Cats are just about the best thing ever. They’re adorable, they’re fun to play with, and they seem to keep the Internet running and free of mice infestations. They also often need our help as a result of many pets ending up abandoned for one reason or another. It’s always an unfortunate situation when our adorable feline friends can’t find a home, but it’s even worse when so many of them end up being euthanized. Japan, like many countries, puts down a large number of cats every day, but one organization called Neco Republic is trying to put an end to all of that, and the best part is, you can help just by stopping by their cat cafe and enjoying the company of a few adorable kitties!
We wanted to know more about Neco Republic and their plan to save Japan’s homeless cats, so we stopped by the new Tokyo location and sat down with the branch manager. To learn more about Neco Republic and to see more cute cats than you can shake your tail at, take a look below!
Neco Republic’s first location is actually in Gifu Prefecture — quite a distance from the newest branch in Ochanomizu in Tokyo or their second location in Shinsaibashi in Osaka — but the group is expanding quickly, with three locations already up and running and more set to open soon. As Yuka Tokunaga, the branch manager of Neco Republic Tokyo, explained when we met, the group is planning to establish locations in every one of Japan’s prefectures as well in each of Tokyo’s 23 special wards. Though she originally worked in web development, Yuka came to Neco Republic out of a love of felines and the desire to help spread the word about rescue cats.
▼ Like this little cutie!
Neco Republic Tokyo opened at the very end of May this year, so it’s still quite new, but they already have around 40 cats spread out over four rooms. All of the cats are rescues that were saved from shelters or from being abandoned. They’re fed, cared for, given their own place to sleep and things – and other cats – to play with.
As you’d imagine, feeding that many kitties isn’t cheap, but that’s where you come in as a customer! While they do use crowdfunding to set up new locations and will accept donations, most of the money Neco Republic makes is from visitors and selling cat-related goods, many of which are Neco Republic exclusives.
▼ A few of the items on offer
Yuka pointed out that many of the items they sell are fractionally more expensive than if you’d bought them in pet stores and the like, but that extra 100 or 200 yen (US$0.80 to $1.60) goes towards taking care of the cats, so when you buy earrings, socks or bagels from Neco Republic, you know that you’re also helping take care of the kitties! There seems to be a big emphasis on sustainability and independence at Neco Republic, which likely is necessary to ensure that their cats will have a place to live for a long time to come.
▼ “Cat treats” for both human and cat consumption! Finally, a snack you can share!
But taking care of the cats at their locations isn’t Neco Republic’s only goal. There are two more missions the group is working on: public education and putting an end to the euthanization of abandoned cats in Japan. This means that in addition to giving everyone a chance to spend time with lovely cats and support their safe housing, Neco Republic also sends people to events and uses promotional material to spread awareness about “hogo neko,” or rescue cats. Their hope is that by increasing awareness, more people with adopt cats instead of just buying them from a store where cats are bred purely for sale. They also encourage people to spay and neuter their pets and are promoting a TNR (trap, neuter, release) program for wild cats in order to reduce the population of such felines, who ultimately suffer in the elements.
▼ And that’s depressing to think about, so let’s fawn over this happy kitty for a while!
Part of their focus on rapid expansion — several more locations are currently undergoing preparation including another in Tokyo — is actually aimed at increasing public awareness as well. As Yuka explained to us, when people think of convenience stores, they often think about 7-Eleven thanks to their near ubiquitous presence in Japan. By developing a large presence in the public perception by having multiple locations, Neco Republic can both promote awareness of rescue cats and reduce the number of abandoned cats. Hopefully all this will lead to their goal of reducing the euthanization of cats to zero by February 22, 2022.
That’s right they’ve set a date for achieving this goal! And while it’s only seven years away and they still have a lot of work to do, we have to admit that we’re starting to believe they can pull it off! Part of the problem seems to be that many people in Japan simply don’t know (or don’t think) about rescue cats. Pet shops displaying and selling cats and dogs still exist in their droves in Japan, so when people think of adding a pet to their household, many will automatically head to their nearest store – even though the animals are usually sold for exorbitant amounts of money. If Neco Republic are successful in promoting public awareness, we can see the effects being massive.
So, all the cats at Neco Republic are rescue cats, but where did they come from? It turns out the come here from a variety of sources, but mostly they are brought in from volunteer rescue organizations. Obviously, they can’t accept every cat in need, as much as we’re sure they wish they could, but their goal isn’t just to take care of cats — they want to find permanent homes for each of them.
But how does that happen? If you stop by Neco Republic and fall in love with one of their kitties (and we’re pretty sure you will), there’s a good chance you’ll be able to take him or her home with you. Neco Republic isn’t aiming to be a pet store, though, so if you decide to adopt one of their cats, you’ll first have to fill out a form to provide them with information about yourself. You’ll also need to get a guarantor and pass an inspection of sorts to ensure that your home is suitable for the cat you have your eye on. The staff and volunteers at Neco Republic know the cats they have at their locations, which means they’re aware of each cat’s personality. While it might seem strange to some, Neco Republic take these personalities into account before approving any adoption, and a two-week trial period is given to ensure that the cats and their new owners are a good fit. All of this is to make sure that the cat doesn’t end up being abandoned again and to ensure that the cats have safe, happy homes to spend the rest of their days in.
But even if you love cats, you can’t necessarily adopt one, especially in Japan where it can be difficult to find rental apartments or houses whose owners allow tenants to keep pets. If you’re feeling bummed about not being able to help out, you’ll be glad to know that you can always volunteer at Neco Republic, even if you don’t have much free time. For example, Yuka mentioned that they’re always looking for people with cars to help deliver cats to their new homes or take them to veterinarians, even if it’s just one day a month. They are also looking for people to foster cats at home, help out in the branch, or go to events to help raise public awareness. So if you want to help, but you don’t have a ton of free time, there is still a lot you can do.
Of course, you can also just hang out at the cafe and enjoy your time with the adorable kitties!
▼ Like this incredibly lovable elderly kitty whom we met while talking with Yuka.
In addition to the large cat room and a drink room with a few of the older cats, they also have a “meeting room,” which people can rent for a few hours for meetings or just to have a place to get away from the office. There are a lot of publishing companies in the area, so Yuka told us that they get a lot of writers and editors looking for a place to “work”…but we doubt many of them actually get much of anything done with so many cute cats to snuggle up with!
▼ Shame kitty is shaming you for your laziness.
In addition to plenty of kitties to distract you, the meeting room has two sofas, a table, and a lot of sunlight. You’ll probably want to make sure your clients aren’t allergic before setting up any meetings though…
During our visit to Neco Republic, it was still early in the afternoon, so all the kitties were busy doing what cats do best – lazing about and enjoying naps. If you want to get there when the cats are a little more active, you’ll probably want to aim for something around 5 p.m. or later.
You’d think with all these projects, plans and options, Neco Republic would have their hands full, but apparently they’re also planning to open a working space as well – it will be like the meeting room, but more geared to individuals looking for a temporary office or drop-in workspace. There’s just so much going on here!
The entry fee for visitors is 1,500 yen (about $12) for one hour on weekdays, 1, 700 yen (about $13.65) on weekends and holidays. The meeting room can be rented by the hour and costs 3,000 yen (about $24) plus the entry fee on weekdays and 5,000 yen (about $40) plus the entry free on weekends. This money goes towards taking care of the cats, raising awareness about hogo neko, and, of course, helping these abandoned kitties find new, forever homes of their own.
Here’s Yuka with a message for all our readers.
Before you go, don’t forget to check out our video tour of Neco Republic Tokyo!
Neco Republic Tokyo
Address: 4th Floor Crane Building, 3-1-9 Yushima, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo 113-0034 (Google Maps)
Hours: 15:00 to 21:00 (weekdays), 11:00 – 21:00 (weekend and holidays)
Closed Monday and Thursday, except holidays, in which case they are closed the following day.
Phone number: 03-5826-8920
Neco Republic Osaka
Address: 3rd floor, 3-7-17 Minami-senba, Chuo-ku, Osaka City, Osaka 542-0081 (Google Maps)
Hours: 13:00 – 21:00 (weekdays), 11:00 – 21:00 (Saturdays), 11:00 – 19:00 (holidays and Sundays, except on Sundays when the following day is a holiday, in which case they are open until 21:00)
Closed Mondays, except holidays, in which case they are closed on Tuesday.
Phone number: 06-7171-2243
Reference: Neco Republic
All images © RocketNews24