A cat cafe is a theme cafe whose attraction is cats that can be watched and played with. Patrons pay a cover fee, generally hourly, and hence cat cafes can be seen as a form of supervised indoor pet rental.
The world's first cat cafe[f 1] opened in Taiwan in 1998. The Taiwanese cat cafe, located in Taipei, eventually became famous in Japan and began to attract many Japanese tourists as well as domestic visitors. In Japan, the first cat cafe[f 2] opened in Osaka in 2004.
Cat cafes are quite popular in Japan, with Tokyo being home to at least 39 cat cafes. A pioneer is Cat's Store (猫の店 Neko no Mise?), by HANADA Norimasa, which opened in 2005. The popularity of cat cafes in Japan is attributed to many apartments forbidding pets, and to cats providing relaxing companionship in what may otherwise be a stressful and lonesome urban life; other forms of pet rental are also common in Japan.
There are various cat cafes. Some cat cafes feature specific categories of cat such as black cats, fat cats, rare breed cats or ex-stray cats. A cat cafe must obtain a license and comply with the strict requirements and regulations of the Animal Treatment/Protection Law.
Japanese cat cafes feature strict rules to ensure cleanliness and animal welfare, in particular seeking to ensure that the cats are not disturbed by excessive and unwanted attention, such as by young children or when sleeping. Many cat cafes also seek to raise awareness of cat welfare issues, such as abandoned and stray cats.