Are Tokyo’s Cat Cafés Stressful for Cats?
Jakarta Globe reports of a new ordinance in Tokyo taking effect later this year that bans displays of animals in pet shops after 8 PM. Cat cafes among pet shops in Tokyo are expected to be particularly hit hard by the new rule. In a recent update, the ban has been lifted up to 10 PM, according to JapanProbe.
Some animal rights activists see cat cafes as “exploitative places” where the animals are stressed by the number of the visitors who see them everyday. The café owners insist that the cats can rest during the day and indoor lights are dimmed during night time. The cats are also free to roam the café, some of which even feature fake trees for the felines to climb on.
Are Tokyo’s cat cafés stressful to cats? Should cat cafes, not only in Japan but around the world, be banned? If one asks certain animal welfare campaigners, the answer is yes. If the cat café customers are asked, the answer would probably be a tearful no. What would the cats themselves say?
Cat cafes are popular particularly in Japan’s Tokyo, where fast lane living, hectic schedules, and cramped living spaces make it difficult for the average person to own a pet. Yet some urban-based people seek the comfort and relaxation that pets, especially cats, give.
Global Post’s article about Tokyo’s Cat Cafes highlight the fact that cat cafes have house rules for visitors’ and the cats’ mutual safety. Visitors are instructed to wash their hands, not to force cats which resist their advances, not to disturb napping cats, and not to use catnip or outside cat food to coax the cats. Sea of Shoes posts pictures of resident felines in a cat café in Harajuku, Japan, and describes the place as “extremely hushed and peaceful…peaceful kitty sanctuaries.” See photos of the cats in the cat café here.
Cat cafés may house imported, rare-breed, or ex-stray cats. Several cat cafes are open late into the night, some even until early morning hours. One reason for this is most cat café visitors and patrons are often at work during daytime hours. Another is that cats are naturally more active at night, and usually can be found sleeping or napping during the day.
Animal welfare campaigners who are against cat cafes point out that late hours may be detrimental to the animals’ health. In addition, the cats may be stressed from the stroking by the numerous visitors.
If this is true for cat cafes, then prison pets program, pet therapies, and animal-assisted therapy programs must be a greater source of stress for animals. Especially programs which necessitate travel for “visiting” animals, the stress of going around places and meeting new and random people who stroke and play with them must give animals greater stress. Prisoners, recovering addicts, mentally challenged patients, people undergoing physical therapy, and juvenile delinquents all interact with animals in these programs. If cat café atmospheres are stressful, what would the environment in these programs be?
In all the mentioned programs there have been reports that people, no matter what their station in life, have found beneficial effects by connecting with animals. While this may not be true in every case, people have generally become more sociable, relaxed, motivated, cooperative, encouraged and affectionate as a result of interacting with animals.
As for the animals, in almost every “History,” “About Us,” and “Mission” page in these programs they are mentioned as being given the privilege of leading useful lives instead of less desirable options such as being in the pound or being euthanized. If this is true, then Tokyo’s cat cafés can be considered as providing the same opportunity for the animals.
So, what do you think? Are cat cafes stressful to felines and should be banned?
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