Wild Animal Cafes Are Anything but Cute

First, there were cat cafes. Then, goat cafes came along. Now, you can sip coffee and interact with a range of wild animals, from owls and raccoons to otters and hedgehogs.

Wild animal cafes exist throughout the world, featuring prominently in Japan.

When cat cafes first rose in popularity in the 2000s, the concept made sense. Cat owners cherish their time sipping their morning coffee, snuggled next to their beloved companion. So why not open a cafe where everyone can have that experience and help get cats adopted along the way?

But the new craze toward wild animal cafes takes an innovative idea and turns it into an exploitative industry. Unlike cat cafes, wild animal cafes do not feature domesticated species used to human interaction. Otters can quickly become violent and hyperactive. Many owl species are active during night and acutely sensitive to bright lights and loud noises.

These inherently wild species are forced to be continually poked and prodded by cafe visitors, deprived of their natural behaviors in the wild. This often leads to intense distress, which can manifest into self-harming behaviors and attacks on people.

A recent report from World Animal Protection found otters at cafes whimpering and shrieking in distress as visitors interacted with them. One of the otters had gnawed off part of its own tail. And individuals of the highly social species were found living in isolation when not interacting with visitors. Some were kept in small cages with no access to water.

Furthermore, a Vice reporter recounted visiting a hedgehog cafe in Japan, where they were brought a hedgehog who repeatedly squirmed out of the reporter’s hands before cowering in a corner in fear. When the cafe staff found out, they simply brought over a different hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are prey species and commonly hide when they feel threatened, hedgehog experts told Vice. And at cafes, hedgehogs may feel under constant threat with no avenue to escape as visitor after visitor picks them up.

At wild animal cafes, profits seem to trump the animals’ well-being. While cat cafes are businesses motivated by profits, they also aim to find forever homes for adoptable cats. Wild animals are not in need of homes. In fact, they are categorically unsuitable for being pets.

There is even evidence that otters have been poached from the wild to be placed in animal cafes. Otter cafes might claim they receive their animals through captive breeding, but conservationists warn it is very difficult to get otters to breed in captivity.

hedgehog

Credit: Chepko/Getty Images

When viewing social media posts of wild animal cafes, it would seem you are looking into a completely different industry. Photos using hashtags associated with wild animal cafes depict doe-eyed animals appearing relaxed as they cozy up to visitors. After looking at the cutesy photos and videos, it’s hard not to want to visit one yourself.

Online “influencers” play a big role in legitimizing wild animal cafes. And prominent travel websites can also be found posting positive, promotional content. But this online facade hides the ugly truth about the industry.

As the trend of wild animal cafes continues to grow, people can take simple actions to cut down on the demand for these abusive attractions. Just as the industry has been fueled by social media, social media can be used to educate potential visitors. People who want to help wild animals can refuse to share content glamorizing wild animal cafes, as well as leave comments on posts educating others about the harms of this industry.

Main photo credit: Fabian Plock/Getty Images

99 comments

Amparo Fabiana Chepote

This is deplorable. Leave wild animals alone.

SEND
Toni W
Toni Wyesterday

TYFS

SEND
Toni W
Toni Wyesterday

TYFS

SEND
Daniel N
John N2 days ago

thanks for posting

SEND
Nena C
Nena C2 days ago

Wild ones belong in wild not in these cafes period!

SEND
Georgina Elizab McAlliste

NO! Why have humans so little consideration for animals?. These animals are not in their natural habitat, they suffer for what? If you go to a Cafe it's for to have a coffee and a chat. Please leave animals where they are healthier...Please

SEND
Michael F
Michael F4 days ago

hank You for Sharing This !!!

SEND
Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege4 days ago

Horrendous. Wild animals belong to the wild. Why do humans always want to catch them, deprive them of their habitat, their parents, their siblings, to abuse them? What happens when the same is done to them humans? They call the police without delay.

SEND
Christine V
Christine V5 days ago

Wild animals belong in the wild

SEND
Paulo R
Paulo Reeson5 days ago

horrible

SEND