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A Brief History of the Cat Café

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Getty Images

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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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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