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Debate: Are cat cafés a good idea?

cat cafe

Sometimes we’d all like a cuddle from a kitten or cat, even if we don’t have one ourselves. In cultures where having a pet is costly or impractical, cat cafés offer the chance to cosy up with a cat while enjoying a cup of coffee.

There are currently nearly 40 cat cafés in Japan and earlier this year Europe’s first cat café opened up in Austria.

The idea originated in Taiwan in 1998, but it’s in Japan where the concept is really popular. Now more customers than ever are paying a fee to spend some time with the resident café cats.

This may sound like a lovely experience for visitors who enjoy a cuddle with their coffee, but what does this attention mean for the feline residents?

‘You need to consider an animal’s mental health too,’ says vet Sean Wensley.

‘It is well recognised that multi-cat households can be a cause of chronic stress in cats and a cat café is an enforced cat colony,’ he adds.

What do you think? Would you like to see cats become part of the furniture in a café near you? Or does this all just sound a bit unnatural? Let us know by commenting below.

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21 Responses to Debate: Are cat cafés a good idea?

  1. colleen sloan says:

    YES!!!! Would love to see these cafes set up in Northern Ireland – many myths about cats could be dispelled – cats are amazing calming animals and humans in the present ‘rat race’ of life would benefit not only mentally but also physically from the addition of such amazing places – mentally a cat brings peace to the mind as their grace and purr promote relaxation, physically – well with current hygiene standards going off the scale the human body is eventually going to have no immune system whatsoever as it wont experience any germs everywhere is ‘too clean’ – not saying cats are dirty animals – far from it – but exposure to some germs is good for us! Plus it might help dispell the ‘old cat ladies house stinks of cat wee’ stereotype! My neighbour was amazed to come into my 4 cat household, two kids and a hubby to find there wasnt cat urine and poop everywhere! hahahaha! I have lived with cats all my life and am a happy healthy adult with two amazingly healthy kids -they never contract illnesses/bugs etc whilst many of my friends kids are ill all the time! Bring on the cat cafes! :-)

  2. Carroll Trevor says:

    This sounds like a very good idea in theory. My main worry would be were the cat’s happy to be petted by complete strangers, knowing how fey my cats are with people they don’t know. I guess they would get used to being stroked from an early age and presumably be vaccinated and wormed on a very regular basis. I think that some people maybe in apartments or lodgings and unable to have cats of their own would love this. It is a good idea as per the above comments.

  3. Alison says:

    Hmmmm, I like the idea, but would be worried about people inadvertantly (or on purpose) letting them out, people coming in with young children that mistreat them through lack of attention, people with a hatred of cats ill treating them, people suing because they tripped over a cat & hurt their pride 😉 etc etc etc

    Pity, as it is a great idea but the further the UK goes along ethe path of the USA and its compensation culture, the less the chances of this happening are…

  4. Jo says:

    Personally,although it sounds great in theory, cats are very territorial creatures and they can become very distressed if placed amongst other felines as they are not like dogs and they prefer their own company and they can become exceptionally nervous and anxious around strangers,If people want a cuddle from these beautiful feline creatures and want to be more educated on cats and cat behaviour then perhaps they are much better off visiting a cat sanctuary/shelter instead.

  5. Billy's Mum says:

    I totally agree with Jo’s comments on 2nd September. I think it could like creating a cat circus and all animals deserve a lot more respect.

  6. Alison Welch says:

    I think the cat cafe idea is great but depends entirely on how its done and the cats’ attitude. I’ve been to many a garden centre, tea room or pub and seen the resident cat/s spark out on a chair or looking for a fuss by a human monkey. If the cats are laid back enough, used to the environment and human monkey todlers kept under control, I cant see what harm it would do and it might even do a bit of good in changing people’s attitude to them. My mum is much more likely to strike up a conversation with the cat and people usually end up talking to each other too, just because the cat is there.

  7. meggy says:

    As long as there were not too many cats, maybe you could start with a sibling group of slightly older animals, who were friendly and sociable. And as long as they had someone responsible for caring for them. Also where would they go when the cafe was closed? As well as this the cats would need somewhere to retreat to if the place got too loud or they were being pestered.
    Our local garden centre used to have a resident cat and most customers were very respectful of him and he was very highly regarded, it worked well.
    Another issue – health and safety. I bet this wouldn’t be allowed! The cats would be banned form the kitchen at least, and keeping them out of it would be tricky – can you imagine waiters with loaded trays and cats trying to sneak past them or wind round their legs??!!

  8. sean says:

    Absolutely agree with Jo.
    Cats are territorial and dont always appreciate the company of other cats.
    They also like to sleep(require)around 17 hours a day. They will NOT get that kind of rest in one of these so called “cafes”, and because of this they will probably end up tired, stressed and possibly become irritated/agitated. It may even lead to cats getting nasty when someone tries to hold one. It will almost certainly lead to health issues, for the cats, and possibly the idiots that think this is a good idea.
    Stop using animals for personal gain and treat them with the respect they deserve!!

  9. Roz says:

    The idea sounds good, but I know my fluffits would hate the idea. They love each other to bits, but are not really very good when other humans are around. Not very sociable my pair. On the other hand, two of my previous kitties would have loved the idea, one of them would even have welcomed the odd dog too, so long as it knew its place of course!

    One thing that really would worry me though is what sort of diet would these cats end up with. My present two dislike anything sweet, strange I know as the previous 13 would have killed for a piece of cake. I’ve always tried to take care of what I have fed my brood, never had an overweight cat yet, which is more than can be said for their owner.

  10. Lisa says:

    My Joseph, the god of all grumpiness, would hate the idea and beat up on everyone and everything in sight, but his sister Delphi would have been ecstatic. She shamelessly hung around on the riverside pub tables near our house, just to cop a cuddle from any ape person so inclined and even climbed onto the river boats and into cars through the sun roofs to pursue those lovely apes. Little wonder she disappeared!

    So I think it would very much depend on having a little herd of Delphi type ‘love’ cats, a very watchful staff and a place for the cats to retreat to when they are tired.

    And strict ‘no feeding of the felines’ policy.

    • Simon Saxton says:

      Nice thought, but some cats just love to wander and most cafe’s are near busy roads. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for letting one out and then getting flattened under a bus.

  11. G says:

    Whilst I love cats and find the idea very attractive, I really am concerned for the poor cats. What sort of life would it be for them – stuck in an enforced colony, being mauled by humans whether it was welcomed or not, always being on-show and having to be “a good cat”, being given foods that are bad for them, in danger of being abused or stolen.

    So, I have to say a big NO to this idea.

  12. Jo says:

    I have been to two cat cafes in Japan and was impressed with them both. They both had lots of hiding places, high places and sleeping places for cats to go if they felt unsocial and you were instructed when you entered to not disturb sleeping cats.

    In Japan a lot of people can not have pets and this gives them the opportunity to experience the joy of being in the company of cats in a calm environment which is very respectful of the cats. People often go and sit in the cat cafes for hours with their ipads and the cats come to the people if they want to.

    There is a very high emphasis on not disturbing the cats if they do not want to be disturbed and this is montored by staff who are always nearby.

    Introduced as kittens, these cats grown up in a large cat community. It is not like suddenly introducing a cat who has lived as a single cat into a cat community at an older age which can cause a lot of distress.

    In the cat cafes I visited, the welfare of the cats was absolutely the most important concern and the customers were priviledged to be in the cats company and be allowed to spend time with these beautiful, graceful, sometimes affectionate animals. The cats were treated almost like Gods by the staff and the customers.

    • Nigel Newton says:

      Hi Jo

      my findings are the same as yours.. my experience at the cat cafe was very pleasurable.. they have been created for cat lovers and i’d say the cats seemed to have been having a great time.. its a shame i cannot download videos on here because this would show how well the cats were treated.. non of the cats were fighting with each other and all of the cats seemed to love the attention they were getting it when the cats wanted it.

  13. Maurice says:

    Definitely NO WAY typical of humans thinking about themselves and not the animals,I have been owned by cats
    all my life,So i asked my best pal Tigi what he thought he said DEFINITELY NO WAY.

  14. Sue says:

    As anyone who loves and understands cats will know, they often like to be left in peace to do “cat things”. They’re not toys to be passed around to be played with by all and sundry. I have four Persians who let me know exactly when they want to be stroked or played with and when they want to be left alone!

  15. Dorothy says:

    Before being asked to comment perhaps we all could have done with more information,as Jo seems to be the only person to have experience if her comments are correct and the cats are treated with the respect and in Japan probably the reverence they deserve this seems a good idea,depending on the cats nature,my female would hate it and claw anyone who dared to disturb her,my male however is the feline male equivalent of a lady of the streets and will roll on his back for anyone who will rub his tummy! If it changes peoples attitude to cats and isregulated and controlled it’s a good idea.

  16. Nigel Newton says:

    im a fréquent visiter to Tokyo and being a huge cat lover i decided to go to a cat cafe. The way the cafe was set up is so the cats have the choice if they want to sit on your lap and be stroked by you, lots in clever shelving was created around the room so they can climb and play and just do as they please.
    i found it a very therapeutic environment and everyone visiting were cat lovers. i understand many people have to rent accommodation in tokyo and you are not allowed pets so this is the only opportunity they get to show affection to our amazing feline friends.

    i think cat cafe’s are a great idea but we do not really need them in the uk.

  17. Amanda Cox says:

    The vet is wrong when he says multi cat households are stressful. It entirely depends on the breed of cat and its temperment. We have 3 cats. One is a tabby that is definately “the cat that walks by himself” hates the neighbours cats and runs away from them and keeps himself to himself indoors, one is a rescued black and white moggy from feral parents who loves people but hates being picked up and being outdoors, and the other is a Tonkinese who could not be any more sociable and always seeks friends whether they be feline or human. He would LOVE to be a cafe cat! If he was on his own he would totally freak out…
    If the cats’ needs are well catered for and they are the right temperment for socialisng I cant see a problem.

  18. Julia says:

    Horrible idea. Why should any animal be under pressure to interact with random humans, many of whom will have little or no idea how to handle them ? And where are the cats housed outside opening hours ? In cages perhaps ?

  19. Nuala McCorry says:

    As much as i adore Cats, and am often stopping in the street like a crazy cat woman to talk/stroke a cat lol. I dont approve of this concept. I would mainly be concerned for the welfare of the Cats. Especially in countries like Japan and China where they are well known for their cruelty to animas and it is well documented that they lift stray cats/dogs etc off the streets for their fur and meat. I know my own Cat would NEVER allow a stranger to stroke him when he is outside, because he is a very shy wee man and only loves my immediate family.

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