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Cats and lattes go hand-in-hand at Austrian cafe

posted 13 May 2012, 05:47 by Mpelembe

Austria's first cat cafe, where customers can have drinks while playing with cats, opens in Vienna.

The first Austrian cat cafe, where customers can enjoy their drinks while playing with cats, recently opened in Vienna.
The Cafe Neko ("Neko" meaning "cat" in Japanese) opened earlier this month in Vienna city centre near St. Stephen's Cathedral, a popular tourist landmark. The Austrian capital has a 300-year-old cafe tradition and is said to host some 2,000 cafes.

"There is a hype about this thing. People here seem to behave like they have never seen a cat before, and this creates an interesting atmosphere. I also read that it was very difficult to get this project through the required administrative process, which I can fully understand. But I think it's a good thing to have," Louisa Mathis, a tourist from Upper Austria, told Reuters Television.

Customers can stroke and interact with their five feline hosts, named Sonja, Thomas, Moritz, Luca and Momo, who all came from an animal shelter and now freely roam about the cafe and take naps.

"My mum is allergic and we cannot have cats," said eight-year-old girl Iman.

The cafe was opened by Vienna resident Takako Ishimitsu, a 47-year-old woman originally from Nagoya, Japan, who moved to Vienna some 20 years ago. She had to spend three years negotiating with city officials over hygiene issues for the cafe to be allowed to open.

Ishimitsu said she decided to open a cat cafe in order to introduce some aspects of Japanese culture to Vienna.

"Showing unknown Japanese concepts is good for Austria. I had various ideas, and the cat cafe 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," cafe owner Takako Ishimitsu said.

She added that the 50-seat cafe was an instant hit with locals and tourists alike.

"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 said.