The Animal Backbone project by I.F.S.E. SPACE CREATIVE LAB in Shanghai has been garnering much attention recently. A project that fuses architecture, art and an animal shelter, with added cats to complement the stainless steel and concrete structure! Though the original purpose was not to be a cat café, the interior design project is similar to the global trend for animal cafés. So, how did this trend of having cute fluffy pets serve customers start?
In 1998, the first cat café was established in Taiwan. The concept went viral, becoming especially popular in Japan who realised the potential of animal cafés and their adorable pets’ therapeutic properties, not to mention as serving as icons for the eateries! At first there were just cats, but soon dog, rabbit, bird, sheep, raccoon, and even reptile cafés could be found.
Tokyo is home to several unique animal cafés, including one dedicated to hedgehogs. Harry Potter fans must not miss the owl cafe where you may pay to have them silently stare at you with those wide eyes.
Living in a busy city, it is always nice to have the chance to encounter animals. It is proven that they help relieve anxiety and stress while promoting self-care and improving self-esteem and empathy for others. They even help to reduce blood pressure. Animal cafés provide cosy environments for people to relieve their stress and to shower animals with love.
The popularity of animal cafés has raised some concerns about animal welfare issues. Activists have argued that animals should not be kept in cafés, that it disturbs their natural routines, and that café owners do not provide suitable care. There was a case of a sick cat spreading its illness to other cats in a cramped café environment, causing customers to complain and it being shut down. Others do a fine job of providing shelter for abandoned animals, offering customers the opportunity to adopt. Animal protection laws have been enacted in Japan to restrict the operations of cafés, to ensure animals are treated humanely. Many animal café owners will educate customers about how to handle and care for their animals. The popularity of animal cafés certainly doesn’t look like it will fade anytime soon.
Here in Auckland, BaristaCats Café on Queen Street serves as a café and adoption centre for cat lovers to mingle with friendly felines. Enjoying your dessert as you pet and play with cats definitely makes for an entertaining afternoon with friends. And even if you are in a hurry, you can still order takeaways at BaristaCats Café and get an enjoyable experience of cat cuddling as you wait for your order!