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The cruel truths behind the pet boom

19 Comments

Cafes are nice relaxing places. Cats are cute cuddly animals. Sooner or later – with hindsight it seems almost inevitable – an entrepreneur would come along, put the two together and launch a “cat cafe” boom. It happened about eight years ago, and now there are some 200 cat cafes nationwide, most of them doing a brisk business premised on the joys – innocent joys, you’d think – of interacting with cats over coffee.

Actually not so innocent, Spa! (May 31) finds. There is a dark side to the business which is not, in fact, limited to cats or cafes. The disposal each year of roughly 100,000 cats and dogs suggests too many pets being bred and sold to too many people with too little knowledge of what’s involved in raising a pet. Nor are cats the only cafe mascots – there are rabbit cafes, reptile cafes, monkey cafes, owl cafes and so on. More on them in a moment.

In April, Spa! reports, a Tokyo cafe called Nekonote was ordered by municipal authorities to shut down. Complaints against it by outraged customers included the fact that 62 cats were apparently confined in a room the size of six tatami mats. Subsequent investigation showed sanitation measures were perfunctory and infectious disease rampant.

This would seem to be an extreme case, but others less shocking are bad enough. “Somebody I know,” says Yoko Yamamoto, director of the NPO Tokyo Cat Guardian, “was operating a cat cafe and did nothing to check the spread of infectious disease. Then it began turning into a biohazard, and the person abruptly closed the business.”

Japan’s susceptibility to “booms” is well known. Each one generates a rush to cash in, and cost-cutting seems inseparable from the profit motive. Cats treated with a minimum of attention to their wellbeing suffer but don’t complain, and are therefore easily overlooked by proprietors whose focus is elsewhere.

As at enterprises with human staff, overwork is a major problem. Cats, it was generally believed until regulations were somewhat tightened in April, are “nocturnal” animals – meaning it’s okay to keep them up until late at night. They’re in fact not nocturnal; they’re most active in the early morning and early evening; the revised industry standards call for taking them off duty at 8 p.m. instead of, as formerly, 10.

As an example of how the helpless can be victimized by factors utterly beyond their control and comprehension, consider this, Spa! says: pet cafe licensing, originally handled by the environment ministry, devolved three years ago to local governments, with a corresponding relaxation of standards.

As for cafes hosting other animals, oddly enough, Spa! hears from a lawyer, legal working time limits apply as of now only to dogs and cats, leaving owls, rabbits, monkeys and so on liable to unrestricted exploitation. Rabbits, for example, get terribly stressed when fondled without respite. Also, they need fresh air – but one cafe proprietor who tried walking the rabbits on leashes as though they were dogs discovered that that didn’t quite do the trick.

Then there’s the 24-hour monkey bar. Its location in a part of town known for nightlife means the club hostesses pour in after work, eager to lavish affection on the little squirrel monkeys and perhaps not as mindful as they should be that squirrel monkeys, like other living things, get tired and need rest. The laws don’t protect them either.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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It's sad that life can only be regarded for how it can be exploited. Unfortunately such an attitude seems widespread. I am pretty sure these kind of cafes would not be permitted in some of the English-speaking countries with which I am associated. Not to claim they have any overall moral superiority or anything but there is a recognition in some, maybe embryonic, form that animals too have some kind of rights.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Part of the culture of "kawaii" and the most disgusting part, in my opinion.

Also in my opinion as well, the owners of places like this, and owners who purchase an animal and then toss it away because they no longer think it's cute, or no longer want to take the time to care care of their pet, should be spayed or neutered and put on deserted island to fend for themselves.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Yes, along with blatant consumerism I think this is mostly about "Kawaii" too. Cuteness has been characterised as ultimately about cruelty. "[T]he aesthetic of cuteness creates a class of . . . of lovable inferiors whom children and adults collect, patronize, and enslave. . . . Something becomes cute not because of quality it has but because of a quality it lacks, a certain neediness and inability to stand alone, as if it were an indigent starveling, lonely and rejected because of a hideousness we find more touching than unsightly." Daniel Harris "Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

We have one opening up in Chicago that is partnered with a no-kill shelter/vet clinic/adoption center. Health and happiness of the cats is supposed to be a priority, which is awesome, and they also want to help the cats find their forever homes. I hope other cafes follow suit to this model and have the best interest of the animals in mind instead of treating them so horribly and running them into sickness.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Exploitation of those weaker and more helpless than one's self? No surprises there. People are the worst.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Close them all down immediately.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Wasn't there an article the other day about a group, that genuinely loved the animals rather than viewing them as a business profit, that ran a cat cafe of formerly abandoned cats with the goal of finding an owner? We need these, not the type of businesses being described in the article.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Wasn't there an article the other day about a group, that genuinely loved the animals rather than viewing them as a business profit, that ran a cat cafe of formerly abandoned cats with the goal of finding an owner? We need these, not the type of businesses being described in the article.

I believe that was in California.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I've lived in Japan for over a decade. Never seen a dog running once. Seen plenty on leads, being walked, or carried in their owner's arms.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Here's a cruel truth concerning pets - apparently dogs and cats are more important than people.

Fact is, there are still millions of people not getting the help they need while ridiculous amounts of money and time are being spent on dogs and cats.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I've lost count of how often Ive seen small dogs dressed in 'cute outfits' with hair bows etc while being pushed along by the owner in a modified baby buggy. Then there are pet diapers! All too creepy. It's a dog! It has a natural fur coat and four legs!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My two cats cost me 10000 yen each from the Ark animal charity in Osaka. Contrast that with pet shops where the highest priced cat was over 500000 yen with tax, last Saturday. This price difference suggests that animals are commodities and not being able to afford a cat will lead to small zoos as cat cafés actually are.

The problem is that there are plenty of ignorant people running there places trying make a buck-animal welfare comes a long way down the line!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Saw a dog the other day wearing a two piece denim outfit complete with...wait for it... red shoes.

The dog was semi squatting to take a dump and the owner was patiently waiting with a net to catch the "package"...(so to speak)

The oddest thing I have ever seen with regards to Japan' curious relationship with pets as substitute children.

I don't know...maybe the dog enjoys this kind of treatment...maybe not??

These petting bars (is that the correct term?) done well and with good intentions can have a positive effect on the animals and the customers. There is no doubt cats love the attention. There needs to be stricter regulations and monthly checks done by a qualified vet to ensure proper care. I don't know if this is the case but if it isn't, then it should be.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Would be an interesting psychiatric survey to learn why people have to dress their pooches up in human clothes and wheel them around in carriers. Seems odd to me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The disposal each year of roughly 100,000 cats and dogs suggests too many pets being bred and sold to too many people with too little knowledge of what’s involved in raising a pet.

I wonder who made up this number and how? Like another poster, I've never seen stray dogs in Japan although feral cats are common in parks, cemeteries, and some universities.

Up through the 90s foreign writers used to regularly complain that Japanese neglected and mistreated pets, especially dogs. Now, as this venue shows, foreign writers complain about Japanese pampering pets, especially dogs, and spending too much money on them.

Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

How does this problem compare to a country like the US, where dog/cats are treated better than children, yet millions of them are abandoned, abused, killed in dog fights, given up at shelters etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is it really cute for goer to the shop, cats in this kind of cafes? You should be able to derive the really happiness only from owing their cat and loving it.

I don't wanna have a lunch with animals on the knee, caressing them. They can take a dump when I am eating!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yubaru

I believe that was in California.

Yeah and they called it a cafe but was only a room with tables where you can play with cats. No food or drinks. Very dissappointing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Tony: Ever visit a park or beach in Japan? Were you a cement dweller like most Japanese? 0 Good Bad Tony AldermanJUN. 03, 2016 - 09:06PM JST I've lived in Japan for over a decade. Never seen a dog running once. Seen plenty on leads, being walked, or carried in their owner's arms.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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