Japanese woman opens first "cat cafe" in Vienna

May 08, 2012

By TORU TAMAGAWA/ Correspondent

VIENNA--The “cat cafe,” a popular type of shop in Japan that allows customers to enjoy beverages while playing with cats, has opened in Vienna for the first time.

“Neko” (cat in Japanese) opened on May 3 in a medieval building that’s a two-minute walk from St. Stephen's Cathedral, a symbolic structure in Vienna. The Austrian capital boasts a 300-year-old cafe culture and more than 2,000 shops.

Five cats in the 50-seat Neko were lying on the floor or jumping onto customers’ laps.

“That’s a wonderful idea,” said Ulrike, a 43-year-old customer at Neko. “I want to come to see the cats every day.”

Takako Ishimitsu, the 47-year-old owner of Neko, has lived Vienna for about two decades. She said she decided to open a cat cafe as a way to introduce Japanese culture to the central European city.

“I wanted to repay the favor of people in Austria who had helped me,” Ishimitsu said.

She recalled that city authorities were reluctant to approve her unprecedented application for a cat cafe. Following four years of negotiations, she finally received approval after she obtained a license of animal caregiver.

Ishimitsu said her cafe has friendly cats from among hundreds at a local humane society.

Japan is estimated to have 150 cat cafes.

By TORU TAMAGAWA/ Correspondent
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A customer at Vienna's first "cat cafe" on May 4 (Toru Tamagawa)

A customer at Vienna's first "cat cafe" on May 4 (Toru Tamagawa)

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  • A customer at Vienna's first "cat cafe" on May 4 (Toru Tamagawa)

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