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Pet Cute Four-Legged and Feathered Friends
at Animal Cafes

    Have you heard about cafes where you can pet and play with cute animals?
    In many regular zoos, you can only see the animals in cages or behind glass, and so you cannot easily experience how they are up close or hear them breathing.
    However, animal cafes in Japan are currently popular as they let you touch and play with cute animals face-to-face. Japan has many kinds of animal cafes. Cat cafes are the most common, but there are also cafes that let you pet other animals such as hedgehogs, owls, rabbits, and reptiles. It is said that there are at least 100 cafes within Tokyo alone. In urban areas, there are few opportunities to get in touch with nature or to play with animals. People with a love for animals, and people who cannot keep pets because of regulations in their apartment blocks go to visit the cafes. Apparently, some people looking to keep an animal as a pet also go to the cafes to see what kind of animal would be best for them.
    Although they are called “cafes,” they are designed for people to play with the animals. As such, most locations charge fees based on the length of stay, with increments of 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 2 hours, for example. The interior of each cafe features different areas with animals and staff members who will help you hug the animals or let them stand on your arm. They will also teach you how to feed the animals. You are free to visit each area as you please while you enjoy your allocated time at the cafe.

Cat Cafes—A Relaxing Atmosphere that Feels Like Being at a Friend’s House

    Cat cafes are the most common type of animal cafe, and have been around for the longest. You can sit on the floor or on low seats as you spend time with the cats, either playing with them or simply looking at them. You can even just take it easy while reading a book. Many cafes have interiors that look like regular houses, letting you relax while you play with the cats as if you were at a friend’s house or even your own home.

It is fun to spend time with cats sporting fluffy fur
(Necoya / Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture / Image provided by Odekake moa)

Inside a cat cafe
(Necoya / Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture / Image provided by Odekake moa)

Cat Cafes—Pleasant Spaces for Cats, Too

    It is bad to make the cats too tired, or to do things that are dangerous for them, and so you must not chase them or try to pick them up by force. Some cafes forbid people from picking up the cats. You are not allowed to use your camera flash when taking pictures, either. It is considered good etiquette to wait for the cats to come to you while you eat, drink, and take pictures. Sometimes, the cats will come onto your lap. You can, of course, pet the cats that come close to you if they seem to be happy about it.

Hedgehog Cafes—Hold a Hedgehog in Your Hands

Inside a hedgehog cafe (All photos related to hedgehog cafes here are from HARRY Harajuku Terrace)

    There are also cafes featuring more unusual animals.
    This section gives one example: a hedgehog cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo.
    This cafe has a species called the four-toed hedgehog. Four-toed hedgehogs do not have fixed hours for staying awake and sleeping. They have a habit of waking up many times periodically during the day to eat, before going back to sleep again.
    Hedgehogs are peaceful creatures but they have sharp spines, so you need thick gloves when holding them. Once you have your gloves on, cup your hands together, and the animal-loving staff members will carefully carry the hedgehog into your hands. The hedgehog may look at you with its round eyes and exhale audibly, meaning that it is slightly wary of you. If this happens, it is best to gently watch over them and wait.
    To pick up a hedgehog on your own, scoop them up by placing both hands underneath them from each side. Hedgehogs like to be in small spaces, so they will relax if you hold them with your hands surrounding them.

You can put on gloves and ask the staff to put a hedgehog in your hands

The hedgehogs are happy when you hold them face up and stroke their belly

Hedgehog Cafes—Through Careful Observation, You May Notice that Each Hedgehog Has Different Personalities

A hedgehog eating food

    If you carefully watch the hedgehogs, you will see that each one has their own individual characteristics. Some are lively, some sleep often, and some might be shy.
    They are fed with brown granules that are commonly sold for animals that eat insects. These granules are placed in containers near to the hedgehogs, who eat them whenever they wish.
    Hedgehogs generally weigh between 300 to 600 grams. Staff members at the cafe weigh the hedgehogs every day to check that they are healthy.

Hedgehog Cafes—You Can Play with Chinchillas and Otters Toos

    This particular cafe has other animals besides hedgehogs, such as chinchillas, otters, and squirrels.
    You can pet and hold the chinchillas, just like with the hedgehogs. The otters are in water tanks or see-through enclosures, and you can give them food through a small window. You can feed the squirrels, too. There are staff members at each area who will tell you the right way to play with the animals if necessary.
    The cafe has many customers from overseas; about 70% of all customers come from outside of Japan. There are staff members who speak English and Chinese as well.

A chinchilla

Asian small-clawed otters

Richardson's ground squirrels (a species of squirrel)

Owl Cafes—Pet Feathered Friends or Let Them Stand on Your Arm

A barn owl
(All photos related to owl cafes here are from Owl’s Garden)

    Finally, let’s look at an owl cafe that lets you spend time with different species of owl.
    Owl cafes are popular with Japanese nationals as well as with tourists from abroad. At this cafe, 30% of customers on weekends and holidays come from overseas, but this number rises to 70% on weekdays. There are staff members who speak Japanese and English.
    You can see barn owls in this cafe. This species of owl is well-known for its appearance in the very popular Harry Potter movie series about a boy wizard as he grows up. This cafe has a total of 17 birds, including hawks, falcons, and crows in addition to owls, so you can watch many kinds of birds all together.
    Inside the shop, staff members will show you how to pet the birds from their necks to their bodies. You only need to use one finger when petting little birds, but you use your whole palm when petting larger birds. When letting the birds stand on your hand or arm, you need to wear special gloves. Owls and hawks are easily frightened and are very cautious, so you must not speak loudly, make noises, or move suddenly. Aim to spend time together with the bird on your arm in a relaxed, quiet manner.
    The staff members at the cafe pay careful consideration toward the birds, and so they set fixed times when it is okay to pet them and when it is not okay to do so (during the bird’s break times), so that they will not get too tired. There are also set times for feeding the birds, and customers can only feed them if they are in the cafe at these fixed times. The cafe interior is also designed with lots of greenery and with lighting in warm tones so that the birds can relax.

A little owl

A spotted eagle-owl

Inside an owl cafe

Owl Cafes—Experience the Flight of Owls and Hawks

Experience a barn owl flying toward your arm

    This cafe also offers experiences where you can call an owl or a hawk on a perch six meters away from you, and have it fly and land on your arm. Once the bird flies to you, you can give it some food (chicken meat). It is a very impressive sight to see the owl or hawk flying toward your arm.
    The birds fly very quickly, so it is best to take a video, preferably in slow-motion, rather than a picture if you want to capture the moment well.

    Why not visit an animal cafe to play with some four-legged and feathered friends? You are sure to forget about all the hustle and bustle of the city as you enjoy a calm, relaxing time.

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