My Japanese Cat Family

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My Japanese cat family


No one would have ever guessed that when I left my cat-less life to embark on an Asian adventure, I would end up playing caregiver to five homeless cats. However, three years later I had accumulated an assortment of moggies varying in shape, size and colour.

On arrival in Japan, I had agreed to inherit two gray cats from the previous Canadian tenants who were returning home after a year long of teaching English. Inevitably, when life overseas comes to an end, people have to find new homes for many of their belongings, and this occasionally includes cats too. Iko and Niko, which means one and two in Japanese, had been found a year earlier tethered together by their necks outside a local gym. The good natured teachers, took the sisters in and became their caregivers until it was time for them to return home. Then, it was my turn to take over the role of cat keeper. Excited at the prospect of being a cat owner again it did not dawn on me until later that I would be in a similar situation.

Six months later, I spotted a gorgeous silver tabby kitten dangerously close to a main road – a fatality waiting to happen. The kitten, which was later named Gershwin, took a while to settle in, and spent two weeks living under a washing machine, but when he came out, he became the most dominant puss in the house.

Just as soon as Gershwin became part of our Japanese cat family, a night out to a local Izakaya resulted in a new addition to the house. Takashi, a scruffy tabby a few weeks older than Gershwin, had made friends with the wait staff at the restaurant and would go for food scraps every night. Fortunately, that night for Takashi and against everyone’s well intentioned advice I brought him home to live with us. Never one to listen to other people, I picked up the kitten and ignored the comments of “you can’t save them all”, and took the cold and quite sick kitten home. Due to too many freezing cold nights out alone on the street, Takashi had picked up a rather nasty cold so he had to be separated from the other cats. As soon as he was released from ‘isolation’ Gershwin and Takashi became great pals. Almost the same age, they loved to play, much to the disgust of the other two cats.

The last cat to join the group was Nya-chan, an adult cat that had been taken in by an Australian teacher who was due to return Down Under. A white cat with tabby markings, Nya-chan, had been dumped on a mountain by her unscrupulous owner – an act quite common in Japan due to the lack of animal shelters.

After some initial hesitation I agreed to take the female cat, but with the prospect of my imminent return home I was worried with what would become of all these cats.

Fortunately, my Japanese friend Sayomi agreed to help me write some advertisements for the local newspaper for cats needing good homes. For weeks there was no response, and then finally a friendly woman who ran a small inn called round to meet the cats, but unfortunately she could take only one. I was reluctant to separate the sisters but Niko seemed to take a liking to the woman, and time was running out. So with a heavy heart, Niko was loaded into a cat carrier, and left to start her new life in the ryokan. Two weeks later, another woman called wanting a female adult cat as a companion for her pet. She had seen our advert at the local vets and called round to meet us. After some careful deliberation Iko was the next to leave our family, to be a friend for Nyantaro – an attractive white male cat.

As the time grew closer to my departure a decision was made, I would take Gershwin and Sayomi would keep Takashi with whom she had become quite smitten, and her elderly grandmother would have the older cat Nya-chan as a companion.

The final days of my life in Japan arrived quickly but my experience there will last a lifetime. These days Gershwin is my little reminder of all the cats we left behind and the other less fortunate pets who do not ever find homes.

True story by Carla Francis of Australia



From the SMARTER than JACK team

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Carla Francis
True Story?: