Weather Forecast


Column: Do you want to pet my ant?

I've had my share of pets in my life, and I understand the appeal. I've had dogs I could run and play with, birds that chirped pleasantly and cats that ... well, the cats all kind of did their own thing. But they would occasionally acknowledge my presence with a not entirely unpleasant reaction.

Once, one of the cats ate one of the birds. But I don't like to think about that.

I've loved all of my pets -- well, love might be too strong a word for the rats, which were mostly there to be fed and occasionally run along my arm -- but I'm far from an animal fanatic. It's been years since I shared my house with an animal unless you count the colony of ants that recently took up residence in my bathroom. And considering I just poisoned those critters into oblivion it's probably best we leave them off the list. The ASPCA might start to get concerned.

It certainly never would have occurred to me to pay by the hour for a little animal companionship. But maybe that's just me. There are plenty of others, it appears, are more than happy to plunk down some hard-earned cash for a little heavy petting with someone else's pet.

At least in Japan. Then again, this is the country where people put pictures of cartoons on body pillows and call them their girlfriend. We may be at the point where we have to take everything Japan does with a grain of salt.

But, back to the cats. According to a video story posted this week on Time Magazine's web page Cat Cafes are a growing attraction in Osaka, Japan, where many residents are unable to keep pets of their own. Visitors pay the equivalent of about $9 for an hour of kitty time or $16 for unlimited time, plus a complimentary drink.

It's a cat house in the most literal sense of the word.

Some visitors spend their time getting up close with their rented furry friends. Others just sit back and watch, or read a book while the cats frolic around them. Customers say they find it relaxing.

"Time goes by slowly here," one customer said. I guess that's not really surprising, considering he's spending his afternoon doing nothing more strenuous than sitting around and watching cats lounge all around him. Time goes slowly when you watch paint dry, too. Or when you watch that CBS show with David Spade.

And apparently kitty cafes are just the beginning. While businesses specializing in faux feline friendship are the most common, there are apparently other cafes that offer me-time with dogs, birds and rabbits. There was no word of any cafes offering people a chance to get up close to reptiles.

I guess I understand why some people might find this kind of arrangement appealing. The cats' affections are only temporary, but isn't that the case with any cat? I know people who would probably stop by if their personal kitty supply was ever cut off.

I just wish I'd known all this earlier. I might have been able to do big business charging people to spend time with my ants.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606