When I first saw the headline "Japanese cat lovers snarl at new law" I had a brief moment of panic. "Times are looking tough for Tokyo's cat cafes, where feline aficionados can drop in for tea and some time with a cat," the article began.
"Oh no!" I thought.
Well I'm happy to report that it's not as bad as it sounds - kind of. Basically, the kitties at Japan's cat cafes aren't going anywhere, but they are getting a curfew of sorts, kind of like when your parents said you had to be home by midnight, or else.
But why? They haven't done anything wrong - in fact, the cats who live/work at the cafes actually have it pretty good. They appear to be well taken care, and there are many strict rules in place to ensure their happiness and well-being. Customers are allowed to pet them but aren't allowed to pick them up, and bothering a sleeping cat is pretty much the biggest crime you can commit at one of these establishments. So why then, does the Japanese government see the necessity of forcing the cats behind closed doors after 8 p.m.?
The revision to Japan's Animal Protection law that would introduce the new restriction is actually targeted at late-night pet shops that sell cats and dogs 24/7, keep animals in small cages, and never turn their bright lights off. When you look at it that way, it makes sense - but it's an unfortunate consequence that cat cafes are lumped into the same category as these unethical pet purveyors.
Cat Cafe owner Hiromi Kawase tells Reuters, "Everybody knows cats are really happy in the evening, with their big, cute eyes. So I just can't understand why the people at the top are ignoring this. It's really strange."
Hiromi, who usually closes up shop at 10 p.m., fears that the new law will harm her business, and some of her customers seem to agree.
One regular visitor who comes to the cafe at least two times a week after work (after 8 p.m.) says, "If I can't see the cats, well, I won't come. Of course I come here because they have cats."
Another chimes in, "It's a great place, it calms the stresses of working life. If this law goes through, that enjoyment is going to disappear. It's a real shame."
It remains to be seen if the law - which goes into effect on June 1st - will significantly impact business, but Kawase's biggest concern is more for her kitties than for herself.
"If our business hours go down and we lose two hours of profits, of course it's going to affect us, but it'll also affect the cats," she said.
"You know, in getting them all the things they need, like the correct amount of food and proper nutrition."