Ok - if you live in Japan, there are probably street cats around you - and they are not in great condition. Soon they are going to be joined by a vast number of kittens, who will slowly disappear under - you surmise in your glummer moments - the wheels of trucks. (Unless that Englishman down the street was serious about his "neko-zushi" party...)
Possibly you have agonised about helping them for a while. But you aren’t sure you have the time, or the money, or the know-how to "make it happen” in a country that is not your own and which can sometimes seem very - well - different...
... and there are so many cats that you aren’t even sure it is worth it.
Plus - whisper it quietly - you are not completely sure you can bear to get too involved emotionally…
If any of the above applies to you - you are not alone. It is where most people start.The good news is:Yes
, you can make a difference - you aren’t trying to save the world, you are trying to improve the life of these particular animals “here”. It isn’t an open-ended commitment or the start of a permanent guilt trip. Have limited, achievable aims, do what you can, then get on with life. Yes
, in Japan TNR is officially recognized and even “promoted” in many cities in the guise of "community cats". That doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes controversial at a local level - and that the city's commitment always extends much beyond the pretty website - but you aren’t going to get deported for doing it.
Fukuoka, for example, has a website devoted to "community cats" - TNR - and the local vet association has a certain number of “subsidised TNR slots” each year. (“Chiiki neko”, “area cats”, “community cats” and “sakura neko” are all terms you may hear used in Japan.) Yes
, it will take a bit of time, but probably quite a lot less than you think. If you know what you are doing, and we can help you there - it can all be done pretty quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Yes
, it will cost a bit of money to get the ball rolling - but it needn’t be vast sums. Organisations like "Doubutsu kikin
" give grants for TNR. (They have strict rules, applications are all in Japanese and the cats have to go to a particular vet, who is often booked solid - and you are best applying in association with an NPO - but - persevere, and it is there....)Yes
- "setting out an example" does seem to have an effect. If there are a lot of cats around you you will almost certainly not be alone in thinking “if only there was something I could do … but what?" Very often people feel helpless and are simply not sure what best practice is. Your doing something may prompt them to action.
In our Terazuka project we have started to notice the occasional cat that has been TNR’d by other people. Once a certain number of cats in an area are TNR’d, you may well find people chipping in with their own efforts.
, you may even feel better. Deciding what you can
do - however limited - then doing it is a surprisingly effective balm for a troubled conscience.
The time to act is NOW - before your street is carpeted with kittens.So - practicalities:
We run things in terms of “projects”. Usually these are quite small - a “project” may just be one person who knows the cats in an area well. But we need that contact point and we need that continuity.
We care most about what is in it for the cats: we are not here to remove cats to fix “your" problem. We can:
Lend you a trap and show you how to use it. (But you must return it quickly.)
Talk you through some of the local issues, politics around street-cats, and give you materials to explain in Japanese what you are doing.
Possibly help you apply for subsidised neutering slots.
Try and help you find a vet, local to you, who is sympathetic to TNR.
Give you detailed advice at all points in the process.if you are local to us - i.e. around Fukuoka city - we can also:
Help you actually trap the little blighters.
Take the cat to a vet - we get a rather cheaper rate than you would.
Host and feed the animal after neuter/spaying, until it is fit to be released. (This is - conservatively, 2 to 5 days for a female - males can go the next morning, or, at a pinch, the same day.) If you have resources locally to keep the animal while it recuperates that is ideal - but in the first instance, we would probably do this for you.For example
our Fukuoka Terazuka project [see cats
] is run in conjunction with a foreigner and his Japanese partner - who also make generous contributions. They do not have a place locally to keep cats - so we usually help them do the trapping, bring the cats back to our base, vet them and return them for release 3 to 8 days later.What we would need from you:
We need to know that the cat will be maintained (i.e. at least fed) when it is returned. It doesn’t have to be fed by you personally - but we do need you to find who it is locally who is feeding it, and explain what you are doing and why. (If you are a long term resident, embedded in your community, that person may of course be you.)
We need some sort of commitment on your side to learning how the trap works and to the welfare of the animal.
We would need you to be aware of possible local sensitivities to cats and - ideally - to try and address them.If we are doing the vet/recuperation bit for you:
We need some sort of financial commitment from you, or from your community. Don’t let this put you off talking to us - just remember that we do not have a pot of money.
We need to know that the cats ARE street cats and are not owned by someone. This is vital. It takes local knowledge. In practice this means we require a Japanese language "request for neutering" form to be filled out and signed for each cat. You are a foreigner, we are a foreigner-lead group - and this, dear heart, is to cover both of our pert foreigner behinds - so it is probably best done by an adult native Japanese speaker long resident in the area. That way, when we return the cat no-one can suggest it is from elsewhere and being "dumped" by the nasty gaijin.Strictly:
We return cats to the area they came from.
We act in the interests of the cat, first and foremost. We are aware that it is important to negotiate local sensitivities.
If a cat has injuries - and silly males often do (men!) - we patch them up before we release them. We also give them a flea/worm treatment.
If you think we can help, contact us
. We know each person’s situation is different.
Please though, no tales of woe of tails of woe unless you are able/willing to be involved in doing something about it.
Why not start with one cat?