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A Brief History of the Cat Café

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What starts with a C and wakes you up first thing in the morning?

If you said coffee, you’re half right. But the other half you may not have considered. Cat cafés are popping up all over the world, giving guests a chance to partake in warm beverages and pastries whilst communing with feline friends in a public environment. No litter boxes to tend to, no paws kneading on the bedposts in the morning, but all the psychological benefits that go along with the company of a good kitty. Here's what you need to know about the new trend that's meowing its way around the globe.

Early Cat Cafés

The world's first cat cafe, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. Soon, what began as a venture to provide young urbanites the chance to unwind after a hectic day became a favorite tourist destination. But cat cafés truly took off when they made their way to Japan.

At one of Toyko's first cat cafes, Neko no mise (Shop of Cats), which opened in 2005, the only cats that can't be cuddled are fragile newborns. Japan's capital city is now home to dozens of the establishments, which are popular, Neko no mise owner Norimasa Hanada told Vice, because "most Japanese rental apartments prohibit pets. The only ones that allow them are condominium apartments for families. This means that young, single-dwelling workers in their 20s and 30s can’t even think about getting any pets, despite the fact that they’re stressed out and are seeking comfort and companionship of some kind."

Cat Cafés in North America and Beyond

In April, New York became home to America’s first cat café (aptly named Cat Café), which was sponsored by Purina ONE with adoptable cats from North Shore Animal League. Though there were lines around the block to get in, the café was just a short-term pop-up. For now, it looks like America's first permanent cat cafés will find their homes in California's Bay Area: Two cat cafés—one in San Francisco, and one in Oakland— are slated to open there this year.

San Francisco’s KitTea is set to play host to rescued feral cats, and Oakland’s Cat Town will offer visitors the chance to adopt the felines at their cat café.

In North America, other establishments are entering into the “cat race,” with plans to open cat cafés in San Diego, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

Meanwhile, Europe has been on top of the trend, with cat cafés in Berlin, Paris, and Turin, to name a few. The UK has also gotten going on its first feline-friendly café. With the help of more than 100,000 British Pounds in donations, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium opened in city’s hip, up-and-coming East End in March and has already managed to book itself up for a few months.

So next time you wake up looking for a quick pick-me-up, consider that it’s not just caffeine you need. Soon you might be able to start your day with a little help from your feline friends.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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