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Cat Cafes: Big in Japan

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.

Reader Comments (4)

I love cats, and I've always owned them. But as soon as i heard of these cat cafes, i couldn't help but think these people were a bit crazy. I agree with you, I don't think i love my cats THAT much.

I would love to go to a cat cafe! I love cats so much (I feel like I have a special understanding of their motivations), but I'm not yet ready to commit to owning my own pet. I know, I know...cats practically take care of themselves, as my cat-owner friends always remind me. But that's just in comparison to dogs, and don't even get me started on dogs.

Anyway, I would love to go to a cat cafe, spend some time petting and enjoying cats, and then come home to my litter-and-furball free house.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandra Baranek

I don't need to visit a cat cafe - I have six of them who own me.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFran

I am so grossed out by catteinated coffee I can't look at a cat or coffee. Did anyone read Memoirs of a Geisha? They used hummingbird poo as makeup for god's sake. We have dog cafes here, why not cat hangouts too? You and your cats could bond with other cats and their owners and buy really expensive stuff like kitty pyjamas or life-jackets for your felines so you can take them canoeing.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandra Merriam

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