One of the biggest cat cafes in Japan is the Calico Cat Cafe. Around 40 cats live here and hang around with cafe customers. At the Calico, there is a lift that takes customers to a reception area where people take off their shoes, put on slippers, wash their hands and then head into a room to play with the cats. For an hour of playing with cats, patrons pay 1000 yen (around $10 Aussie) and can also get some food or a cuppa. There is also the option of buying a treat for a lucky cat. Speaking of cats, most felines are reported to be curious and eager to meet the cafe’s customers.
The reception area unfortunately smells a bit like kitty litter, but the main floor where the cats live is odour-free. Walk in and you enter a paradise for felines, with perches, boxes, scratching posts, plenty of sunny windows to lie next to, and of course lots of toys to bat with their claws! Cats have free access between floors, but people have their access restricted.
Food is not allowed in the main area, only drinks. There is a separate area where cats are not allowed in, in which proper food can be consumed. Roughly half of the cafe’s customers choose to take this option. Of course there are rules in place to ensure the cats aren’t mistreated, such as not being allowed to wake up sleeping cats or deliberately annoy their feline would-be playmates. Care is also taken to manage the cats’ general happiness, with cats that don’t get along being assigned to different shifts, and cats are given their own cage in a private room to sleep in.
This obsession is hardly surprising, as Japan has long been enamored with their feline friends. Back in early colonial days, when the silk industry was a major one in Japan, cats were thought to be lucky charms because they would eat rats and silkworms. There is a cat shrine on Tashirojima Island, where returning fishing boats are greeted by cats. Aoshima Island is home to more cats than people, and is a big tourist attraction for cat lovers.