Letter from CAIRC
December 1997 Vol.1 No.2

For Living Comfortably with Pets in Collective Housing
(Apartments, Condominiums) - Part 2

In this issue we would like to continue and conclude the presentation, begun in the previous issue, about the seminar, "How to live with Pets in Collective Housing," that the Tokyo Chapter, Japanese Society of Humane Care of Animals held — with the support of the Companion Animal Information and Research Center, the Council on Animal Rearing in Collective Housing, and the Itabashi District Veterinary Association — in Kumin [District Residents] Hall, at the Takashimadaira housing complex, on Saturday, November 8. The previous issue focused on "Behaviour Problems in Dogs ; Their Development and Prevention." which was the subject of the first half of a lecture given at the seminar by Dr. Aki Takumi, a researcher in ethology at the University of Tokyo. In this issue we would like to focus on the subject of the second half of Dr. Takumi's lecture, "Animals kept in collective housing and how to prevent stress ." In addition, we would like to present the results of a questionnaire survey that was conducted, following the seminar, on those who attended. In these ways we hope to provide useful information, and convey something of the current situation, as regards keeping pets in collective housing.

Animals kept in collective housing and how to prevent stress: Canine and feline behavioural needs

by Aki Takumi, DVM, MSc, PhD, Department of Veterinary Surgery,
The University of Tokyo


Let me now turn to stress-related behaviour problems in companion dogs and cats, which often call for attention when we think about keeping animals in collective housing. In Japan, except countryside, buildings and houses are built very close to close with one another, and obviously it is not possible for most of us to provide our animal companions with a huge space. However, this does not mean that there is no point for us to try to improve the environment for companion animals. In fact, when the space available is small, it becomes even more important to give proper considerations to the behavioural needs of each species and to offer an environment that would meet those needs.

As I mentioned earlier in today's talk, dogs are highly social animals and one of their strongest needs is thus one for attention from as well as interactions with the owner. However, we see some dogs not provided with sufficient amount of interactions with the owner because the owner is not very much in, or those not offered many opportunities to interact with the owner except when they are taken for walks. Dog owners should be warned that such ways of keeping a dog will not meet the animal's behavioural needs. Likewise, dogs have an excellent sense of smell, and for them, it is very important to sniff around outdoors and enjoy stimulation from it. For this reason, even if it is a small breed of dog which may not necessarily require a huge amount of daily physical exercise to keep itself fit, the owner should take the dog for walks. Some common forms of behaviour problems which may occur in dogs where the behavioural needs are not met, presumably in response to the stress, include excessive barking, self-injurious licking and chewing, etc.

Cats are solitary animals in their nature and do not generally have so strong a need for attention from humans as do dogs. One of the strongest needs of cats is to satisfy their predatory instinct. Indoor cats normally have few, if any, opportunities to hunt prey on its own, and the owners should provide opportunities for interactive, intensive play with those cats by manipulating objects. Cats also have a desire to climb up on to something, as well as a desire to scratch. Cats may not require as large a space to move about in (a run etc.) as some dogs would, and for example, a chair can be provided, the space the cat can utilize becomes double. Cats may also respond to stress by excessive grooming, and may thus suffer from loss of hair or injury caused by self-stimulation. The expressions of emotions in cats are generally not as obvious as those in dogs. This is considered to be the reflection of the fact that the cat is not a pack animal and thus did not need to evolve extremely well-developed system for communication as in the dog. However, cats do have a desire to perform communication as in the dog. However, cats do have a desire to perform various sorts of behaviour, even though those may not be easily detected by human eyes. Understanding those needs and making every effort to satisfy them is what we have to do for the sake of our companion animals living in this country where space is unfortunately limited.


For Living with Companion Animals in Collective Housing

Companion Animal Information and Research Center

Following the seminar, its sponsor, the Tokyo Chapter, Japanese Society of Humane Care of Animals, conducted a questionnaire on the attendees, asking them their opinions about various matters related to keeping pets in collective housing. The following is an outline of the results.

First, the attendees were asked what form of housing they live in. Thirty-seven responded: 23 lived in collective housing; 14, in single-unit dwellings. And to another question, 33 living in collective housing responded: 12 were prohibited from keeping pets, 11 were allowed, 7 were tacitly allowed and 3 would not be allowed to keep other pets than their current ones.

The reasons given for attending the seminar included the following. "I want to properly discipline my dog." "I live in collective housing where I keep more than one pet, and there have been complaints from the neighbors, so I was hoping to be able to learn some way to improve the situation." "We've created a pet owners' group in my housing complex, and we'd like to get both the association that manages the complex and the other residents to be more understanding towards us." "I'm an employee of a company that manages condominiums, so I was hoping to find out something that would help me draw up rules for keeping pets." The reasons for interest in this theme of keeping pets in collective housing proved to be extremely diverse.

As for whether keeping pets in collective housing should generally be allowed or not, those who said Yes far exceeded those who said No, 28 to 3. The reasons given for each position included the following.

For the affirmative position: "With more families becoming nuclear and having fewer children, and with longevity increasing, pets can serve to promote emotional contact among family members." "In collective housing, where communication between people tends grow thin, pets are needed to promote communication." "Collective housing has become a common form of housing in cities, and since the right to keep pets is a basic human right, we should think about the kind of know-how that will make it possible to keep pets in collective housing." Some people who live in collective housing keep dogs for medical purposes for a family member. They said, " This kind of role played by animals is something that society should be more aware of."

Among the reasons for the negative position: "At present there are many pet owners in collective housing who do not discipline their pets and who themselves are lacking in morals, and who thus cause problems." "Before pets are allowed in collective housing, some kind of system whereby pet owners and people who dislike pets can live together should be worked out."

As shown by the above, the matter of "keeping pets in collective housing" is a matter related to the basic rights of collective housing residents — for example, the right to keep pets and the right not to be disturbed. It is thus necessary for the many concerned parties to think seriously about this matter, taking into account such things as the effectiveness of pets in promoting community formation in cities and how municipal governments should respond to changes in society. And as this thinking will be influenced by public opinion towards pets, it is important that people who live with companion animals, and people who want to live with companion animals in the future, behave in a responsible manner.

copyright