It’s speed dating for the pet set: cat cafes, the latest pet trend in Japan, and it’s frankly a little bizarre to these homely sensibilities. Short-circuited relationships pervade modern society among humans, but the fly-by-night antics of the unapologetically uncommitted are hitting the pet world in a mass-marketed wave in one of the most vigorous economies in the world. More than 150 companies in Tokyo alone rent out pets, from ferrets to beetles, by the hour.
To be fair, rentable pets do allow those without the time or means to have pets of their own to bond with an animal, however temporarily—but couldn’t volunteering at a shelter serve the same purpose? Cat cafes and their ilk also act as a free-market arbiter of natural selection: The cutest animals get the most business, so pet-rental proprietors have no reason to bother with the ugly ducklings.
Pets are not the only ones being bought by the hour, however. Companies that rent husbands, mothers, and company of any variety under the sun are popping up all across the land of the rising sun. If all of this smacks a bit of prostitution, I think it’s right to be concerned. The flowering of rentable companionship is a sign of real loneliness, and somehow I think that the more you pay to push it away, the more it comes back to haunt you. But that’s people’s business—and I personally am sorry to see animals dragged into it.