Lifestyle

Osaka cat lover's paradise seeks to find homes for rescued strays

Kyodo

A cat lover’s paradise has opened in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi commercial district, housing cat-themed shops and cafes as well as a space for visitors to interact with rescued strays in the hope they will be adopted.

More than 100 patrons a day from across Japan visit the five-story complex, known as Neko Building, which also has an area with beds where visitors can nap with cats for a fee. Decorated with a stylish, wood interior, the place is particularly popular with female patrons.

Neco Republic, the Gifu-based company running Neko Building, also operates cafes featuring rescued cats in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture.

Asaka Kawase, the company’s 41-year-old representative, is determined to run the building not as a nonprofit but a proper business.

Noting that many nonprofit organizations often become short of funds for their rescue operations, Kawase said: “If we depend only on donations, our funding resources for rescue operations would be unstable. For as long as we are dealing with these precious lives, we have the responsibility to operate continuously and it is essential to have an arrangement under which we can be sure of securing funding.”

Neko Building is currently home to 22 cats aged 8 months or older that have been rescued by volunteer groups in Osaka Prefecture. The felines are free to move around as they please, some sprawling on their beds or raised perches, while others play with cat toys.

Tomohiko Hojo, a 42-year-old from Sakai who stopped by Neko Building on his way home from work, petted one of the cats he is particularly fond of and said, “Would you like to come with me?”

“I share their stance of handling adult cats instead of kittens, which tend to be more easily picked for adoption,” Hojo said. “I have come here many times already and plan to bring this one home in the near future.”

Neco Republic has helped find new homes for about 260 cats since opening its first shop in the city of Gifu in 2014. At Neko Building, soon after its opening, one male cat was adopted in June and has settled in well at its new home, according to the company.

The company raised money for the Neko Building project through internet-based crowdfunding, receiving over ¥18 million from across Japan.

“In order to spread the culture of adopting a rescued cat into one’s family, which is very common overseas, we would like to make Neko Building a symbol of rescued cats,” Kawase said.