Cats are a $26.7b cash cow in Japan
CATS reign supreme in Japan, with the ongoing craze for the felines showing no signs of stopping.
From content-sharing sites to home furnishing manufacturers, cats are outshining dogs.
Some say this boom, dubbed "neko-nomics," could generate more than two trillion yen (S$26.7 billion) in relevant markets.
At cat cafe Ragdoll Sennichi-mae in Osaka, a cat stretched out its paw when a customer fed it.
The customer quickly filmed the feline's adorable move with a smartphone and uploaded it to mofur, a website and app for sharing cat and dog videos.
It did not take long for the video to gain lots of "Like it" responses.
According to the video-sharing site, which started last December, about 50,000 people have downloaded the app, with most of them interested in cats rather than dogs.
Cat videos have been viewed 560,000 times - 210,000 more than dog ones.
A 39-year-old company employee who frequents cat cafes has uploaded more than 80 videos to the site.
"They're too cute for me to just keep to myself," she said.
It was Tama - the calico cat stationmaster at Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture - who triggered the boom.
Visitors had flooded the local Wakayama Electric Railway line to see the cat, causing a social phenomenon.
According to The Japan Pet Food Association, pet cats are increasingly preferred over pet dogs.
There were 9.87 million pet cats in 2015, an increase of 260,000 compared to four years ago. There were 9.91 million pet dogs in 2015, but this figure is a decline of 2.01 million from four years earlier.
Businesses that cater to cats are also winning the hearts of consumers.
Home furnishing manufacturer Daiken began marketing an interior "Neko step", which are cat steps that can be attached to a wall.
A smartphone game called Neko-atsume developed by Hit-Point has been downloaded more than 17 million times.
It lets players observe cats enjoying themselves in a virtual yard.
Katsuhiro Miyamoto, professor emeritus of Kansai University, estimates the total volume of cat-related business, including both direct sales and the related economic impact, was 2.32 trillion yen for the year 2015.
This is equivalent to the 2.3 trillion yen in annual domestic shipments of cosmetics, as calculated by Yano Research Institute.
Even municipal governments are taking advantage of the boom. Nishinomiya, a city in the south-eastern part of Hyogo Prefecture, set up the Nishinominya-bu project in June.
The project, whose name combines the city name and the "nya" sound of a cat meowing, is a joint effort with mail-order company Felissimo, which operates the Neko-bu online community site for cat lovers.
Through the project, the city wants to strengthen its image by producing cat-related items.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK