If you’ve found yourself imagining a life with a cat, but you've lacked the fortitude to commit to an unknown roommate, there’s an inn located in Japan that might be the perfect testing grounds for you. Located in the hot spring town of Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, My Cat Yugawara is an inn that’s enticing its visitors with a cuddly proposition: a “trial” sleepover with a cuddly feline.
Traditional Japanese inns known as “ryokans” are most recognizable by their signature minimalistic designs and furnishings, as well as communal baths and personalized services. This particular ryokan has the added bonus of the overnight guest potentially ending in pet ownership. The owner of My Cat Yugawara, Akihiro Ochi, saw an opportunity to help those seeking cat companions but wrestled with uncertainties because of various living conditions. The owner wanted to provide hopefuls a safe trial run at pet ownership. The “trial packages” are attached to the price of a normal room booking. The inn's rates are modest, but prices range depending on room size. Some rooms can house up to five people, so an entire family can experience a day in the life of pet ownership.
Those who seek the packages are first required to spend time in the establishment’s cat café, where staff can gauge how comfortable they are around its feline residents. Ochi comments, “We, the staff, know the personality of each and every cat ‘child’ we have because of how close we all are. The cats are smart, friendly, obedient, and calm.” The owner also explains that this special sleepover is a passion project. “We are not operating for profit,” Ochi admits. “A huge portion of our income goes to maintaining the facility, including feeding the cats and maintaining their health.”
The guests (who are referred to as “foster parents”) will need to agree to the inn's rules for being a hospitable roommate and caregiver. After this, a cat will arrive at the guest’s room at 5:30 PM and will stay until 9:00 AM the following morning. During that time, guests aren’t allowed to leave the cat unattended. This is to encourage them to bond with a feline visitor via feeding, litter box cleaning, and play.
If the guests enjoy their sleepovers, they can move on to the next phase—they have to fill out an adoption application followed up by an interview. This last stage is so staff can determine if the guest and the cat are a great fit for one another. Once adopted, cats are then called “graduates” and are celebrated at their departure. This novel approach to pet adoption and cat feline relations is certain to provide memorable stories and welcomed additions to families.