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Are cat cafes good for cats?

 by bora on 20 Jan 2021 |
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Cat cafes are wildly popular among animal loves, but the business model is nuanced when it comes to treating resident felines right.

Since the first cat café opened in in Taiwan 1998, the concept has become popular among feline aficionados across the globe. While customers flock to these establishments for an interactive experience with the shops’ feline residents, some animal rights activists question whether the business model is truly humane for its four-legged fellows.

Cat cafes marry traditional coffee shops with the experience of interacting with cuddly cats. Behind most of cafes’ business models is the underlying goal to help shelter cats get adopted by moving animals out of the shelter and into a temporary space in which they can thrive and interface with potential pet owners. However, opponents of the businesses argue that business and philanthropy can create opposing goals and, in some cases, lead to an unhealthy environment for the cats and customers.

Not all cats are suited for a cat café. Felines must be well-socialized, as well as up-to-date on all of their vaccines. Routine health checks are a key component of maintaining a healthy group resident felines, as cats live together in a group and any illness can easily spread between them in the café environment. Likewise, the café itself must be well-managed to ensure a sanitary experience for its customers. Though many cat cafes run a scintillating business, feeding, watering, cleaning litter boxes, and maintaining an overall clean space for a dozen or so felines can be a true labor of love for cat café staff.

The cafes navigate health codes by keeping kittens and coffee separate, such as in two distinct rooms with a large glass pane between them. This allows business owners to separate animals from food and beverages, and typically involves two separate entrances for the two sides of the business. A well-run cat café also requires provision of a suitable space for the cats themselves. While the concept can prove great for socializing shelter animals, cats naturally need alone time and tend to rely on small groups for stability. Strangers may stress even the friendliest felines, so cat successful café owners must find a way to balance their animals’ needs with the desire to socialize and adopt them out into loving homes.

One sign a cat café has its feline residents’ wellbeing at the core of its business model is the provision of spaces for cats to hide when they need a break from strangers’ affection. Another mark of a responsible establishment is clear rules posted about how to interact with the cats, such as refraining from picking up, chasing or roughhousing the animals. Conscientious customers should avoid cat cafes that tout pure-bred companions, as this removes the benefit of helping shelter cats find homes. The presence of healthy elderly cats is another sign of a humane business, as this help improve chances that these animals are adopted.

As with any business, cat cafes can be run well or poorly. In this case, however, the wellbeing of animals is at stake along with the businesses’ success. Look for signs of healthy, well-cared-for resident felines when choosing to patronize a cat café.

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