Getty Images/Dan Kitwood Two stray kittens pose for a photograph at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home on August 18, 2009 in London, England.

I take a lot of flak for being a “cat person.” Over the years, cats have been stigmatized as antisocial creatures favoured by spinsters and compulsive hoarders. If dogs are man’s best friend, cats are like a weird creepy aunt you try to avoid at dinner parties.

In actuality, cats are quietly cool creatures. Dogs are needy companions desperate for your affection, whereas cats are a low-maintenance alternative. They won’t leap against you when they enter your home or mount your leg in an unwelcome bout of excitement. They’re independent and effortlessly playful in a way that doesn’t scream, “Look at me! I’m trying so hard!”

Nowhere is the unintentionally comical nature of cats more evident than online. The Internet LOVES cats. Cat videos are almost as pervasive as pornography, and the comical lolcats meme has a devoted fan following. If you own a computer, there’s no doubt you’ve seen these humorous image macros, which combine photos of felines with misspelled and grammatically incorrect captions.

Recently, Kate Miltner from the London School of Economics earned international attention for her 98-page dissertation on the popularity of lolcats. Miltner spoke about her work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this month during an Internet culture conference. That’s right, a scholarly discussion about funny cat pictures happened inside the walls of MIT.

In Japan and other Asian countries, these domestic pets have found a new place in public life thanks to the increasingly popular cat cafés. The cafés charge a time-based cover fee for a beverage and a couple of hours’ playtime with cuddly calicos and tenacious tabby cats.

For many urbanites, full-time pet ownership is out of the question. If you work long hours and live in a highrise with restrictions on animals, spending time with rented felines is a convenient alternative.

The cafés attract men and women of all ages who are eager to hang with cats while enjoying their food and drink purrrrchases. Some establishments even cater to specific tastes, diversifying their offerings by breed, colour and weight.

For allergy sufferers and germaphobes, a café full of prowling cats might seem like a complete nightmare. But if you hasten to roll your eyes and compare visiting a cat café to brunching in the elephant enclosure at the zoo, you’re missing the point.

Cities are lonely at times, and cat lovers can find themselves alienated in a culture that tends to favour canines. You have your leash-free dog parks, we can haz our cat cafés.

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