Responding to Japan's love of pets, several architects have established a new, niche trend within their industry: pet-friendly home design.
With the world's lowest birthrate -- an estimated 7.3 births for every 1,000 people -- Japan is home to many young couples who choose pets in lieu of children. Additionally, many older couples in Japan revere dogs and cats.
"For people who have pets, they're like family," said Akira Koyama, the owner and representative director of Tokyo-based Key Operation Inc., an architecture firm.
And there is a market for pet-focused design, said Koyama, who designed a residence dubbed "House Taishido," or "Cat House."
Located in a densely populated urban district west of Tokyo, the three-story, 30-square-meter home features stepping-stone-like shelves that allow the home's feline resident to navigate vertically in and out of the main living room via small openings.
The small openings in the wall lead to other rooms on the first floor.
The cat can also access the second floor of the unit by walking up the shelves and slipping through a slot that functions as a cat-only portal. Freeing up the unit's staircase from cat traffic allows the space to double as a home library, with bookcases and space for reading.
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