New curbs on cat cafés in Tokyo – but Vienna extends a welcome

05/11/2012
By

Feline friends face future fracas
TOKYO (majirox news) — The “cat cafés,” where patrons can come in and derive comfort from holding, stroking and playing with furry feline friends, have been a feature of the Tokyo scene for some years.

The fashion has spread to other countries. In Vienna, a cat café has just opened, where five cats rescued from animal shelters offer their charms to customers.

The café, named “Neko” (“cat” in Japanese), has been started by Takako Ishimitsu, has faced problems with Viennese city authorities over the issue of hygiene. It has taken Ishimitsu three years to obtain permission to open the establishment, but now she is happy that the cats are able to enjoy the congenial company of their human visitors.

Back in the land of the cat café, though, these coffee shops are facing legal difficulties of another kind. A new amendment to the Animal Protection Law, scheduled to take effect on June 1, will require all such cafés to remove their cats from customers after 8 p.m.

This move has, understandably, caused an upset among the owners of the cafés who worry about the effect on their profits – and also on their cats.

The law, however, is not aimed at protecting the cats at these establishments, but at the “all-night pet shops”, offering small cute (and over-priced) pets, usually dogs, and staying open 24 hours per day, with the lights in the poor animals’ tiny cages kept on for the whole period.

Often such stores are fronts for a scam whereby a bar hostess being escorted out of the bar by her new “boyfriend” will stop and squeal in delight at the sight of a Chihuahua and declare her life is not worth living without this canine companion. Seeking to impress the new love of his life, the victim shells out for the animal, and presents it to the girl, who sells it back to the store the next day, minus a “commission” (the store’s profit).

Cat cafés are unfortunately trapped in the same net that seeks to curb these stores, even though the owners love their cats, and encourage their patrons to do the same, especially following a long day of overtime. It remains to be seen if the plaintive yowls of the owners (and their lonely cats) will force legislators to make an exemption here.

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