From Monkey Waiters to Rent-a-Pet

A few weeks back I posted a fun little story about monkey waiters in Japan. A couple of commenters found my comments flippant; after all, is it right for animals to be used in this commercial way?

Now comes another story about a Japanese business making unusual use of animals. Apparently there are cafés in Japan where you can rent a pet — or rather, buy a pet’s company for a few minutes or hours. Here’s the story, from the BBC:
Rent-a-friend in Japan

Lola – or Rora – to give her a slightly more Japanese pronunciation – is a beauty and she knows it.
Customers pay by the hour for her company. Usually they just want to stroke her, but as a special treat for favoured clients, she will lie back in a chair, close her eyes and pose for photographs.
Lola is a Persian cat who works at the Ja La La Cafe in Tokyo’s bustling Akihabara district….

The superficial parallel with prostitution (of the brothel or “massage parlour” type) is pretty clear, and the BBC’s story plays that up.

Is this better, or worse, than using monkeys as waiters? Is there some worry that these dogs & cats are being “used?” Are there psychological dangers (to the animals, I mean) from subjecting them to so many, fleeting, relationships with people?

5 comments so far

  1. Bryn Williams-Jones on

    In the case of this cat, I’d say the inherent arrogance of many of this species would undermine the potential of exploitation. Its obvious that as a cat, she/he is “owed” affection by these strangers – its their very duty to pay homage before the majesty that is cat!From a cat disciple

  2. Anonymous on

    Of course they are being used. The question is are they abused?I used the cow that made my two cheeseburgers tonight. Whether it was abused in the slaughterhouse would be the question to ask. I saw tv footage of the monkeys. Their working conditions do not look too hard, but how they are housed and fed or treated after hours was not addressed. Do they get matching RRSPeanuts contributions? Are they allowed to unionize? Who is the simian shop steward they can complain to? But hey, its a jungle out there. 🙂

  3. Zachary on

    Well, I’m sure that if any pet psychologists stumble onto this, they will undoubtedly kick up a ruckus. But barring that, I’m sure that these animals will be just fine.As long as the animals are well cared for by the shop owners, (which I’ll assume they are, since people are paying for their company), there’s no real problem in my mind.I have to agree with Dr. Jones here; cats are divas who enjoy the attention.

  4. Tracey Smith on

    Is Japan the only country that has ‘rent a pet’? I certainly hope that this practice does not spread. Dogs especially are social animals and many breeds have a need to bond closely to a single individual.Tracey SmithEditor of TheKArmaReport.com

  5. Chris MacDonald on

    Tracey:No, Japan’s not the only country. Type “rent” and “dog” into Google, and you get things like this, from the NY Times:< HREF="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/nyregion/30dogs.html" REL="nofollow">“For a Temporary Best-Friend Fix, Rent a Dog (Kibble Included) for a Day”<>It’s not clear that being rented out is inconsistent with <>also<> bonding with a single individual.Chris.


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