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Many Japanese workers suffer stress from a harsh working environment, and some animals too, appear to be no exception. Feline employees in cat cafes are reportedly working long hours and in sometimes unsanitary environments, receiving no salary or cash rewards.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government handed the Neko no Te (Cat’s Paw) cat cafe in Sumida Ward a 30-day business suspension on Thursday over its poor hygienic environment that led to the cats developing sicknesses. This is the first time in Japan for a cat cafe to be handed such a suspension.

According to a metropolitan government official, in June the cafe reported it was keeping 10 cats inside the store in its 30 sq.-meter space, but 62 were found during an on-site inspection in December.

The number of cats increased as they were allowed to run loose and as a result several kittens were born.

Due to the dirty environment they were living in, 44 cats were found to be suffering from common colds.

The store owner and a part-time employee took care of the cats, who used a nearby apartment as a facility to rear the kittens, and that was also found to be badly managed.

The city ordered the store to improve hygienic conditions in February following complaints from customers about the bad odor.

The cafe has managed to sell or give the surplus cats to new owners.

The long working hours has been an issue for the cats, too.

Normally, the business hours for animal-related shops are set at sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. but since 2012, the Environment Ministry has temporarily allowed them to remain open until 10 p.m.

This temporary exception is scheduled to expire at the end of May.

But in order for a cat cafe to stay open until 10 p.m., adult cats must be over 1 year old, be able to wander around and be able take necessary rests.

However, some people have pointed out that the working hours for the cats at these cafes are too long.

A ministry spokesman told The Japan Times on Friday that officials will hold a meeting on April 27 to consider another extension, or possibly fix set opening hours, after taking into consideration comments from the public that were accepted until Thursday’s deadline.

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