Consider survival traits: toughness, quickness, stealthy-ness, etc. The last one we usually consider is cuteness. Cuteness may only work on humans, but it has the strange, inexplicable effect of making us docile, subservient even. You might imagine that you’re in control, because your pet is, well, your pet, and you, refer to yourself as “owner” or “master.” But truth be told, your house cat lives a better life than most humans. Securely installed, as a king on a throne.
Cuteness is a formidable attribute, indeed. Somehow, cuteness makes an animal more important on the totem pole, than its erstwhile animal brethren. Cuteness can open our hearts, it can open our homes, and it can even open our wallets.
This, one would assume, is the thinking that brought about cat cafes: whimsical places where kittens rub your ankles while you imbibe coffee and slurp ice cream. It’s a trend that has apparently sprung up in Japan and all over South East Asia. When some friends and I stumbled on this place called “Cats On Ice,” I was struck by the powerful effect it was having on the girls—alright, on myself too.
We arrived about twenty minutes before the place opened, and, deciding it was worth the wait, hung around peeking in the windows like groupies before a concert. The ladies inside were meticulously scrubbing the floors. It seemed a bit excessive, as they were already white and pristine. Just let us in so we can get at those kittens!!
Right when I was about to give up, steering the group away, resolving that there was more of Chiang Mai to see, and this place wasn’t worth the wait. The doors were opened. We were allowed inside after being made to wash our hands and take off our shoes; we don’t want to get those kittens or those floors dirty, right?
I was struck by the business model: bring people in, let them caress the kittens and cats, and then watch them melt, eventually buying things off the menu. Things got real though as the felines flocked to nibble at the customer’s entrees, begging the question: do I get a refund if a kitty manages to tongue rub my sandwich? I must assume not.
Things got even… realer when a couple cats decided to copulate in the middle of the room. The situation took on kind of a voyeuristic feel as the customers, myself included, snapped pictures of the carnal act.
It began to lose its novelty, however, amidst the groans and growls that then ensued. The shop keep didn’t want to break it up though, because, she explained, “mo’ kittys!” Proving, once again, that cuteness reigns supreme. It wasn’t the shop keeper exploiting the kittens to drum up business from tourists, no. It was the kittens exerting their cuteness over the shop keeper, who needed money to support her cuddly masters, thereby perpetuating their lifestyle of eating, sleeping, and re-producing, in the comfort and safety of their pristine little palace.