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Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Japan Cat Network

A few days ago I wrote about the This Is Fukushima 2014 calendar - a wonderful project thanking a lot of foreigners and ex-pats of Japan who had given their time and effort to offer aid in various forms to the people - and creatures - of Fukushima-ken... a particularly hard-hit part of north eastern Japan that literally took it up the wazoo on March 11, 2011 when it was swamped by a massive tsunami that no one can actually tell me how high it was... a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake that spawned said tsunami (plural?), and then the subsequent near nuclear meltdown at the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating facility...  and now, nearly three years later, 1000s of people are still displaced - because of the tsunami, but also because of the nuclear stuff.

And while there is no denying the massive loss of human life in Japan - over 20,000 is a good guesstimate - there was also a lot of animal death and displacement.

I still recall watching two dogs - one injured - and the other staying with her barking for either help or to protect (or both)... days after the brought tears to my eyes - whoops, still does when I think about it... fortunately, they were both rescued.

Which brings me to the not-for-profit organization, Japan Cat Network... and Susan Roberts, its co-founder, who, according to the This Is Fukushima 2014 calendar, has helped rescue over 600 animals from the evacuation zone (that nuclear zone set up when the reactors started going wonky).

Susan Roberts... I think I love you.

That photo above is of Susan, photographed by Draycat.

Spek waiting for me to come up and pee.
I'm not such a big cat person... I've always had a dog ... but I pretty much have adopted my wife's cat these past 13 years (Spek is now about 20!)... I'm her best friend... I pick her up and put her on the bathroom counter and turn on the cold water tap so she can drink because she won't drink from her bowl or from the electronic waterfall we bought for her... I feed her and clean her box and offer her a warm lap that she sits on for at least 30 minutes a day before she buggers off to sit beside a heating vent here in my computer room... or at around midnight when she scampers back up to that bathroom to lie next to the heating vent there so that when I come up for the night an hour or two later she can greet me loudly with meows.

Spek - crazy little seven-pound cat that she is - was rescued from a shelter 18 years or so earlier by my wife, but ever since she met me and I dangled my pony-tail (since cut) behind the couch for her to play with, I have had a new friend.

Susan Roberts... and the folks at Japan Cat Network... well, they do good work. Great work, in fact.

I've always had a dog since I was two-years-old... and excluding the past seven months (I miss my chocolate labrador, Buster!), there was a three year period in my life when I was essentially hair or fur-free from the comfort of a pet.

Well... I did find a cat outside my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, one day... and I let her in and fed and watered her (milk, actually), and let her stay the night... and before I could go out and buy her a litter box she walked out my door the next morning and never came back.

Now... imagine you are a dog or cat... and your master was washed away by the tsunami... or they had to leave and couldn't take you with them to their temporary housing shelters... and now you are alone with no food or safe water - though the world is now your litter box, you the cat or dog, still crave human companionship.

That's where the Japan Cat Network comes in... as their website says, they are "people who help pets".

Four simple words.

People who help pets.

The Japan Cat Network - despite its name - helps dogs, too - at least, as far as I can tell, since the Fukushima disasters.

But... back in 1993 (when I was still living in Japan), the JCN (Japan Cat Network), Americans Susan Roberts and David Wybenga were living in Japan, teaching English and helping cats.

It seems odd to me, but not to them. I assume that in Hikone-shi (City of Hikone) in Shiga-ken (Shiga Prefecture), there were a few stray cats wandering about.
Japan Cat Network - Hikone, Shiga branch.
Well, these two started the JCN after they had some local success performing TNR, which I believe means "trap, neuter, release" - which helps control the stray cat population.

They say that when they first arrive in their community in Japan (they never say if it was Hikone, though), that they saw a lot of sick and dying cats all over their community - which made them angry... and unlike you an I, they decided to do something about it. Okay... unlike me. Better?

So... the did some research and found out about TNR, and went to work. Nowadays, thanks to their efforts, the stray cat population is, at the very least, healthy, look good, and are apparently less annoying to neighbors... and aren't producing yowling litters of kittens every few months.

Personally... and I know I'll piss off more than a few people... I have no idea why you get a cat and then allow it to roam all over the neighborhood. Sorry, Rob. They wander all over the place trying to kill birds, pooping all over my patio (thanks, neighbor!), and stupidly lose their life when run over by a car.

Spek is an indoor cat and since that's all she knows she has full prowl over the house... and yes, before she got old, would play and hide wherever her little kittie heart felt like it within our house... and I knew she was safe... not bringing in any parasites or insects... and kept the mice away.

Anyhow, the JCN figured - hey, it worked in their part of town, why wouldn't it work all over Japan... and have helped set up other TNR groups all over the country - and, if you want, will help you set up one, too.

After the Fukushima disasters, Susan Roberts (I believe) went there and began rescuing pets left behind... and began taking them in. She and the JCN then established the Inawashiro Shelter in May of 2011, which continues to this day to help both the people and animals of Fukushima-ken.

So... the JCN currently operates two shelters... the one in Inawashiro-shi (City of Inawashiro) in Fukushima, and the one in Hikone-shi, which is known as: the Hikone Shelter, the Shiga Shelter and the Kansai Shelter... three names for the same place.

If you would like more information, or wish to donate to the Japan Cat Network, visit ... though I did also come across the website ... they both seem to be the same organization... I think the later one is the Fukushima address, while the former is the Hikone one...

Andrew "I'm allergic to cats" Joseph


  1. YAY!! I just found some stray kittens in Hikone and after some locals said "no help" I was worried sick that they were just going to get hit by cars eventually. This article helped save the day! So far. :) :) I'll keep you posted!

    1. Good for you Emily! good luck! Hopefully things are as advertised!