In Pictures: Killing time in Japan cat cafés - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Killing time in Japan cat cafés

Lonely hearts pay for feline friendship during hour-long sessions in cat-filled coffee shops.

Dave Tacon |

Osaka, Japan - Japanese love animals, but pets are often forbidden by landlords of the tiny flats where most people dwell.

The solution: cafés where pet-less patrons pay $11 an hour to hang out in a room full of felines.Cat cafés are proliferating in Japan, serving up friendship for the lonely and curious - albeit briefly.  

More than a dozen cats of all shapes, sizes, and colours populate the restaurants, as staff serve piping hot coffee and creamy cakes. Persians, Tabbies, and Siamese laze around, clean themselves, and eat cat food out of colourful bowls as patrons meet and greet them.

In Osaka, about 520 kilometres west of the capital Tokyo, the Cat Time café is one of 10 such establishments in the country’s third-most populous city.

Cat Time has 21 “cat staff”, working the room alongside two humans. Waitress Tamao Ishikawa trained as a veterinarian, and knows all too well each cat’s personal traits, which she shares with visitors. She works around dozing animals perched on display cases, countertops, and curled up next to coffee makers.

No common tabbies are employed here. Cat Time is staffed by an assortment of pedigree breeds including Exotic Shorthairs, Maine Coons, and American Curls. But the cat’s meow here is one-eyed BJ - short for Blackjack - a placid Ragdoll who attracts the most customer attention.

While the atmosphere is laid back, there are rules: no shoes, no shouting and no smoking. Guests must let sleeping cats lie, and any form of cat cruelty is strictly prohibited.

Cat cafés have also spread to Taiwan, South Korea and China.  

Japan is at the forefront of the pet rental industry. In Tokyo, there are more than 100 pet rental businesses. Customers can lease anything from a turtle to a parrot for an hour to a week. Dogs, however, are the most popular part-time pet.

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