Are Cat Cafes Ethical? (Arguments for Both Sides)

Are Cat Cafes Ethical

There has been a lot of debate over whether or not cat cafes are ethical. For me, the answer really depends on the individual cafe and how the cats are being treated.

I certainly don’t disagree with the business model of having a cafe with cats roaming freely.

I’ve been to a number of cat cafes around the world, and I can tell you that I’ve seen a huge contrast in how the cats were treated.

I’ve been in cat cafes where there are clearly too many cats, a lot of people coming and going, and very relaxed rules on how much the customers can pet and interact with the cats.

In these cases, I’d have to say that those cat cafes are not ethical – and I don’t support them.

On the other hand, I’ve been to cat cafes with a small number of cats and strict rules on whether or not you can touch the cats.

In these cases, I think cat cafes are perfectly ethical. I’m sure the cats have an excellent standard of living and enjoy being there.

If cat cafes are a new concept to you, or maybe you just want to learn more about them and decide for yourself if they’re ethical, here is a brief history and how cat cafes operate:

What Is a Cat Cafe?

A cat cafe is basically an establishment that serves food and drink as any cafe would, but also has some cats roaming freely around the premises.

The main difference between a cat cafe and a normal cafe – apart from the obvious addition of cats – is that customers book a time slot and pay a fee to enter.

This is so that the number of customers can be monitored to ensure the cafe is not too busy for the welfare of the cats.

Cats have lived in pubs, bars, shops, and other businesses for many years before cat cafes existed. So it’s not an entirely new concept for a business to have a resident cat.

Cafe cafes were the first real public attraction that brought customers in to see and interact with cats though.

Related A look at how profitable cat cafes are.

Where Did Cat Cafes Start?

According to CNN, the first cat cafe opened in 1988 in Taipei, Taiwan, and was called the Cat Flower Garden (now called Café Dogs & Cats).

Where the model really took off was in Japan. Japan opened its first cat cafe in 2004, and there are now estimated to be more than 150 cat cafes in Japan.

Part of the popularity of cat-themed cafes in Japan is, of course, the quirky nature of the business model and the fact that cats are well-loved in Japan.

But it’s more so the fact that many apartment buildings in Japan do not allow the ownership of cats, so cat cafes provide a great outlet.

Today, cat cafes can be found all over the world. They are most popular in Asia, and there are also an estimated ~125 cat cafes in the US and hundreds across Europe.

Are Cat Cafes Cruel?

Whether you question how ethical or cruel cat cafes are, it always comes down to the same answer; it depends on the individual cafe.

It’s not cruel to have cats inside a cafe or any other type of business establishment. Cats have lived in business premises for hundreds of years to some extent.

Obviously, being the main attraction as they are in a cat cafe is different. People are coming to see the cats and they’re much more likely to bother the cats.

But it’s up to the cafe owners to establish the rules in regard to how customers can interact with the cats.

I’ve been in cafes where I was told to leave cats alone if they’re sleeping and only play with them if they approach me and are curious.

In cafes like this, there is no stress put on the cats. In fact, with attention on offer when they want it, I think it’s a productive and enjoyable environment for the cats.

There are governing bodies that are responsible for making sure owners are taking care of the cats, as well as ensuring the public is safe.

We have to hope that both the local bodies and the cat cafe owners are doing their part to ensure the cats in the cafes are safe, happy, and not stressed by their environment.

The bottom line; it’s not cat cafes that are cruel, it’s the way the owners are operating the business that can be cruel to the cats.

Are Cat Cafes Hygienic?

One of the main concerns of a cat cafe is hygiene. This is a fair concern, after all, it’s an establishment where food and drink are being served and cats are free to roam.

All of the cafes I’ve visited looked nice and clean. Dare I say they were cleaner than regular cafes due to the fact that customers are more mindful of hygiene.

It’s up to the owners to make sure they’re staying on top of the cleaning. There are usually rules that cats are not allowed on the tables, and the cats eat in a separate room, too.

It’s really no different from having cats around the home.

People who do not own cats might see it as being unhygienic, but they’re the type of people that will not be visiting a cat cafe anyway.

In Summary

Cat cafes can be perfectly ethical, are not cruel, and are fun to visit. It comes down to how the individual cafe is run, however.

If you’re not comfortable with how cats are being treated in a cat cafe for any reason, you should not support them.

If you’ve been to one of the many awesome cat cafes that provide a great environment for cats to live in, they deserve your support.


Image credits – Photo by Kira Laktionov on Unsplash

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