BANGKOK: As Thailand's capital cautiously reopens many restaurants shuttered over coronavirus fears, the feline "employees" of the Caturday Cafe are back at work.
The few dozen friendly cats typically lounge around the cafe, breaking up naptime to saunter over to human customers for snuggles and belly rubs.
The friendly furballs give some much-needed outside contact for Thais who have mostly been confined to home during weeks of semi-lockdown with most non-essential businesses closed.
"Earlier, we could not go out anywhere which makes us a bit stressed out. But since we can come to meet the cats, we feel more at ease and relaxed," said regular customer Pantip Keeseeree, who said she came as soon as she heard the cafe had reopened.
Like other businesses across Thailand, the cafe has new rules aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Before entering, customers must have their temperature checked and wash their hands, and once inside must wear a mask at all times.
"Actually, the number of customers is nothing like it used to be. Over 50 per cent have decreased for both Thai and foreign customers," said cafe owner Arisa Limpanawongsanon.
Arisa has a total of 50 cats, of several different breeds, and around 35 of them rotate between her home and the cafe every now and then.
As an extra precaution, the cats have dry baths, their fur brushed and eyes cleaned every day.
Thailand on Friday reported eight new coronavirus cases but no deaths, bringing the total to 3,000 cases and 55 deaths since the outbreak started in January.
(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)