An interesting new trend has cropped up in Japan: animal cafes. There are over 100 cafes where customers can have tea, coffee and pastries while petting cats, rabbits, dogs, birds, and even goats in some places. There are several reasons for the emergence of such establishments. One is the decline in the number of adults with children. Many adults in the 20-30 age range are unmarried or in a relationship without children. Visiting an animal cafe is a social, almost familiar experience without the responsibilities of taking care of a companion animal. Other customers want pets at home, but their jobs consume too much time to care for a pet. Some rental agreements forbid pets, a fact that also generates customers at these cafes. “I want to keep a rabbit at home, but I can’t because my job keeps me away for many hours,” said Azusa Komagata. (Source: The Sacramento Bee)
These cafes have caused some concern from the government. One issue is that animals can transmit diseases like salmonella and bacteria coliform. Another issue is that some of the cafes haven’t yet registered with the government to exhibit animals. Since some cafes charge an admission fee (in addition to beverage fees), they are considered “exhibition” facilities.
On the plus side, some of these cafes have worked with rescue organizations to help animals. For example, a cafe called Ekoneko is working with the non-profit Little Cats to help match cats with owners. Seventeen kittens were saved from euthanization, and now live in the cafe.
Petting animals is both a bonding activity as well as a way to self-soothe, which is a healthy way to relieve stress. “For touch we can self-soothe by petting animals, rubbing lotion on our body, or cuddling with a blanket on the couch. Self-soothing is a wonderful way to nurture yourself and help to create resilience from intense emotions. Some people resist self-soothing out of guilt or feelings they do not deserve to pamper themselves, so it is important to detract from these rationalizations and emphasize skill development.” (Source: Tara Arnold, Licensed Social Worker)
Self-soothing can be a regular practice to maintain a low-stress lifestyle, but it doesn’t depend on companion animals. People can learn to self-sooth on their own through activities like regular relaxing exercise such as yoga, making art work, walking in parks, getting a massage, deep-breathing, tai chi and meditation. Unhealthy forms of self-soothing are drinking too many alcoholic beverages, overeating, smoking and excessive shopping.
It isn’t surprising that animal cafes would be popular in a mega-city like Tokyo which can be very expensive, crowded and stressful. What do you think? Are animal cafes a good idea?
Image Credit: sprklg