs, reptiles, small mammals and birds are all popular animals as pets and many households around the world quite likely have one of the above mentioned pets or more. Having animals in our homes is common and normal. In other places around the world one could not simply get a cat or dog for any number of reasons.
In 1998 the first ever cat cafe was created in Taiwan to cater to the many people who could not have a cat (or pets in general). The idea of paying an entry fee to spend an hour or two with cats appealed to many people. They could have all the benefits of a pet without having to be their owner.
Since then animal cafes have grown beyond cats, though cats are still the more popular ones. Today cafes can be found all over Asia including Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and Tokyo. And more recently they have started popping up all around the world in places such as Australia, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Paris. Canada and the United States are also starting to open cafes. Tokyo has more than a hundred such establishments, Japan has more than 200 cat cafes. This idea is not slowing down.
With cats so successful it was not long before other animals followed along such as bunnies and birds. But questions beg to be asked, just how ethical and moral are these businesses, are they regulated, safe and hygienic. This exploratory article takes a deeper look at animal cafe.
Have Your Say
Would you ever go to a animal themed cafe?
What is an Animal Cafe and Why Go to One?
In the simplest of terms animal cafes are spaces (businesses) where people can hang out with the animals and have something to drink or eat. Each establishment has its own rules and regulations mostly for the safety of both human and animal.
Cats are by far the more popular of cafe animals, but bunnies, birds and reptiles are also growing more common. Even the more exotic and wild type of animals are making appearances in cafes such as penguins, falcons and owls.
The answer to why go to a animal cafe lies in Asian laws and culture. Many residential buildings in Japan do not legally allow pets like cats and dogs. Space can also be an issue in many Asian cities. There are time constraints to consider as well such as working long days or for people who are barely home. And let us not forget financial limits.
These cafes allow people to spend an hour or two with a animal that they ultimately do not have to care for, they get the benefits of pet ownership without the ownership. I suspect in the countries that have more pet owners than most (USA, Austarlia and Canada) the novelty of these cafes is what attracts them.
Inside a Cat CafeClick thumbnail to view full-size
What to expect at these cafes
Expectations are tricky to state as the variety of animals and rules involved. If you are just getting started with animal cafes you should research first before going as they often have long lines or wait times to get in. Your entry fee may or may not cover refreshments. Depending on the type of animal cafe you are at you may or may not be able to touch or interact with the animals. The fees vary but on average the cost of a hour with a cat is around 1000 yen, which is roughly ten dollars usa.
From here on it is pretty much what you would expect: hanging out with, staring at, petting and feeding cats (or whatever animal you are hanging with that day). With cat cafes often when you enter you are asked to trade your shoes for slippers and with most any interactive type cafe you are asked to wash your hands before interacting with the animals.
The Cafe establishments themselves vary almost as much as the animals in them do. I have seen cafes that clearly had some money put into them and others resembled a farmer tying a goat or two outside the house to pet while you drink tea. Little Zoo Cafe is a highly interactive cafe with many different animals for its clients - owls and falcons greet you out front, goats wander freely, bunnies and cats are indoors. But some cafes have their animals behind glass and all you can do is watch as you drink your tea.
Most if not all of the animal cafes do follow one rule ... if the animal is sleeping or eating or otherwise engaged you are not to disturb it or force it to stop. The animals, particularly the cats, are free range and not employees.
Owls and Falcons Greet You
Is this safe?
Every country has its own laws in regards to food and animals. Many states in the USA do not allow food to be cooked and served with animals on the same property. Japan has been refining its regulations of animal cafes. Canada has stringent health laws that subject something like a animal cafe to strict adherences.
With that said, it has been my experience that these animal cafes bottom line depends on how it is maintained. It benefits the cafe owners to have a clean cafe with healthy animals. To date I have not come across any news or articles that indicate that it is not safe to mix food services and animals with the proper attention and maintenance to health and hygiene.
Another aspect of safety is the animals themselves ... lets be honest here, goats are bullies and cats can scratch. Cafe owners are responsible for getting socialized animals or ensuring the animals will not or can not harm the cafe patrons. This means no nasty cats, nipping birds or head bunt you goats. Use your common sense.
I think these cafes are perfectly safe when used responsibly.
Owl in a Cafe
Is this a good idea for the animals?
Any time a animal is used for profit the question must be asked if it is a good idea for the animal to be involved.
Like some big retail stores in the West, they do not sell the animals but do offer boards and information for adopting them or learning more about their care. Cafes are an excellent place for educating existing and future pet owners. The life of a homeless pet animal is shorter than average and a rough life. Being able to live in the cafe is a win win for the animals that are taken care of well. They get companionship, play, attention and food. While the human in the relationship reaps the benefits of being around animals.
I think these cafes are great for the animals that are commonly kept as pets and in a few cases, like goats, domesticated. But I do not believe for a minute that these are good places for wild animals like falcons and owls and some of the reptile species. In fact a number of articles protesting these cafes are the ones that use wild animals claiming the conditions are not conductive to good health.
In the end I believe that most cafe owners are not to far off from people who just enjoy and love animals.