Letter from CAIRC
May 2001 Vol.5 No.2

Dangers Abound Outdoors, So Cats Are Best Kept Inside in Collective Housing — The Recommended Way to Avoid Traffic Accidents, Infectious Diseases and Trouble between Neighbors

Originally introduced from China as valued pets, cats have been a part of life in Japan for more than 1,200 years. A pervasive element of the landscape throughout our country, they have become friends we could not do without. According to a survey conducted by the Japan Petfood Manufactures's Association, a total of 8 million cats are kept as pets nationwide. In fact, one in six households has one or more pet cat. In addition, there are more than a few cats with no owners at all. A 1998 survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government indicates that there are 110,000 strays in the city. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government study, 10,000 cats are brought to public health centers to be put to sleep each year, and that 90% of these are newborn kittens. Even more severe is the problem of traffic accidents, which claim the lives of about 24,000 cats every year. Outdoor cats can also contract illnesses from other animals, for instance, or urinate and defecate in the yards of neighbors. As noted above, more than a few also become involved in traffic accidents when they dart out into busy streets. Clearly, the best way to avoid these problems is to keep cats indoors.

A recent study indicates that the practice of keeping cats exclusively indoors is a long way from catching on. According to a 1998 survey by the Public Health Bureau, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, about 60% of cat-owning households in single-family dwellings, and 30% of those in collective housing arrangements such as apartment buildings and condominiums, allow their cats to roam both inside and outside. In order to address this issue, the Companion Animal Information and Research Center is currently appealing to residents of collective housing to make raising cats exclusively indoors. In this issue of the newsletter, we will hear from some experts in the field, as well as the following residents for whom keeping cats exclusively indoors is a matter of course.

"Keeping Cats Indoors Is a Matter of Common Courtesy in Collective Housing"

Yukiji Okamoto, who lives with her two daughters in a condominium in Tokyo's Edogawa ward, owns a female cat, Kei, that is about to turn 18 years old:

"She's so old now that she doesn't move around much anymore. On a lot of days, she'll just sleep all afternoon. We decided to keep Kei indoors when she was a kitten, since cats don't need as much exercise as dogs do. I think that if you want to stay on good terms with your neighbors in a collective housing, keeping your cat indoors is really the best way to go. Especially in Tokyo, I think there are more chances for the cats to infectious diseases when allowed to roam outside. Kei once got outside, and after that we had a terrible time just trying to get rid of the fleas."

Asako Nakajima and her husband live in Tokyo's Adachi ward and have a baby, Fuuko, almost one year old. They have two cats, a male three and a half years old named Torataro, and three-year-old female named Koyuki:

"We got Torataro just after we moved into this building, and Koyuki about six months after that. We decided to keep them indoors because we believe that's basic courtesy for city dwellers. What really convinced us, though, was when a friend who had given us lots of advice on training told us that since cats are territorial animals that develop their own sense of locale, they won't feel confinement stress as long as you keep them in a space beginning when they are young.

"But then we realized that one cat all by itself may miss the company of other cats, so we decided to get a second. Since we did that, the two of them have been inseparable. We've always made sure our cats don't come into our bedroom, and when we only had Torataro, he would get so lonely that he'd always be waiting for us outside the bedroom door when we got up in the morning. But when we got Koyuki, the two of them started getting along so well that he stopped waiting at the door for us. I think we've achieved just the right balance."

Administrative Authorities in Metropolitan Tokyo and Hokkaido Enthusiastically Promote Keeping Cats Indoors

An increasing number of administrative authorities are vigorously promoting the keeping of cats exclusively indoors. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government compiled a report on the matter in 1999, and has been appealing to residents, as a matter of official policy, to keep cats indoors since then. To learn more about the importance of keeping pet cats indoors, we spoke with Masatomo Matsui, the team leader, Animal Control Team, Veterinary Sanitation Section of the Living Environment Division of the Public Health Bureau, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government:

"There are three main practices we're trying to encourage with this program. First, identification tagging in order to clarify the responsibility of the owner. Second, spaying and neutering. And third, keeping cats exclusively indoors. It's a common belief that the nature of cats is such that keeping them exclusively indoors is inhumane. But in fact, a cat is an animal that has fewer problems living indoors. The reason people keep their cats outside is a holdover from the old-fashioned mode of raising cats, in which they have long been allowed to roam freely outside and encouraged to catch mice.

"What we would like is for pet owners to be aware of the responsibilities that come with raising a pet. Letting a cat outside entails allowing it to disturb neighborhood gardens by defecating and urinating in them, and enabling it to breed freely, giving rise to problems between neighbors. A cat let outdoors will try to establish territory, and cats can be exposed to infectious diseases when bitten in the fights that result — and let's not forget the danger of traffic accidents.

"Keeping a cat indoors is by far the healthiest way to keep a cat and enable it to live a long life. We want cat owners to think about the responsibilities that come with raising their pets. It boils down to a responsibility to take good care of cats. That's why we're taking a variety of approaches to encourage, through cooperation between administrative authorities and private groups, the development of an environment supportive of raising of pets in an appropriate way."

On March 30 in Hokkaido, the new Hokkaido Ordinances on the Humane Treatment and Management of Animals were made public, and are set to go into effect on Oct. 1. This set of regulations is unprecedented in the extent to which it includes provisions strongly recommending that owners make efforts to keep cats indoors. We spoke with Chikara Ishijima, the team leader, Animal Control Team, Wildlife Office, Nature Environment Divisions, Office of Environment Affairs, Department of Environment and Lifestyle, Hokkaido Government:

"Behind the formation of these ordinances is a major problem we had with disruption of the ecosystem and crop damage caused by raccoons that had been brought in from outside of Hokkaido as pets, then abandoned, subsequently going wild. In addition, we've been getting about 10,000 complaints every year regarding dogs and cats. The inappropriate handling of pets, especially abandonment, has given rise to all sorts of problems, and from this we have come to realize that it is essential to clarify the responsibilities of pet owners.

"In particular, the regulations require notification of the introduction of animals and regulate the keeping of cats. We deliberately specified in the regulations that 'persons keeping pet cats must, to the best of their ability, prevent unexpected accidents and the spread of illness caused by their cats.' And we intend to continue to appeal to pet owners to further spread the practice of keeping cats exclusively indoors."

Still, some people remain apprehensive about keeping cats indoors because of what they take to be the nature of the animals. Even Ms. Nakajima says she has experienced such doubts.

"There are times when my cat looks out the window, and I wonder whether my cat wants to go outside. I wonder whether the cat is getting enough exercise, and worry about whether being confined like that is all right."

According to Dr. Norio Kogure (Phd), a specialist in pet behavior, director of the Kogure Veterinary Clinic, and author of "The Say of Cats" (Neko no Iibun, published by Kodansha), cats are the ideal pets for raising indoors in collective housing.

"From a veterinary standpoint, keeping a cat indoors is the only choice because there's no other way to protect cats from infectious diseases like feline AIDS. And traffic accidents, as well as injuries and infections resulting from fights among cats is also a major problem. Cats kept indoors live longer than 10 years on average, while the average stray is said to live no more than five or six years. Cats are originally solitary animals."

If a cat is kept exclusively indoors from the beginning, it creates no problems at all, since even in their wild state, cats range over only small areas. And as far as obesity is concerned, cats are able to automatically control their calorie intake by, for instance, eating less when they aren't very active. When a male cat that hasn't been neutered looks out the window, it is most likely expressing sexual impulses — searching for a female. When male cats that have been neutered look out the window, on the other hand, it mostly likely means that they're simply observing whatever moving things they see within their field of view.

Be aware, though, that cats are naturally nocturnal, and their behavior is dynamic, so at night they may do things like run around and climb up on tables. It's important at times like this not to try to shape the cat's behavior by rebuking it, but rather by playing together as much as possible. Cats react to the people living in the house as they would to their mother, so this kind of constructive communication is of utmost importance."

Dr. Dennis Turner, the president of IAHAIO*, the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations, and an animal behaviorist well known for his research on cats, has the following advice on keeping cats indoors.

"I live in Switzerland, where the percentage of residents living in collective housing is over 70%, as it is in Tokyo, and I'm often asked about keeping cats indoors. My answer is as long as the cat is raised from kitten to adulthood indoor, and as long as everything in the apartment is available to the cats such as scratching post, food, water, and a place to withdraw when it does not want to have a contact with the person, it is quite possible to keep a cat both healthy and happy just inside. The volume of traffic alone in big cities like Tokyo is so great that when you consider the health and happiness of the cat, it would be wiser to keep your cats indoors."

An environment in which pets can live long, healthy lives is essential to creating a society in which people and cats can comfortably coexist. Preventing nuisances is also a must. Each pet owner must raise their pet responsibly, and in the case of cats, it's not going too far to say that this means keeping them exclusively indoors.

* IAHAIO, the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations, was founded to gather together national associations and related organizations interested in advancing the understanding and appreciation of the link between animals and humans. CAIRC is an affiliate member of the organization. The International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this September.

New CAIRC Website Going On-line in June 5!
Free Textbook Download

We are proud to announce the opening of the new CAIRC Website on June 5. The site offers information on keeping pets in collective housing, the study of relationships between humans and companion animals, back numbers of the CAIRC Newsletter, and other interesting reading such as essays by CAIRC President, Dr. Yoichi Shoda. You can also download for free the CAIRC textbook "Living with Dogs and Cats in Collective Housing." Please be sure to stop by at www.cairc.org