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Vienna’s first cat café is open for business

Nadine Bells
Shine On
May 18, 2012

The hosts at Vienna's Café Neko don't expect tips, nor will they engage in small talk with customers.

They might, however, rub up against your leg.

Five cats, Sonja, Thomas, Moritz, Luca and Momo, interact with customers at the 50-seat coffee house. All rescued from an animal shelter, they freely roam throughout the café.

See the gallery here.

It's the first cat café in Austria, an endeavour that took three years to have approved — hygiene issues were the city officials' reasonable concerns.

"Neko" means "cat" in Japanese. Cafe Neko's owner, Alexander Thuer and his Japanese-born wife Takako Ishimitsu, claim their inspiration "to combine coffee with cats" came from Ishimitsu's background, Associated Press reports. Cat-friendly establishments, while rare in Europse, are quite common in Asia.

Also see: Coffee linked to longer life, according to large U.S. study

"Showing unknown Japanese concepts is good for Austria. I had various ideas, and the cat café project was the least difficult to realize. And at the same time, I can do something good for the Vienna animal shelter which I have been supporting for years," Ishimitsu says.

In Japan most apartments ban pets, so individuals seeking animal companionship often head to cat cafés, many of which even specialize in specific breeds of cats.

"Surprisingly, more than 99 per cent the reactions are positive. One of our goals is to provide some happiness to people who cannot have cats on their own, because of their jobs or family members suffering from allergies," Ishimitsu tells The Telegraph.

Dogs are required to stay outside. The cats might roam free at Vienna's Café Neko, but the canines can sip dog-friendly meat-flavoured beer at a pub in Newcastle. It's a good year to be a four-legged furry friend.

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