The sound of mewsic: Austrians seek creature comforts with its first 'cat cafe'2:09 pm - 05/19/2012
Austria is taking a leaf out of Japan's book - or should that be a whisker from its cat basket - with the opening of Europe's first 'cat cafe' in Vienna.
Customers at Cafe Neko (which means cat in Japanese) can order a purrfect cup of tea and relax while feline residents Sonja, Thomas, Moritz, Luca and Momo settle on their laps, or pad about underneath the chairs and tables.
Takako Ishimitsu, the cafe’s 47-year-old owner, is originally from Japan where there are now around 40 such establishments in Tokyo alone since the first cat cafe opened in 1998.
Pets are often forbidden in apartments in Japan, and the cafes have proved hugely popular among stressed-out workers and families seeking animal companionship. Some even 'specialise' in particular types or breeds of cat.
Ms Ishimitsu spent three years negotiating with Vienna city officials over hygiene issues before being granted permission to open the establishment.
She explains how she launched the cafe in Europe in order to give people who couldn't have their own pets an opportunity to come into contact with cats. Each of the five animals was rescued from a local animal shelter.
In Japan, however, the authorities have thrown the cat among the pigeons with the introduction of new legislation.
The popularity of cat cafes is being threatened by a new law which prevents the public display of animals after 8pm.
The law was introduced after the Japanese environment agency received more than 155,000 complaints from the public about the treatment of animals in Tokyo's entertainment districts.
Animal welfare campaigners believe that excessive stroking from strangers is causing the animals stress.
Cat cafe managers, who often stay open late to cater for after-work trade, may have to close at their peak trade times as the law comes into force.
As yet, there is no such law enforcement in Austria, but the cafe will always uphold one particular rule.
As it clearly says on the door, there is a strict ‘no dogs’ policy.