|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
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
"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
* 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