Why Are Things like "Cat Cafes" Replacing Human-to-Human Contact?

Attention, lonely humans, cat cafes are here. Yes, cafes where cats traipse around while you enjoy your coffee have been popping up all around the world. You might be thinking: "This is incredible! I love coffee, and I love cats!" 

I hear you. Coffee is my favorite thing in the world and cats are pretty cool. While a cat cafe is exciting and adorable to so many, it just seems really sad to me. 

I know, it's official: I'm heartless.

Before I continue, I should explain exactly what these cat cafes are and how they came to be. Cat cafes started in Taiwan over a decade ago and have since expanded across the world with locations in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United Sates, Canada, and Japan. 

Different cafes obviously have different prices, but the idea is that you pay for a beverage and/or snack and chill in a room full of cats. Many locations require customers to make a reservation before visiting to ensure that everyone has a chance to sit amongst the cats. Plus, they have to maintain some kind of order since people can be totally weird and territorial. Especially those who would venture to a cat cafe.

This week, Los Angeles opened the doors to its first pop-up cat cafe, cleverly called Catfe. While it will be gone by Monday, founder Carlos Wong hopes to open up a full-time Catfe in the near future. Wong is asking that anyone who wants to schedule a reserved time at the cafe "” which is probably the only way to enter, honestly "” pay $30 for a 20-minute time slot. He plans to use the money he raises, along with the money he collects on his Kickstarter page, for his furry business endeavor. 

So, why are they so popular? And why are people willing to pay up to $125 (that's if you want alone time with the felines) to play with cats? Well, one major reason is that people love cute animals. The entire Internet was probably invented just so people could easily share cat photos. But another reason is that there are therapeutic benefits to being around animals. Along with lowered blood pressure, decreased levels of anxiety, and increased self-esteem, surrounding yourself with animals can also decrease feelings of loneliness

These are all great things. If people can live healthier, more fulfilled lives by hanging out with cute kittens, I have no real reason to say they shouldn't. However, sometimes my emotions truly override my logic "” this is one of those times. 

See, the whole concept of cat cafes makes me sad. The Catfe in L.A. is only open from 4 to 9 p.m. Although, I'm sure the hours vary at other locations, people are eagerly lining up to get inside. What this tells me is that people are so desperate for attention. 

Have we lost all touch with other people? Is this an unexpected side-effect of technology infiltrating society and ruling our daily lives? Is no one happy? 

As a bit of an introvert, I can understand not wanting to be around people all of the time. But there's a difference between wanting to curl up on the couch and watch a movie with my pets and paying money to have a few cats walk around me. 

I also think it's interesting that most of these cat cafes are opening up in big cities. We're surrounded by millions of people, but can't seem to connect with one another. Somehow it's easier for us to send a tweet to a friend rather than to pick up the phone and give him a call. Why are we more comfortable sitting in a room full of cats than we are sitting next to a stranger or even a close friend? 

I'm not ready to give up on humanity just yet. I know that some people are into cat cafes because they're a fun, new trend. I also know that many of these cafes help cats find homes through adoption programs. But, I don't know if our ability or drive to communicate with one another will ever be restored. 

It seems to me that the idea of being a "crazy cat person" is now something people aspire to adopt. I can't be the only one who remembers that term being used in only negative contexts, right? 

We can still love cats without paying to drink coffee with them. We can also still love people and pay to drink coffee with cats. But I'm not sure if we're ready to find a middle-ground. It completely breaks what I have left of my heart.
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