Japan’s cat cafes likely to be allowed to stay open till 10 p.m.

JIJI

The Environment Ministry plans to continue allowing cat cafes in the country to be open until 10 p.m. as an exception to the animal protection law, sources told Jiji Press.

The maximum closing time is two hours later than that for pet shops.

The ministry will approve the continuation of the longer daily operations on condition that only adult cats, aged 1 or older, are used at such cafes during later hours and that spaces allowing them to move freely are secured, the sources said.

Cat cafes, in which customers can watch and interact with cats while having tea, are increasingly popular among not only cat owners but also people who love cats but cannot have pets due to their circumstances, and among those who seek healing.

The government started to allow cat cafes to be open until 10 p.m. as a temporary measure in June 2012. The measure was extended in 2014 and is currently scheduled to expire at the end of May.

The ministry is mulling the second extension, following a survey in which the amount of a hormone showing stress levels was compared among cats at cafes that close at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. No gaps were found in the hormone levels in the two groups in the survey that covered some of the 300 cat cafes in the country, the sources said.

A final decision on the additional extension will be made by the end of March, after discussions by the animal protection division of the Central Environmental Council, which advises the environment minister, the sources said.

The ministry is also considering the possibility of making the longer operating hours for cat cafes a permanent measure, rather than repeatedly extending it, the sources said.

The animal protection law allows pet stores and other facilities handling dogs and cats to be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to reduce stress for the animals on display.

The industry side argues that the maximum closing time is too early, noting many people visit cat cafes for healing after work.