YUANLIN, Taiwan (Reuters Life!) - Mommy, daddy -- and Hello Kitty -- welcome newborns at a cat-themed Taiwan maternity hospital that hopes the Japanese cartoon icon will ease the stress of childbirth as well as boost business.
The 30-bed Hau Sheng Hospital in Yuanlin in central Taiwan claims to be the only institution of its kind authorized by the popular cartoon cat's parent company Sanrio Co Ltd.
Newborns get everything Hello Kitty but a set of whiskers, including pink or blue receiving blankets, nurses dressed in pink uniforms with cat-themed aprons, cot linen and room decor.
In the lobby, a Hello Kitty statue in a doctor's uniform greets patients, and twice a year people in feline costumes visit mothers and children.
The cat's likeness even shows up on birth certificate covers.
Director Tsai Tsung-chi said he hopes the white, mouthless cat that is one of the world's most recognizable characters will ease the pain and fear associated with childbirth and being admitted into hospital.
"I wish that everyone who comes here, mothers who suffer while giving birth and children who suffer from an illness, can get medical care while seeing these kitties and bring a smile to their faces, helping forget about discomfort and recover faster," he told Reuters.
Tsai opened the hospital with T$100 million ($3 million) in his hometown of 126,000 because his mother, wife and daughter all like the cartoon cat.
"Unlike traditional hospitals that are mostly white, I feel this one is pretty good," said Chen Shing-chiu, 38, mother of a newborn baby boy. "I like Hello Kitty very much myself."
Hello Kitty has a loyal following in Japan and elsewhere, mainly of young females who consider her the epitome of cuteness. The podgy feline has even been featured in the Japanese issue of fashion magazine Vogue this year.
(Reporting by Christine Lu and Ben Tai; writing by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy)