Starbucks may have staked out over 900 shops in Japan, but the major coffee franchise, whose retail locations are popular leisure spots, better watch its back. A new kind of hangout– one with whiskers – is growing in rapid popularity in Japan: the “neko” or cat café.
Japanese patrons, especially in the Tokyo area, are paying to spend time at these cat cafes, where they can read a book, chat with friends, or yes, even drink coffee, in the presence of some feline companions. The business has been likened to renting a pet for a day.
CNN reports that the going rate for an hour of cat interaction costs an average ¥1,000 (about $12).
While some patrons complain about the rules, which usually prohibit holding, waking, or antagonizing the cats, business appears to be picking up.
According to CNN, a staffer of the cafe Neko no Mise said, "All kinds of people come to the café," including photographers, young couples, and “a gaggle of girlfriends” who take pictures of the cats from their mobile phones. Some locations even offer "couple's discounts."
The Guardian featured in a video how customers, who are not allowed or cannot afford to keep pets in their own homes, come to these one of these locations to play with the cats. Customers can interact with a wide variety of cat breeds, read biographies on their favorite animas, and even share a meal with them.
Many patrons become repeat visitors, becoming fond of certian animals and forming relationships with them. CNN reports that “one blogger, a Japanese amateur photographer who calls himself Jack, says he goes to cat cafés because he likes watching his favorite cats grow up.”
There are about 100 cat cafes in Japan today, according to CNN, the oldest of which is only five years old.