In the dense megacities of East Asia, millions of people dwell in high-rises with very little green space. This isn't an ideal setting to raise big dogs or more unusual pets. Cramped quarters aren't great for domesticated pets in general.
The solution? Entrepreneurs in cities like Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong — and my current hometown of Seoul — have opened animal cafes, where you can have a coffee and work on your laptop, surrounded by furry, four-legged friends.
This all sounds OK, right? Well, we thought so, too. Until we tried a raccoon cafe ...
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The cafe industry can be cutthroat at times. You got to have the thing - right? - a gimmick to distinguish yourself, maybe an avocado latte or a cafe where you can nap. NPR's Elise Hu checked out a cafe in South Korea where you can sip a cup of coffee and cuddle a creature.
ELISE HU, BYLINE: So the way an animal cafe works in general is that you pay for entrance. And with entrance, you get a drink.
We started out in a South Korea cat cafe. Some folks brought laptops. But it's clear that for most customers, it's all about time with the animals.
MOLLY CARMER: You get to pet cats.
HU: That's Molly Carmer, who was visiting from Colorado.
CARMER: If we can relax at home with each other or if we can relax here with a bunch of cats, then (laughter) it's an easy choice.
HU: Cat cafes have become a thing now across the globe. But it's here in East Asia where you can go to a sheep cafe, an owl cafe or a raccoon cafe, which my friend Patrick Terpstra I found on one of Seoul's side streets.
So I'm most concerned about, please say no when raccoon's biting on you. Do raccoons know no means no?
Interpreter Haeryun Kang reads a warning sign in Korean.
HAERYUN KANG: When it's dangerous is when they get into, like, attack mode and start growling.
PATRICK TERPSTRA: OK. That sounds terrifying.
HU: We tried to get up close and personal anyway. Immediately, a raccoon went for my iced tea and then me.
HU: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
HU: OK. Do I get it off me?
(SOUNDBITE OF RACCOON GROWL)
TERPSTRA: Oh, no. Oh, no.
TERPSTRA: Watch it. Don't get scratched. Don't get scratched.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter).
HU: Oh, God. What the hell?
That's what the raccoon snatched our audio recorder, which pretty much sums up how things went down.
If you want a more tame animal cafe experience, stick with a cat cafe or a dog cafe.
TERPSTRA: (Laughter) I don't think a raccoon cafe is a good idea at all.
HU: It was worth a shot. Elise Hu, NPR News...
HU: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
TERPSTRA: All right, let's get out of here.
(SOUNDBITE OF OK IKUMI'S "SLEEP 2")
MARTIN: Oh, man. There's video of that encounter on our Facebook page and at npr.org/elisetries. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.