Like dogs before them, cats are increasingly being welcomed into the human family. Lonely? Rent a cat.
You can thank the NPO Tokyo Cat Guardian (TCG) for the opportunity, explains Shukan Asahi (April 25). The innovative system they contrived is in response to what might be described as a humanitarian horror – the gassing nationwide of roughly 120,000 cats a year, a startling high percentage of the 135,000-odd a year that end up, for want of owners capable of or willing to continue caring for them, at municipal health centers. Surely, thought TCG president Yoko Yamamoto, there is a better solution?
Keiko Morishita is one happy beneficiary of the solution that emerged. She and her cat Luna live together in an apartment in Tokyo’s Meguro ward. She’s 51 and a company employee; Luna is a 2-year-old male. Morishita doesn’t own Luna – TCG does. Founded in 2008, TCG makes the rounds of health centers arranging living arrangements for cats who otherwise would almost certainly be put down. If the search was for an owner, it would be difficult. It’s a major commitment. What if it becomes too much? Any number of circumstances might arise to make it so – you learn by experience that the commitment is incompatible with your work responsibilities, or your company transfers you, or (a serious worry in this rapidly aging society) you grow too infirm to cope.
That last, more than any other single factor, is what makes settled life so precarious for cats – and given the disposal rate, unsettled life is likely to be fatal. Most people who abandon cats are in their 60s and up. Pets, like people, are living longer and longer. They get good food, good care, and ultra-comfortable housing, in consequence of which they often outlive their owners, or at least their owners’ ability to care for them.
TCG deals directly not with renters like Morishita but with apartment building landlords. The cat, in a sense, comes with the apartment, the terms of rental and care being included in the lease. There’s no extra charge for the cat, but all the attendant expenses – food, kitty litter, veterinary care – are borne by the renter.
Morishita and Luna have been happily together for a year now. From her point of view, it’s comforting to know that if she ever needs to, she can return him to TCG; from TCG’s point of view and that of the health centers, the major advantage is how relatively easy the rental system has made it to find homes for adult cats, defined as one year old and over. Kittens have always been able to find a home; adult cats, rarely.
Kazuteru Sawa, a company employee in his 40s, has a room-share arrangement with two friends in a three-room apartment in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward. Somehow the household was incomplete until they heard from the landlord about TCG. Now there was an idea. “We all went together to choose one,” Sawa tells Shukan Asahi.
Their choice was a year-old black male they named Fumi – who took immediately to his new surroundings. No sooner did they get him home than he sprawled out on the floor as though to claim ownership. How could anyone fail to be charmed?
“It’s a relief to know that if the room-share arrangement ends, we can give the cat back,” Sawa says. No less of a relief, though, is the possibility of acquiring ownership if he wants to. “I think I’d take him with me,” he says. “I’m completely hooked on him.”
“Hopefully,” sums up TCG’s Yamamoto, “within the near future, we’ll be seeing a drastic decline in the sad (disposal) numbers.”© Japan Today