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Regulation of the Day 219: Cat Cafes

In a city as big as Tokyo, there is plenty of room for niche businesses. One niche is the neko café; neko is the Japanese word for cat. Besides coffee, the main attraction at cat cafes is, well, cats. Furry friends live in the cafes, and patrons can play with them and pet them while they sip their coffee. They are especially popular with professionals who work long hours and live in apartments too small to have pets.

Animal rights activists want cat cafes to be strictly regulated. They have succeeded in passing an ordinance, set to take effect later this year, that bans animals from being publicly displayed after 8:00 PM. The main targets are pet shops, some of which can be dodgy. But cat cafes are not, and their very existence is threatened; their peak hours are in the evening.

Shinji Yoshida has strict rules for patrons in his cat cafe. If a cat is sleeping, customers shall not disturb it. They are not otherwise to be harassed. And, as animal activists concerned about caged animals have overlooked, Shinji’s feline colleagues also have the run of the place, as well as a giant cat furniture tree.

This is a wise business practice, as well as a humane one. As a cat owner, trust me. If your cats aren’t happy, you won’t be, either.

Still, that’s not enough:

Animal welfare campaigner Chizuko Yamaguchi says the sheer number of customers in cat cafes can make life difficult for the animals.

“From morning to night these cats are being stroked by people they do not know. For the animals, that is a real source of stress,” she said.

Chizuko must not be a cat owner. Cats are less than subtle about avoiding people when they aren’t in a social mood. And cat cafes wouldn’t stay in business for long if the stars didn’t show up; clearly they do. Besides, anyone who has been around a cat knows that they really do enjoy being petted.

One way cats show affection is by literally sitting on you. If they want attention, they are not shy about letting you know. Mine aren’t above waking me up at the crack of dawn with a friendly head-butt, well before the alarm clock goes off. Chizuko’s concerns do not hold ground.

Cats being nocturnal animals, they tend to be more active at night. Not surprisingly, business is best precisely when cat cafes will soon be required to close. Shutting them down early is really the same thing as putting them out of business. Where would the cats go then? Shinji has 13 in his shop.

Times are tough. Jobs are scarce. Animal rights activists and regulators should think about animal and human welfare alike. They should leave cat cafes alone. A lot of cats and a lot of people would all be happier if they did.

(via Jacob Grier)