The prospect of an afternoon of relaxation in the company of fluffy, purring friends has earned cat cafes a top spot on the itineraries of visitors to Japan, but not all operators have the interests of their feline employees in mind, animal experts warn.

The decision by Tokyo authorities on April 21 to order a cat cafe in the capital to close for 30 days due to animal neglect has focused global scrutiny on the establishments, which let customers sit and play with multiple cats in shared rooms for an hourly fee.

"(The shuttered Tokyo cafe) illustrates the potential for cafes to simply become places of abuse and neglect with no benefit to society or cats," said Maho Cavalier at Animal Walk Tokyo, an animal rescue nonprofit organization.