One of Tokyo’s famed cafes has been ordered to shut amid concerns that cramped conditions are spreading diseas.
One of Japan’s famed cat cafes has been closed down for violating animal cruelty laws in the first crackdown of its kind.
The cafes, where customers pay a premium to drink coffee and stroke cats in spaces normally not much bigger than a living room, have become hugely popular since springing up more than a decade ago.
But The Cat’s Paw cafe in Tokyo’s Sumida district has fallen foul of the city authorities amid concern about neglect for the animals.
City authorities said the cafe had to close for a month for violating the animal welfare act. The 30sq metre cafe was home to 62 cats, many of them elderly and in bad health. In the cramped conditions, illness allegedly spread among the cats, leading customers to report the cafe for animal cruelty.
It is the first time that authorities have closed down a cafe for neglecting animals but an official said the city would not hesitate to close down other cafes if they were found to be neglecting animals.
“The cafe breached animal welfare laws, so we took action,” Yachiyo Kurihara of the Tokyo Animal Welfare Centre told The Guardian. “We warned the cafe in January and told them how to treat their cats better, but the neglect continued.”
Kurihara said that it was uncertain whether the cafe would open again. “It will depend on whether they improve.”
Taiwan opened the world’s first cat cafe in 1998 and Japan followed suit in 2004. Since then, the number of animal cafes has proliferated in Japan, where many people live in apartment buildings that forbid pets. Customers can go to different cafes to pet animals as diverse as hedgehogs, horses, rabbits and owls today. There are around 150 cat cafes in the country.
Kurihara says that all animal cafes have to register with the government and comply with welfare laws. Cafes not doing so, she said, would also be inspected, instructed on how to treat their animals better and closed if they failed to comply. “If people see something wrong in a cafe they visit, we urge them to contact us.”