Pet hoarding at the local cat house a growing problem


In a neighborhood somewhere in Kanagawa Prefecture, the reporter steps into a house, and is staggered by a blast of ammonia-tinged pong. Its source is immediately evident: in a living room of approximately 10 tatami mats scamper upwards of 50 cats. The room is covered with tufts of cat fur and the smell of cat excrement and urine is overpowering. The room's fixtures bear the scars of cat claws; the stained color of the curtains appears to have been altered by cat urine.

After three minutes or so in the room, the reporter's olfactory sensors shut down and the smell no longer bothers, but the reporter from Spa! (May 15) soon develops an irritated throat causing him to cough constantly. Opening the sliding door to an adjacent Japanese-style room, he's assaulted by a new smell, the source of which appears to be impressively large pile of cat poop.

Prepare to add this new term to your Japanese lexicon: "Tato shiiku hokai" -- literally, a collapse due the raising of multiple pets. And the home described above is hardly the worst. So bad was another maggot-infested dump, another reporter was unable to keep down his lunch.

"In foreign countries this is referred to as 'animal hoarding,' and the people who do such things are regarded as being on the verge of mental illness," says a woman referred to only as "TINA," who serves as a volunteer at the section of the Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health entrusted with animal welfare.

Masayo Ishikawa, a member of an animal rights organization, said the worst case she ever encountered was some 100 Chihuahuas at the home of a couple in Kanagawa. Puppies were crammed into cages or cardboard boxes, and the house itself was is a decrepit state.

"The Chihuahuas' owner realized the situation was out of control," says Ishikawa. "In this case, we mounted a large-scale rescue involving several organizations, but we're still trying to find homes for some of the animals."

"The biggest cause (of the problem) is the owners' negligence in neutering their pets or adding to their household by adopting strays, but there are other factors as well," says TINA. "For instance, more people are raising smaller breeds of dogs that are kept indoors. Yet another problem is the aging of pet owners."

It's hardly surprising that such compulsive crackpots are frequently besieged by complaints from their neighbors.

"We get about complaints about 20 such people per week," a staff member of Yamaneko-an, a cat shelter in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward, tells the magazine. "Before, it was most common for these kind of people to be living in single-unit houses in the suburbs, but recently we've been getting complaints from residents of high-class condominiums, where it's hard to get the animals evicted,

"Sometimes we've been approached by owners who beg us, 'I've had to declare bankruptcy, please take in my 30 cats. Or if that's not possible, take them to the animal shelter.'"

And this, according to one volunteer: "There have also been cases where pet owners die alone at home and the starving cats still manage to survive by feeding on their dead owners. We have seen the tooth marks on corpses."

"Even if they're a nuisance to neighbors, the current laws, including property rights, make it extremely difficult to take away someone's pet," says attorney Hiroshi Shibuya. "All that can be done is to depend on court-supervised mediation, which can take time.

"From June 1, new revisions of the animal welfare law will come into effect, but they will have no effect on stopping people from keeping too many animals," Shibuya adds.

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Nothing different from any other big city neighbourhood around the world. People becoming more and more lonely, with pets serving as best friend and family. Mental disease or not, this is a result of the society we are living into.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Back in the 60s and 70s, it was rare for Japanese to keep four-legged pets inside their houses, so surely something has changed over the years. Even in a less than meticulous home, however, most people draw the line at animal droppings. No matter how much you love animals, there's something seriously wrong with anyone who would let their beloved pet soil their own living space.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

One of the problems in Japan is the cost of neutering.

Cats are generally very clean animals. They do not like to defecate in their own home if they can go outside. I assume in the above case, they had no exit that they could use to go out whenever they want. A problem in Japan is that there are many weirdos, who enjoy torturing and mutilating small animals.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Gaijintraveller - absolutely. Early neutering is impossible to secure here,I could not find a vet who would neuter a cat under 6 months old. Also it is very very expensive. We paid 25,000 yen to neuter our male, females are even more expensive.

We have two inside cats, I would never let mine outside due to weirdos who like to torture animals, and also the traffic problem, not to mention FIV and other diseases they can pick up. Cats are fine inside with a litter box which is cleaned twice a day, and lots of environment enrichment...just not 50 of them!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

If people love the animals let them have them. This article reads like keeping alot of pets is bad. As long as they are not mistreated or abused let the crazy cat lady be happy.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I live in an "mansion" that allows pets. some of our neighbors have dogs, but they are well behaved, no funny smells and only occasional barking that's acceptable. However, somewhere nearby (I assume one of the houses near our building) there is a crazy dog that barks hysterically every morning from 6 am to 7 am. We want to complain, but we haven't found where the bastard lives yet. I can't understand how can the owners bear with that, or the close neighbors. I love dogs and I want a pet, but I will not keep a pet in a narrow flat in Tokyo and live him alone all day long while we're at work.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What are the new animal welfare laws? I'm very, very curious because Japan is lacking in that regard. One thing that disgusts me is pet stores in Japan the fact that many of them are kept in tiny boxes without any toys for one, but mostly the fact that they are so expensive. 200,000 yen for a pet? But it's not even that the pet store sets the price, it's that people BUY these pets when the streets are FILLED with strays. They could be adopting pets for free, pets who really need homes, but they'd rather get their little designer pooch or whatever.

I wonder if these pet hoarders buy or adopt... it would be really pathetic if they bought all those pets, then complained that they didn't have the money to take care of them. I'd be a tiny bit more sympathetic if a weak hearted individual wanted to save cats from the street, but you're doing no one a favor when you keep 30 cats in a Japanese sized apartment.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You could have re-phrased the title,folks!-I was ready for a tawdry Soap-Land Tale!LoL!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Far far too many problems with pet shops & owners in Japan, its an utter disgrace!

The people like in this blurb clearly do have a problem upstairs, they are a version of the people who never throw anything out & their homes become dumps. By-laws are needed to deal with the problem & then the people need help!

As for the rest of the owners..........I have come to the conclusion that with so many iresponsible owners that laws need to be put in place where dogs/cats(perhaps others too) MUST be fixed BEFORE they can be purchased.

There simply is no other way because the majority DONT GET THEIR PETS FIXED!

I realize that vets here are a serious rip off, I have a dog & 2cats, all fixed & all get their shots & it costs me about Y20-30,000 per pet per year.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't see why people need to get my pet nutered if it is unable to get out and breed with something else. But, for those who decide to keep 2 of the same species of opposite sexes, it should be encouraged unless they are planning to breed them responsibly.

I think people need to look at the root of this issue, which is more than likely a mental issue. People who are hording pets need to get therapy and support. Once they feel ready, then people can help for them get rid of their pets by giving them to shelters or loving homes that would be better able to take care of them. If you just take away the animals right away, they may end of in the same position again very quickly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


The problem is many people say the same thing, I wont be letting my pet out, I wont be having pups/kittens.

BUT(& this isnt direct at you) then pets escape, wander off, I live in the stick a bit & LOTS of dogs, cats get "released" . The 2cats I have were from a box of 4kittens some dropped off by the ricefields where I live, my dachshound found them & we brought them home, found homes for 2 & ended up keeping the other 2.

The problem in this article is 2 different things, first the people with health issues keeping too many pets, the 2nd is the overall situation which is brutal for many hundreds of thousands of cats/dogs EVERY YEAR. I stand by my saying its an utter disgrace. Overall lumping ALL owners(myself included) its clear to me there is a MASSIVE problem & pets shud be ILLEGAL to sell imo unless they are fixed, no excuses.

Its the only possible solution in this country sadly.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Sakurala have you ever had a cat in heat? when they start pissing on your belonging is not fun.

@Orange, how about 49? :p

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't see why people need to get my pet nutered if it is unable to get out and breed with something else. But, for those who decide to keep 2 of the same species of opposite sexes, it should be encouraged unless they are planning to breed them responsibly.

There are a lot of reasons why you should ALWAYS neuter, including the off chance your pet escapes, and various health/behavioral benefits (such peeing all over everything and aggressive behavior). Also, absolutely nobody but licensed, professional breeders should be breeding cats and dogs (and even then...). The shelters are stuffed full and there are countless animals living as strays on the streets. If you want a kitten or a puppy, adopt one from a shelter! Don't breed your pet, save a life instead!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What are the laws in japan about noise pollution from pets? I have a neighbor who puts her two dogs outside in her small garden every morning around 05:30. The dogs bark constantly for about 90 minutes... They are located just 5 meters from my bedroom window.

Every weekend I feel like going out there and shooting the bloody things....

I love pets, but my neighbor obviously has no respects for those of us who live around her...

3 ( +3 / -0 )


If the neighbours cant be reasoned with then point yr speakers at them & blast some Heavy Metal, Osmunds, Bay City Rollers, akb48(shudder!!) or whatever you think will tick them off at them at about 11pm(my guess is they are sleeping by then haha!)

Fight fire with fire!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Dennis, 49 kitties?! That would be some clowder! I have enough with my little terrors.

Im with Dennis on the neutering, the pissing on belongings and up walls is no fun, nor is the nighttime yowling for a mate. It is not fair on the pet to be sexually frustrated, and neutering removes that drive.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I agree that part of the problem is the expense of neutering here. I have a female cat that I rescued when she was about 2 months old and it's going to cost upwards of 30,000 yen to get her fixed. Even so, I have no problem with having that done, especially when she's in season like right now and yowling at the top of her voice and bouncing around at all hours of the day and night. It really is like having a newborn in some ways. However, another problem seems to be the attitude of quite a few people here who seem to think that getting a pet fixed is 'kawaiso' and unnatural. Time and time again I've said to the man of the house that it's high time to get our cat fixed and time and time again he's put it off. For a while he said that he wanted her to have the experience of motherhood once and then we'd get her fixed. I pointed out that she herself was unwanted by someone and thrown out and that if she had one kitten we could cope but what would we do with 5 or 6 ? - she's hardly a pedigree. Plus she's an indoor cat (much as she'd like not to be) and so how would we find her a 'boyfriend'? Certainly not any of the mangy old Toms around here that come a calling. He understands all this and yet still he's reluctant to do it. I showed him a video of the pet pounds in Japan and how many stray/unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized here every year and that really got to him but he still says no or rather 'wait'. I think I'm just going to have to take her to the vet's without his say-so.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Tokyokawasaki, you must live near me, I have the same problem, but I don't know where is the barking coming from. Once I found out, step 1 is to talk with the person in charge with complaints in my building, step 2 is to talk with the owner of the dog, and if this doesn't work step 3 is to talk with the police. you can call the police in for a noisy neighbor, don't ask me why I know that :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pussywillow, I would just take her along and get her fixed. You can get help in some areas from the ward office with neutering costs, just ask for Kyosei help for a cat. It is not much - a few thousand yen off, but at least something. I really feel for you with the nighttime yowling! I know one vet who is a little cheaper (15 thou for a boy, and 20 for a girl), and has been good with my youngest kitty, in the Tokyo area, if you want a recommendation. They wont do it before 6 months, unfortunately, and the cat has to be at a certain weight.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Orange. Thank you. Actually, we have a vet and he's great, as are all his staff, so I'll be sticking with him. I didn't know we could get help with the cost but that makes sense really so I'll look into it. If not it doesn't really matter. I've talked to the vet about it and he says our cat is healthy enough and old enough to have the operation. It's just Mr. Pussywillow changing his mind every time we seem to be decided on taking her in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hope KittyPussyWillow has an uncomplicated surgery and recovery, and is feeling less frisky very soon. It must be so hard on them wanting to mate, but not able to get out to do so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Calling people who have too many pets "crackpots" is really inappropriate. I agree that the people concerned most likely have a problem which needs treatment, but it doesn't help to use derogatory labels for them. Having 50 cats or 100 chihuahuas in japan is unhealthy and iresponsible. The people need therapy and the animals need to be neutered and given to responsible owners.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Another problem that no one has yet mentioned is that her house may have become known as a dumping place for unwanted cats. On writer said he found kittens dumped in a cardboard box in a rice field.

Dumping kittens in a cardboard box is cheaper than fixing and seems to be the accepted way of disposing of unwanted offspring. Usually, the box is placed in a playground or near a school in the hope that someone will find the kittens. If there is someone who will adopt any kitten that they find, it is considered best to dump the kittens near their house.

You could draw the conclusion that the real problem is not the old lady but neighbours of hers who dump unwanted kittens near her house.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

All the dogs I have owned in Tokyo (one at a time) were all rescued and had already been fixed. One of them came from a family who moved back to the States, leaving him behind with a "maido-san" who didn't like dogs and who use to beat him with a vacuum cleaner. Another one was from a family - rather like the "cat owners" mentioned above - where the house was full of dogs allowed to breed among themselves. My present dog came from "Nihon Dobutsu Kyokai" where he had been taken after being beaten. At first he was even scared of me but now he greets everyone! If you want a pet, don't buy one, get one from one of the shelters (as someone else also suggested). And don't forget, keep the animals INSIDE the house, whether they be cats or dogs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

sweet! i love cats lol! it's cat woman from the Simpsons LOL!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The trouble with rescue dogs is that their temperament is unknown, due to haphazard breeding and past abuses, and so they are often not suitable for families without a lot of experience, or with small children.

I bought my cats from a reputable breeder, who screened for health issues, and bred for temperament and health. I knew I would be getting a healthy cat, whose breeder was devoted to the breed and producing healthy kittens. Far better strays are trapped, neutered and released, pet shops are not allowed to sell cats and dogs, and breeders who have proper animal handling certification produce kittens and puppies who are wanted, genetically sound, and bred for good temperament. I was not even allowed to take my guys home without agreeing to neuter, having them chipped, and signing a contract agreeing to keep them inside.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The trouble with rescue dogs is that their temperament is unknown, due to haphazard breebreeding and past abuses, and so they are often not suitable for families without a lot of experience, or with small children

I beg to differ... The dogs at Nihon Dobutsu Kyokai are very often pedigreed and they wouldn't give away vicious dogs. My present dog was a Police dog but not the kind that chases and "attacks" criminals, and you would be hard pressed to find a more gentle animal.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

PS. I should also add that dogs behaviour also reflects the way they are treated in their new environment...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“There have also been cases where pet owners die alone at home and the starving cats still manage to survive by feeding on their dead owners. We have seen the tooth marks on corpses.”

that is disgusting!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We have been looking to adopt 2 kittens and having a hard time finding any here in Yokosuka... any one have any suggestions?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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