I am fond of cats. No, I'm not a "crazy cat lady." I do not own 701 of the creatures. I do not knit booties for the modest (and neutered!) two that live under my roof, and they have never been to a kitty spa. But I do adore them.
Cats, to me, are aesthetically pleasing. Setting aside those caught up in the North American obesity epidemic (our Ginger is a little tubby), most cats are graceful and elegant in movement and form. When my slender and muscled white cat perches on a rock planter mid-way down my yard at dusk, tulips and other spring plants in bloom around him, he gleams, and looks almost unbearably beautiful and contained. Up close and backlit by the sun, his ears are almost translucent, the pink of a sea shell's inside. When he leaps, he's a small piece of poetry in motion.
The Japanese have long understood the aesthetic appeal of cats, and also their function as bringers of peace and calm (perhaps not while pouncing on mice and birds, but let's focus on the cat at rest). It was a revelation, but not really a surprise, to read news of Japan's "cat cafes," places people go to take time from stressful lives, sip a soothing beverage and contemplate cats.
At the Neko JaLaLa cafe ("neko" is Japanese for cat) in Tokyo, reports The Christian Science Monitor, "denizens loll on the thick carpet, drape over couches, and almost purr with pleasure in the quiet atmosphere.
And that's just the humans."
One customer interviewed, a system engineer named Tetsunori Oda, "likens cat-gazing to looking at art." Watching them, he says of his chosen cafe's eight staff cats, is a great way to relieve stress after a day of work. (Question: Do people refer to Mr. Oda as a crazy cat gentleman, I wonder?)
Since the cafes tend to have "no tail-pulling" policies, they also tend to be child-free, which cat-admiring adults looking for calm probably appreciate as much as the unharassed cats.
I'm guessing we won't see cat cafes in North America any time soon - there would be too many health regulations and lots of hand-wringing over hygiene and the rights of the allergic. It's too bad. Japanese cat cafes are apparently spotless; vacuum cleaners, hand sanitizers and out-of-the-way, frequently changed litter boxes are the way to go.
A brilliant idea, really civilized. My only question is: Do cat cafes serve catteinated coffee? You know, brewed with those famous beans that pass through the digestive tracts of civet cats and sell for $300 a pound.
I'm not sure I love cats quite that much.