All You Ever Wanted to Know About… Animal Cafes!
Animal Cafes – 20 Questions
Q1: What is the place in this photo?
The place is called “Ra.a.g.f.”, an acronym for “rabbit and grow fat”.
Q2: What does that mean?
Difficult to say, it’s an example of incomprehensible “engrish”. But actually, it doesn’t really matter.
Q3: What is Ra.a.g.f?
It’s a rabbit cafe. Animal cafes are all the rage in Japan.
Q4: What’s an animal cafe?
An animal cafe is a cafe where you can find lots of animals.
Q5: But why would people want to go to a cafe with animals?
The main reasons are that most apartments and rental accommodation in Japan prohibit pets. Accommodation is generally small in Japan too, so even if they’re allowed to keep pets, many people don’t have enough space.
Cafes are therefore a great substitute where people can come and relax with animals.
Q6: And what do you do there?
You pay an hourly fee, buy a drink and while you have your drink the animals sleep or run around and you get to watch or stroke them.
Many cafes have photo albums or books featuring names and profiles of all the different animals there – their names, likes and dislikes etc.
If you have a favourite you can pay extra to buy it special food or even to feed it yourself. In rabbit cafes, for example, you may be able to feed the bunnies pieces of apple, carrot and so on.
People often take cameras to the cafes to photograph the animals too.
Some people just stay for half an hour, but most for longer. Some people even take a day off work and spend the day in a cat cafe.
Q7: The customers are all animal lovers?
Not at all. There’s a great article about one cat cafe in Tokyo. In it the writer says:
“There are a few different types of cat-café customers. Newcomers will be so swept up in the distinct atmosphere that they will just sit there stunned. It looked as if most of them had never had a pet cat or even touched one before…in an hour’s stay, most could only manage to touch a passing cat just once.
Many customers seemed like the shy, meek, silent type who were in need of a hug or two. Since these sorts don’t have the courage to go up to a cat and play with it themselves, they would read a book and sip coffee while they patiently hoped for a cat to come closer. It broke my heart.
The couples that I saw were either in new relationships or were still in the friendship stage, and were using the cats to bridge the awkward distance between them.”
Q8: What kinds of animal cafes are there?
There are cat cafes, rabbit cafes, goat cafes, bird cafes, dog cafes and more.
Q9: Which are the most popular and why?
By far, cat cafes are the most loved. Many customers love them because cats are very quiet, fun to play with, soft and clean.
Q10: How many are there?
In Tokyo alone there are about 40 cat cafes. In all of Japan almost 200.
Q11: For how long has Japan loved these cafes?
The first cat cafe in Japan opened in Osaka in 2004, and in 2005 the first of many opened in Tokyo after which their popularity exploded.
Q12: So how many cats are there at the cafes?
Smaller cafes maybe have less than 10, and some of the bigger cafes have over 50.
Q13: Do the cats have special pedigrees?
No, in the majority of cafes they’re regular moggies, everyday cats of mixed breed, shape, size and colour. The point is not to feel like you’re in a cat show, but simply to hang out with nice cats.
There are a few specialty cafes though featuring only fat cats, or black cats, or pedigree cats and so on.
Q14: What about the other kinds of animals?
Rabbits, like cats, are soft and fluffy and cute so are popular too.
Q15: How much does it cost to go to an animal cafe?
An average of around ¥800-¥1,200 (US$10-15)/hour for cats, rabbits, birds etc.
Q16: Are they popular?
Absolutely! They’re open from morning until late at night, and some were even open until 1 or 2 in the morning. In fact most customers go after work and the cafes are busiest in the evening.
Q17: But are the animals looked after?
Yes! The animals in cafes are “free range” and are able to hide, rest, sleep etc. whenever they want. In the busiest cafes, they are often rotated in shifts so that no animal spends too long with members of the public.
The animals are well-fed, well-rested, well-exercised. It’s in the cafe owners’ interest to have healthy, happy animals – it translates into happy customers.
Recently new animal welfare laws were introduced that animal businesses must close by 8pm. The laws were designed to protect animals in pet shops which were open until late at night – in some cases the pet shops were open until after midnight. Many cats, dogs, hamsters and other creatures in these pet shops were being displayed under bright lights in small cages for up to 15 hours a day.
However as an unintended side-effect these laws also forced animal cafes to close so there was great concern that many animal cafes would go out of business.
Of course many animal cafe owners explained that they treat their cafe animals very well, and a special compromise was reached, so animal cafes can now stay open a couple of hours longer.
Q18: Do all animal cafes have the same basic system?
No, dog cafes are usually a quite different thing.
Q19: In what way?
Dog cafes are targeted more towards existing owners – they encourage people to bring their own dogs. Dogs tend to be noisier and dirtier than cats, so the cafes can be quite loud, hectic places.
Dog cafes are generally just as their name suggests – a cafe for dogs. They allow you to eat at a table with your dog and they serve special meals for the canines. For example, you drink your cappuccino and Fido has a “puppycino”.
Many people take their dog there for its birthday. First they take it to a dog salon to be specially groomed, then they dress it up in bizarre pet clothes and go to the cafe. There they can buy special meat-based biscuits and cakes for the mutt in the shape of bones and so on.
But of course there are always dogs available for hire too. As mentioned, most people don’t or can’t own pets in Japan so they rent one. They can stroke it in the cafe or maybe take it for a walk.
Q20: Would you find animal cafes in another country?
Rarely. There are a few in Korea and one recently opened in Vienna. But in general it seems rather unlikely that they’d be able to open.
Firstly it takes a certain kind of customer to be interested in such things. And then, even if there were interested people, so many countries have quite extreme health/safety/hygiene regulations ensuring that animal cafes would not be allowed.
You’re perfectly at liberty to eat and drink with your animals at home, or with all kinds of animals, birds and insects in nature. But somehow it’s considered unhygienic or dangerous to do exactly the same thing in a cafe!
Q21: What about…..?
20 question limit. If you have any more questions about animal cafes, please leave them in the comments below. Everything possible will be answered!
Rabbit cafe: Ra.a.g.f.
Bird cafe: birdcafe.jp
Dog cafe: Howls cafe
And of course Google has hundreds more!
A detailed report on a cat cafe featuring customer interviews!
Nice images on this report from another cat cafe in Tokyo.
A list of 215 dog-friendly locations (cafes, hotels, spas, etc) just in Tokyo!
The dog menu at Deco’s cafe
The Sakuragaoka Cafe in Shibuya is renowned for its resident goats, Sakura and Chocola.
Recently their daily walks have been documented in a photo book, “Shibuyagi” (a clever pun on “Shibuya” (the location) + “yagi” (Japanese for “goat”).
And here’s the goats’ daily blog.