Raccoons are often misunderstood creatures. While many people see them only as furry little pests who root through your trash or hole up in your attic (which they sometimes do), others think they make great pets. Mark Kolesnykov, founder of the recently opened Raccoon Cafe in Kharkiv, Ukraine, falls squarely into the latter group.
The Raccoon Cafe gives customers the unique opportunity to interact with and give belly rubs to Liza and Bart, a lovable pair of raccoons Kolesnykov adopted from a local eco-farm when they were just babies (a.k.a. kits).
The animals have a special enclosure in the cafe, where guests can watch them play and, if they're lucky, give them a pet. The exterior of the cafe pays tribute to the masked mammals with a mural of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon and various raccoons dressed up as superheroes, including Spider-Man (Raccoon-man?) and Wonder Woman.
Though it only just opened, the Raccoon Cafe is already proving to be a huge hit; CNN reports that the space is attracting approximately 200 visitors per day, which means that some customers must wait up to 30 minutes for their chance to interact with and feed the pair (neither of which are things you should ever do with a raccoon in the wild).
Patrons who'd rather not get too close can also just watch the pair as they climb around their enclosure, play with their toys, and interact with guests—and each other—in a special indoor room that’s equipped with soundproof glass and special lighting.
Kolesnykov told UATV that part of the cafe's allure is that while people regularly see photos and videos of raccoons doing adorable things, few people have ever witnessed their behavior up close. In person, according to Kolesnykov, the animals are “livelier” and even more “mischievous” than what people have seen on YouTube.
The cafe, however, is not without its critics. Animal psychologist Andriy Hapchenko, head researcher at Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv, expressed concerns to UATV about businesses like the Raccoon Cafe, saying that wild animals that are used for business purposes can often be harmed by the amount of human attention (and food) they're given. But Kolesnykov assures potential customers that he consulted with veterinarians before opening the space to make sure that Liza and Bart would be both safe and happy.