In regions like China and Japan, mixing eating with a little animal cuddling isn't all that unusual. In fact, certain animal cafes have become hot spots because of their focus on animal-human interaction, such as Kyoto's Living Room Pug Cafe (seriously, it's like cuteness scored the energy of the Hulk and figured out how to clone every time it bark-sneezed). Taking a cue from these popular businesses in other parts of the world, some American entrepreneurs are trying to put their own spin on animal cafes.

Focused on the animals, not the menu

Most American animal cafes aren't oriented toward the dining experience. Instead, they're primarily designed to get shelter animals adopted and into loving forever homes. Because of current regulations, they have to partner with organizations that can serve food or beverages separately to operate legally, as there are concerns about sanitation and the animals ingesting foods that would be toxic. So you can't just chill out with a dog in your lap and a burger in your hand. Even so, the cafes still provide an easy way to get your animal "fix", offering an innovative solution for the homeless animal problem.

Yes, cuddling the fur babies is good for you

Regardless of whether you can chow down and interact with animals at the same time, and even if you don't end up adopting Fido or Ms. Kitty, there's science to back up the idea that spending your lunch hour with some furry pals has real benefits. For instance, research studies have linked spending time with dogs--as little as 5 minutes!--to a reduction in anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol, which has been connected to numerous health problems like sleep disturbance and weight gain. This concept has led to people implementing therapy animals in colleges, nursing homes and yes, workplaces. Additional work shows that interacting with animals can reduce heart rate, increase levels of feel-good hormones such as dopamine and cut down muscle tension.

And that's before the psychological benefits, too. Spending some time with animals also can reduce feelings of fear. Some researchers even wonder whether therapy animals could be used to treat depression and other mood disorders. Social interaction also tends to improve when animals are around, serving as a catalyst for conversation.

Pet cafes in the United States have some logistical challenges given the protective laws on the books. Even so, they merge the best of multiple worlds. They capitalize on the natural desire people have to connect with each other and take care of something without judgment, let individuals support a philanthropic cause and, of course, fill the need for something to munch or drink. When businesses can hit multiple goals like that, it's a near purrfect recipe for success.