Japanese Attitudes Towards Cats and Dogs

Kitten in pet shop in Tokyo

The Japanese have distinctly different attitudes to cat and dog ownership compared to people in Europe and North America. Although there is some overlap.

“People don’t want an adult dog — they want to get a dog when it is still young.”

As a bit of background this chart compares ratios of pet to human population in three countries:

Country Percentage of pet cats and dogs to people
Japan 17.1
UK 25
USA 52

The Japanese like their pets but no one likes them more than Americans.

75% of euthanized pets in Japan are cats (japantimes.co.jp)

A disturbing aspect of Japanese attitudes to their pets is that 82% (204,000) of animals (cats and dogs) at shelters are killed yearly and of these 54,000 are dogs, the remainder are cats. Killing rates are lower in the West: 7% (for dogs) in UK and 36% (for “animals”) in Canada.

There are more unwanted cats than dogs because they are left to roam and breed, which is a similar reason to the West. In contrast there are very high neutering rates for dogs so very few puppies are brought to shelters compared to kittens (1 puppy to 900 kittens at Animal Control Center in 2011, Tokyo)

Another disappointing aspect is that they use CO2 for mass killings rather than individual injections. The deputy director, Hiroyuki Satake, of the Tokyo’s Animal Protection and Consultation Center in Setagaya Ward, says it would traumatise a person to kill animals individually. For this reason they want to avoid direct methods. I have never heard such a poor reason for mass killing of companion animals.

I believe that CO2 “euthanasia” is in the process of being gradually phased out in North America because it is distressing for the animals. See a gas chamber and read a description of what happens.  However, some people believe CO2 poisoning is acceptable.

Associated page: Stray cat picture – photographs by Japanese cat photographer MAR.

Satake says that he would prefer to mass kill pets using anesthetic gas but the machine is too expensive. Only one place uses the machine. Another poor comment in my opinion. Japan has enough money. They are printing it by the billions to ease their financial problems (called “quantative easing”). Give some to animal shelters, I say.

The Japanese prefer to buy their pets from pet shops. They prefer cute kittens and puppies to adult animals. They don’t want to adopt older dogs from shelters. Shelters only have adult animals. So there are high levels of killing, euphemistically called “euthanasia” at shelters.

On the plus side Japanese pet owners spend a lot on veterinary care. They also spend on accessories for their pets which indicates a slight obsession which seems slightly distorted because of the high rates of shelter killings. They tend to relinquish their pet when they get old. That is not untypical anywhere but it may be more common in Japan.

Satake says:

“We get a lot of dogs from people in their 60s and 70s. Often they have to go into hospital and can’t take their dog with them.”

I don’t consider the 60s to be an age at which a person should relinquish a dog to a shelter where the dog will be killed – and surely the dog’s owner knows this – as retired people are normally in the best position to care for companion animals. They are ideal for the task as they are around a lot more.

However, we are also told that the Japanese are “devoted” to the pets. However, only adopting puppies and kittens and relinquishing them to almost certain death when you are 60 does not seem like devotion to me. Am I missing something?

Source: Japan Times. Author: Simon Scott.


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Japanese Attitudes Towards Cats and Dogs — 8 Comments

  1. The Japanese don’t sound very devoted to their pets to me either!
    What a poor excuse saying it would traumatise a person to kill individual animals, surely it traumatises true animal lovers more to see them being gassed and dying in fear and distress!

    • The excuse for not killing companions by injection is so selfish as to be extremely surprising (actually unsurprising in truth). It is a typical human-centric argument. The human is traumatised but the animal is dead yet there is more concern for the human’s sensibilities. Bizarre but so typically human.

      • The Japanese only like young and childlike things in this sense. I’ve heard it said many times. Once old the animal becomes worthless to them. It’s built in to their culture or something. Very sad indeed. What they do to whales and dolphins in the name of culture is disgusting. Well, all countries do things but since we are on Japan it’s why I said that.

    • I would like to think that true catlovers/animallovers in Japan would love to dispute these figures. I don’t know, Ruth. It makes all very sad, doesn’t it?
      [THAT was NOT rhetorical.] Sigh.

      My experience with those males, females in the USA, is that we worship our animals, especially our beloved DSH. How do you feel? Logically and truly intuitively?

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