As of June 1, Tokyo cat lovers deprived of feline affection will face something of a crisis as new animal welfare laws will go into effect requiring cat cafés, which provide kitty companionship for as little as $19 an hour, will be forced to close their doors at 10 p.m.
“It will be difficult for my business,” said Takafumi Fukui, proprietor of the Calico Cat Café. “Cats are night owls and so are Japanese office workers. My customers in Shinjuku mostly visit us after their work during the week. Late hours benefit everyone. I worry that this could really hurt business and then what would we do with the cats?”
Looking after an animal is not such an easy task in Japan. Especially in Tokyo, the apartment rents are high and the rooms are small. In fact, in many apartment buildings in central Tokyo you are not allowed to keep a pet. So, the last few years, businesses such as cat cafés (猫カフェ) help animal lovers spend a good time playing with pets they can't have for around ¥1500 yen an hour. (Coffee usually costs extra.) Cat cafés became popular in Japan circa 2004 when the first one opened in Osaka, followed by the opening of the Neko no Café in Tokyo a year later. One customer told the Christian Science Monitor reported in 2008, "When it comes to having cats, it's a burden. I work and I don't have the time to take care of them in a responsible manner.” Currently there are least 25 cat cafés in Tokyo. The Ministry of the Environment said that there are about 150 cat cafés in the entire country.