Forced temporary closure thought to be the first-ever in Japan.

When cat cafes first began to really catch on in Japan, some expressed concerns over how the animals would be treated. After all, while they may be assets or employees from an emotionless economic perspective, first and foremost they’re living creatures that need attentive care from their owners.

But with cat cafes having been part of the cultural landscape for more than a decade now, the general consensus in Japan is that they take good care of their felines. One doesn’t open a cat cafe without having at least some affection for the star attractions, and the animal lovers who frequent the establishments wouldn’t keep coming back if they felt the animals’ living conditions were subpar. Japan’s Ministry of the Environment even came to the recent conclusion, after a nationwide study, that working past normal dinner hours had no ill effects on cat cafe kitties, provided the cafe is properly run.

Unfortunately, it turns out that not every cat cafe does all it should in that last regard. Located in Tokyo’s Kotobashi neighborhood, Neko no Te is a combination cat cafe/pet shop, a duality it shares with many similar operations. What makes Neko no Te unique, unfortunately, is that it’s just been ordered to suspend operations for 30 days and literally clean up its act.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health made the punishment official on April 21, citing a laundry list of violations of the Animal Protection and Control Law, with the failures to comply with hygiene and nutrition standards having had a negative impact on the health of the cats at Neko no Te.

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The publicly released document refers only to codes of the law which were violated, not the specific wrongdoings. The end result, though, is that due to the infractions, Neko no Te has been shut down through May 20, with the cafe expressly prohibited from displaying, lending, housing, or renting cats until the enterprise has been cleared by a subsequent on-site inspection.

This is believed to be the first time a cat cafe in Japan has been forced to suspend operations for such reasons.

In the meantime, the Neko no Te website looks as cheery as ever, with pictures of frolicking kitties, although this vaguely worded message is prominently displayed:

“We will be closed from April 21 to May 20, so if you’d like to make a reservation, please make it for after then.”

Over on the cafe’s blog, the owners go into a little more detail, saying:

“This week people from the animal welfare center visited us. We’d like to thank them for all the hard work they do. To improve this cafe, every week someone from the animal welfare center comes, and each time they tell us what we’ve improved on, point out things we’re still not doing well, and give us advice on what to do before they come again the following week.”

“We plan to gradually release information on the areas we’ve improved in, and we thank all of you who have requested more information for your patience.”

Whether customers feel Neko no Te has made adequate progress, or the one-month closure was an ineffective slap on the wrist, is something we won’t know until next month.

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health via IT Media
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health