Monday, June 3, 2013

A Brief History of Pet Cafés

Maybe you've heard of this novel Asian concept and find it quite strange. "So, wait, you play with actual dogs while drinking coffee?" Yes. Yes you do. Why? ... Well, why not?

Of course that's a little bald cat in a grandpa sweater with
 glittery balls on its head.

These started in Taiwan (the same country that brought you bubble tea) in 1998 with Cat Garden, a café where people could pet and play with cats while drinking tea. Sounds cute, right? Sort of like a little girls' tea party or something. Cat Garden became increasingly popular with Japanese tourists until the concept was well-known in Japan, and the first Japanese cat café, Cat Time, opened in Osaka. They've been spreading across the world ever since.

Here's the original article this info came from.

Japan now has around 40 cat cafés. They're popular in Korea as well, though almost exclusively in Seoul. While I haven't seen any Korean ones with a theme yet, the Japanese obviously love to make cute crap even cuter by giving it a theme, and they have cafés that feature only rescue cats, only fat cats, et cetera.

These cafés have even been popping up in Europe recently, with a new one set to open in London at some point this summer. It was supposed to open in May, and I'm not sure why the Aussie entrepreneur at the helm needs to much time and money to realise it, but I'm sure it'll be good when they finally do cut the ribbon.

The popular BAU House in Hongdae.
Even though this trend started with and is still dominated by cats, dog and puppy cafés are quite popular as well, as are rabbit cafés in Japan. Some cafés have a variety of small animals such as hamsters, hedgehogs and rabbits, and there's even one in Seoul that has sheep. Except in summer, because it's too hot for them. They go back to a picturesque farm pasture until it's cooler. D'aww.

Now, onto the "why" bit. In Japan and Korea, and even in central London, owning a pet in a tiny apartment can be very difficult or impossible, and many places don't allow them in the first place. The Japanese pay several hundred dollars for prairie dogs and whichever other imported furry friends are trendy at any given time, and popular small-breed dogs like Welsh corgis are also very costly. As a result, people who really enjoy spending time with animals but couldn't afford to buy and take care of them started renting that time. 

During this ongoing Global Recession, you'd think this sort of novelty would be among the first things to be nixed from peoples' budgets, but actually, the popularity of the cafés surged. People seek calm, comfort, cuteness and fantasy when national and world events take a turn for the worse, and many in hectic, hurried Tokyo and Seoul - cities that make you feel like you're living in a machine - found that cozy downtime in the form of a cup of tea with a couple of friends named Princess Fluffycakes and Sir Purrs-a-lot.

Many cafés charge by the hour, but some (like the one I visited below) charge a single cover for an unlimited amount of time and a drink of your choice: cappuccino, peach iced tea, a green tea latté, Italian soda, and so on and so on. In this case, it was less than 8 USD. You can also pay around 2 USD each for various packets of low-calorie cat treats to try to coax your new companions over, and of course, get additional drinks for yourself.

I can only hope these places start popping up in the U.S. soon; it'd be a great way to relieve some of the pressure overworked people and overcrowded animal shelters face.

Also, sorry my video is so shitty, lol. I keep meaning to upload all my good ones, but editing and adding music and everything takes time and effort... /lazy

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