Many of Tokyo's apartment buildings don't allow pets and it's a trend that - unfortunately for pet owners - is on the rise. Even pet-friendly buildings can be tough on both pets and their owners due to the small (by western standards) size of the apartments.

In response to the situation, a number of  cat cafés have sprung up in and around japan's major metropolitan areas such as Osaka and Tokyo. Take of Calico Café, for example. For the low, low price of 800 yen an hour (around $10), clients can enjoy quality time spent with any one of the 19 "staff" cats.

Calico Café is located in western Tokyo's Kichijoji ward and is convenient for cat-lovers who arrive by car, train and foot. The success of the operation has forced the owners to recommend reservations be made in advance before weekends and holidays.

Calico Café offers customers custom fruity drinks, hot and cold tea, and a comfortable setting furnished with cozy chairs and fluffy cushions pleasingly embroidered with images of cute cats and kittens. Like your pillow? cool, Calico Café offers copies for sale so café clients can bring the "rent-a-cat" experience home with them. Calico Café is a business above all and they seem to do a respectable turnover in cat-themed sweets, stickers and costume jewelry.

According to Calico Café's owner, Takafumi Fukui, "In Tokyo, many people are not allowed to have cats [at home] even if they want to do so,"  thus the presence of Calico Café gives pet-lovers a place to unwind and enjoy the special sort of companionship only cats can provide.

It would seem Calico Café's customers agree with these sentiments. "This is just like having my own cat as a pet at home," enthused a 22-year-old female college student enjoying her first visit to Calico Café. "They (the cats) have a soothing effect on me."  (via Daily Yomiuri Online, images c/o Kichimani)