There are so many different animal cafes in Tokyo, and I’ve only been to an Owl cafe so far, although I’m currently planning a trip to a hedgehog cafe and also a regular cat cafe (how have I NOT been to one of these yet?). It’s strange to say the phrase ‘a regular cat cafe’, as if that’s totally normal. But this is Japan, and cat cafes are where it all began, right?
A lot of people voice concerns about the different animal cafes, and usually I agree with them. I don’t want to go and support one that might be causing the animals distress, or using unhealthy methods (like sedatives) to keep the animals docile and easy to touch. I don’t really like that or agree with it. But some of them are there and doing good work, and those are the ones I want to support and give my money to.
So I was a little unsure about going to the rabbit cafe, and didn’t know how to feel about it. On the other hand, I really wanted to see how they managed it, and if the animals were being treated fairly. A bit of a conundrum, I guess! So I had to go, to see for myself and make my own judgements.
Thankfully, my friend wanted to go and see it with me, and we brought her daughter along as well. The little girl had never been to an animal cafe before, and this was her first.
As it turned out, the one we went to is also a breeder, and this is more like their showroom, with all of the rabbits available for sale. I’m not sure where a person living in Tokyo would KEEP a rabbit, since I’ve always thought they belonged outside at least, in a large cage or a rabbit hutch or whatever… but maybe there is something I don’t know about the size of some apartments here in Tokyo. More than likely, people are not treating their pets well and keeping them in small spaces. But I don’t know. Apparently a lot of the animal cafes also function as places where people can buy pets.
As it also turned out, the cafe we went to has a policy of only allowing the more social rabbits to be out and running around. There are others, in their own separate cages, who don’t come out. And you can open the cage to pet or touch them, but they generally get left alone.
I opened one cage to pet a rabbit, and he (or she) went to the back of his (or her) cage, so I closed the door and left it alone. I hope others understand that body language when it happens.
There were very strict rules at the cafe, which was located near Shimokitazawa station, as well:
1 – you can’t chase the rabbits. Let them come to you.
2 – you have to be gentle with them, and will be under strict supervision.
3 – don’t force the rabbits to stay on your lap if you pick one up.
4 – children must be supervised at all times.
5 – you can only pick up the rabbits that are out. Do not pick up the rabbits that are in their cages: you can only pet them and touch them!
All in all, I think it was managed pretty well. There were really no questions or points of confusion while we were there. And the way you ‘let the animals come to you’ is by buying small packets of food. It seems the rabbits really love them, and they would come running when you opened it, and stand around you, jumping up to get it.
It was a really good way to get them to come on their own, and I appreciate that they didn’t seem to be stressed at all.