3 Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet in Japan

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Before we begin, I want to make one thing clear. I love my cat. I am happy that I made the drunken decision to allow his pitiful meows to seduce me into picking him up and taking him to my apartment for a “quick drink of milk.”

Six years later, he’s sitting on my lap as I write this. He’s a part of the family now.

However, I feel it is my duty to inform other animal lovers of the implications of my choice to “save” a stray animal in the hopes of making sure you don’t get yourself into something you can’t handle. Of course, if you already have a pet and are making it work, that’s awesome! This article is more for those who aren’t planning to live in Japan forever but feel a tug at their heartstrings when they see a stray kitten on the street in Japan.

There are some aspects of your life in Japan that will get harder (or downright impossible) if you too decide to save a stray animal (or buy an impossibly expensive one from a pet shop) during your stay in Japan.

1. Finding a place to live is harder and more expensive

After my family expanded, my wife and I started looking for a new home. We started looking on a home search website, and we entered in the area where we were looking to live.

I hit the search button and waited. “Wow, 560 results!” I thought for about five seconds. Then I realized I didn’t click the “ペット相談” or “If you have a pet and want to live here, we’re going to have to talk about it…” button. So I clicked that button, since we didn’t want to illegally keep a pet. And…

Six.

Six results. And from the looks of the pictures, these places looked like exactly the reason that renters don’t want pets. They were beaten up, dark, and had that weird, unclean look that you see in a house that’s had eight cats or dogs. Essentially, gross.

Most places do not welcome animals, and even when they do, they will usually require an extra month(s) worth of reikin (key money), shikikin (security deposit), or both, so keep that in mind.

2. Your neighbors won’t like it

If you’re lucky enough to find a place to live that accepts pets (or if you choose to keep it illegally, which I do not recommend), remember that Japanese walls are often paper thin. This means that if your cat happens to meow when he’s hungry/tired/no reason at all (like my little bungle of fun), your neighbors will hear it. Some neighbors won’t care, but others will call landlords to attempt to get you or your pet friend evicted.

3. Your place will probably be too small

While cats don’t need too much space to be happy, if you live in a normal-sized apartment in Japan, it’s probably not enough. My cat was bored out of his mind, which lead to him making his own fun. He played with the scratching post for a while but then decided that digging his nails into the wall until I started chasing him was even more fun.

I love my cat, and at this point I can’t imagine not having him lingering around my house. But I definitely bit off more than I expected to be able to chew when I brought him home that night. If you already have a pet and you live in Japan, you have already made your choice. But for those of you who haven’t and are thinking about helping an animal out, think long and hard before picking it up and taking it to your tiny apartment, just like I did all those years ago.

cat

Even Yakkuru agrees.

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Refusing to be a bitter gaijin since 2007.
  • MoppingRobot says:

    Hey
    I am extremely excited by getting your article right now. In the forth coming January I have to move to Tokyo to take certificate course on Caring Baby with Autism and planning to be an associate the pet can. I will live in a private home; may be space will not be a problem. But, I am afraid about the neighbor’s concern. The pet cat may sometimes move around the home or near by the homes. Can I have part-time care giver for my pet in Tokyo. Please advise. Thanks.

  • Mike says:

    What is not mentioned is the amazingly cheap vet bills. Mine have ranged between a max of 60 AUD down to 8 AUD. You should also say how pets are worshiped over here and that cruelty towards animals can attract prison sentences greater than doing the same to a person in Australia. Letting your cat roam free is frowned upon and when I asked for my cat’s microchip to be registered with my local city office (Shinagawa in my case) they were confused as to why my cat had a microchip and why I needed to register it. Also, the quality and price of cat food/toys/medication is better than back in Aus.

  • Don’t forget the fact that if you are planning to move back to your home country eventually, the costs of getting the pet back with you. I’m from Australia and we’re looking at close to $15,000 for a cat and a dog to get home. If you can’t afford these costs, then don’t get a pet in the beginning. Here in Okinawa, there are too many pets being abandoned or rehomed by their owners when they move away. It’s depressing.

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