Why you need to visit a pet café

And six spots where you can hang with adorable little animals.

Japan may be home to the greatest variety of animal cafés—featuring everything from goats and snakes to penguins and owls—but other countries and cities are joining in on the trend for its contributions to well-being as much as the novelty. "Pet owners, on average, are better off health-wise than non-owners, especially when they have a higher-quality relationship with their pets," says pet researcher and psychology professor Allen R. McConnell, PhD. Numerous studies over the years have linked pet interactions to improved heart health, social skills, and stress management.

Here are six of the best pet cafés for enjoying some therapeutic time with cute animals, both in Japan and out:

meow parlour, new york city

America’s first cat café opened in late 2014 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a full 26 years after the concept debuted in Asia. Of course the old idiom of “better late than never” absolutely applies here, as Meow Parlour’s philanthropic mission has successfully seen dozens of cats adopted since the café’s debut. The clean and bright space is backed with a wall of wood shelves, nooks and cubbies to appeal to the cat’s natural instincts to hide and climb and, around the corner, the Meow Parlour Patisserie serves a variety of cat-themed treats and coffees (for humans).
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the dog cafe, los angeles

America’s first dog café borrows the concept of the country’s first cat café in that all the cuteness is for a great cause. Founder Sarah Wolfgang works with rescue groups and has a simple mission for the cafe: "We want to provide a second chance for shelter dogs that are often overlooked," she says. Current play pals include Bart and Lisa, Dachshund/Jack Russell mix siblings, Rocket, a Corgi mix with two front legs and a custom-made wheelchair, and Moonshine, a Miniature-Pinscher/Terrier mix with a playful wiggle that reminds The Dog Cafe's crew of a "baby pygmy goat’s 'happy dance.’” Reservations are recommended, and the café is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays. In case you fall in love with one of the cafe pups, adoptions are very much possible and encouraged.
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ra.a.g.f., tokyo

This curiously named cafe—Ra.a.g.f. stands for “rabbit and grow fat”—specializes in the bushy-tailed variety of four-legged friends. Rabbits of all types—from floppy ears and cow-spotted to Peter Rabbit lookalikes—are available for short playtimes. Profiles of the resident rabbits mention their personality quirks and which are best at interacting with children. Adopting your favorite bunny from the cafe is possible, and Ra.a.g.f. even offers a “rabbit hotel” overnight care service for rabbits whose owners are away.
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harry, tokyo

One hour with a tiny, prickly hedgehog is the new calming drug for Tokyo’s stressed population. Harry, so named for the appearance of a hedgehog’s quills, is home to more than 20 of the softball-size critters and, as the pet café trend goes, also a small coffeeshop. The temperature inside and the diet of the animals is highly regulated for their health, but visitors may opt to purchase mealworm treats to feed their new spiky friends.
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the perch, colorado springs

The country’s first parrot cafe is one of only a few in the world, despite the appeal of the colorful and chatty animals. Affiliated with Metro Denver Parrot Rescue, The Perch is part bird lounge and part pet supplies store. The rescue birds, like Wilbur the dove and Tiki the macaw, are up for adoption, and they delight visitors to the cafe while waiting for their forever homes. In the shop half of the café, Colorado-made pet products take center stage.
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lady dinah’s cat emporium, london

Named after Alice’s cat from Alice in Wonderland, Lady Dinah’s is outfitted with leather chesterfield sofas for the humans and plenty of hammock hangouts and hidey tunnels for the felines. Though the entertainment is much the same as at Japanese cat cafés, the menu is unique as Lady Dinah’s specializes in the very British tradition of tea and cakes. Staff are trained in cat care by animal behaviorists and the shop even offers pet first aid classes and “colour in with cats” sessions that combine the popular pastime of adult coloring books with the soothing company of kitties.
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48 hours in Milan

There are over 100 miles of cycling paths inside the city.