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Tuesday, 17th April 2012
In General Japan News,

Japan's cat cafes could lose their nine lives

Japan's famous 'Neko cafes' have long been a place where people can unwind after a long day with a coffee in their hand and a purring cat on their lap, but a new law could spell the end of their nine lives.

Neko cafes are an institution in Tokyo, popular with both busy workers and tourists alike who enjoy the company of feline friends while sipping on a steaming cup of hot coffee where cats stroll around and customers enjoy their company.

But animal rights activists have long campaigned that they exploit the animals' wellbeing and, following more than 155,000 public requests to act on the issue, the environment ministry has issued an ordinance, the AFP reported.

The new law will make it illegal to display animals later than 20:00 local time and whether the Neko cafes land on their feet once the ordinance comes into effect later in the year remains to be seen.

"I love cats, but I can't have one at home because I live in a small apartment," saleswoman Akiko Harada told the news agency.

"I started coming here because I really missed having fun with cats and touching them."

There are many like Ms Harada in Japan, willing to pay extra for their caffeine fix in order to enjoy the company of a cat, but the new law will stop the cafes from operating during their busiest period.

The cat cafes themselves are perhaps an unintended target of the new ordinance, with Fusako Nogami, head of animal rights group Alive, telling the AFP that the main issue was the sale of newborn kittens and puppies.

However, Animal rights activist Chizuko Yamaguchi believes that the volume of customers looking to play with the cats makes the animals' lives uncomfortable.

"From morning to night these cats are being stroked by people they do not know," she told the news provider.

"For the animals, that is a real source of stress."

Earlier this year, scientists in Japan discovered the secret that stops dogs getting cold when their paws are  placed on freezing ground.

A clever system within their paws prevents blood from flowing back into the body before it has been warmed up, keeping body temperature at a constant.