On Friday after class, my friends and I went to Nampo-dong which was about a 15-minute subway trip from our dorm. Nampo-Dong is one of the main Shopping/tourist districts here in Busan. It is also the home of the Busan International Film Festival and is also known as BIFF Square. However, my friends and I didn’t come to BIFF Square to do anything movie-related; instead, we went to a zoo café located on one of the top floors of one of the many buildings in BIFF square.
When I hear the words ‘Pet café’ I think of a small café with lots of animal-themed furniture and household pets roaming around freely as customers sit chatting over a cup of coffee. However, the reality of pet cafes was not as pleasant as my initial idea of them.
When we arrived at the pet café, we each at to pay a total of 10,000 Won (equivalent $20FJD) to enter, which was way more than I was expecting for a café. But if you factor in the expenses that come with an animal café such as the animals, their food and taking care of them it’s understandable. If we paid in cash, we were given a bowl of chicken to feed the animals, we were also allowed to choose one free drink from the fridge full of various soft drinks. Initially, I had imagined enjoying a hot chocolate with a cat on my lap looking out at a view of the city, not a can of sprite. Another thing that I hadn’t thought about was the smell, walking into the café there was the distinct scent of a pet store which isn’t always the nicest smell. For someone who isn’t a fan of bad smells particularly animals, this was not enjoyable. Anyway, I decided that I was going to try and enjoy my experience as much as I could here at the café because well, I paid 10,000 Won and I wasn’t going to let that go to waste. The café consisted of around 6-8 meerkats, various breeds of cats and two raccoons. The closest I had ever been to a meerkat was looking through the glass at Taronga zoo, I also had never seen a raccoon in real-life so it was very interesting. I decided to go straight into the meerkat area because they looked fun. I soon regretted this decision; being one of the tallest in my friend group my shoulders were the highest lookout spots so as soon as I sat down meerkats were crawling up my shoulders to get a good vantage point of the rest of the café. At first, it was fun but then I started thinking about how they were strangely similar to mice and the thought of mice spooked me and I had to evacuate from the meerkat section of the café.
I decided that I would go an explore the cats, this was strangely unsettling because they were extremely calm and very sleepy. If you’re around people all day and they are petting you and taking photos of you it does get tiring after a while. I also realized that I’m not the type of person that enjoys the presence of animals that aren’t my own. So being around all the cats made me miss my own cat even more than I thought I did. Even though she is very violent I would’ve really loved to have her there; at least she showed more of a personality than these cats. There were also two raccoons at this café, one of them was as cool as a cucumber and wouldn’t take any notice of anyone. He was just lying on his bed which was more like pride rock over-looking the meerkats without a care in the world. The other raccoon, on the other hand, had some anger issues and would bite if anyone got too close to his face –also understandable.
Something about the pet café didn’t sit quite comfortably with me. I’ve been to a few zoos in my life and the zoos I’ve been to have had a clear message about conservation and how the zoos are designed in the best interest of the animals. But at this café seeing how lifeless the animals were and how boring their ‘enclosure’ was, made me feel sorry for them because they didn’t ask for this. They probably haven’t been outside in months especially the meerkats and raccoons whose natural habitats are outdoors. At least at zoos, they are put in enclosures that are made to feel as close as possible to the real thing. I was also worried about the diets these pets were on because if each customer pays with cash these cats are getting so much chicken every day. Is this all they are fed? Do they get proper meals? Are the raccoons only eating crackers? Leaving the café, I felt more aware of how these animals were treated in the cafes. I had always thought these cafes were cute attractions and would be fun to go to but after leaving I don’t think I like this animal café culture. I had a great day and it was fun being around cats after not seeing my cat in a very long time; however, I don’t think I will be going to a pet café again any time soon.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on fun places around Busan that I need to visit during my one year of language study. I’ve made a list of cool places to go and visit which include cafes, lookout spots and tourist attractions. Stay tuned to any updates by subscribing to my blog so you don’t miss out on any new posts! forget to like and subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on any new posts.