The Environment Ministry plans to permanently allow cat cafes to stay open until 10 p.m. from June, extending a temporary measure after finding the later hours make little difference to the animals’ stress, ministry officials said Wednesday.
At the same time, the ministry will reinforce measures aimed at ensuring the cats’ welfare, limiting their “shifts” to a maximum of 12 hours per day and mandating regular health checks for elderly cats, defined as aged 11 or older.
The changes come amid heightened concern over conditions at cat cafes after the Tokyo Metropolitan Government last week ordered an establishment to close for 30 days due to improper treatment of the animals.
Operators of the cafe in the capital’s Sumida Ward had let their feline charges breed out of control, filling the premises with more than six times the number of cats originally approved by authorities and allowing disease to spread amid unhygienic conditions.
Since 2012, pet shops and similar facilities have been required under Japan’s animal welfare law to restrict the hours they display cats and dogs to the public to between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., in order to reduce the amount of stress placed on the animals.
Cat cafes have been allowed to open later under an exemption due to expire at the end of next month, on the condition that cats aged 1 or older are able to escape the display area to a customer-free rest space whenever they wish.
The ministry made the decisions after carrying out research on the stress levels of cafe cats with the cooperation of some of the roughly 300 such establishments nationwide.
The survey concluded that cats’ stress differs little between cafes that close at 8 p.m. and those that close at 10 p.m. It also found that cafe life can place a significant burden on the health of elderly cats.
Cat cafes and similar establishments have spread to a variety of locations worldwide in recent years, offering customers the opportunity to relax in the company of animals.