Yes, there are stray cats in Japan just like nearly any other place on the planet. In Japan they seem to concentrate around green spaces like parks. They appear to be largely in reasonable health.
The interesting aspect of stray and feral cats in Japan is how the Japanese relate to them. If you are like me, Japan is a bit of a mystery. Fortunately, my girlfriend lived in Japan many years ago for about eight months. She says that it’s a matter of honour that people don’t commit crimes. What she means is that it would dishonour your family if you were found out and convicted for a crime. Clearly people do commite crimes but she also said that it is very ordered society and the people are very socially conscious.
I think that background information is important because it is the kind of attitude which is likely to be hostile toward stray and feral cats. This is because people have a perception that stray and feral cats poop everywhere, pee everywhere and spread disease and make noise. They are pests in the eyes of many people. Of course, they forget that people put these cats there, so their existence is the fault of people. If you block out that critical factor you can dislike feral cats but if you keep that fact in mind it is impossible to do so.
Well, I wanted to find out how Japanese people respond to the presence of feral cats and fortunately on Facebook there is a webpage called Japan Cat Network. On that page there are Westerners living in Japan who comment on their efforts to feed stray and feral cats. These obviously are decent people who see a stray cat and they want to feed him or her. But it is a problem in Japan because there are people who don’t like people feeding cats because it don’t like stray cats pooping in the neighbourhood and making a mess. It is important to note though that there are many Japanese people who are sensitive to stray cats and they no doubt feed them.
One such person who likes to feed stray cats is Holly. She says, “I have always been nervous feeding cats in Japan, and other Japanese people seem kind of nervous when they do it too. I try not to do it if I see someone around. Some citizens don’t like it, and there are often signs telling people not to do it.”
She was told by a woman who also feeds cats to put food down in a nearby tunnel to avoid people complaining and to avoid attracting crows.
Another commenter said that, “the authorities don’t support feeding stray cats”. She said that there are places where people bring food for cats but they don’t do it openly and they wait for strangers to leave before they feed the cats. In other words if you want to feed stray cats in Japan you got to do it discreetly.
Another woman reported that a female cat brought her kittens to the side of her house. She fed them. English people knew about it but she was shocked to be scolded by apparently a Japanese person for feeding them. She asked the person what she should do, let them die? The response that he should, indeed, let them die naturally because that would be the best thing otherwise you continue the ‘problem’.
Another person who fed strays said that her neighbours complained to the ward office and apparently there was a sign put up which said “Do Not Feed Stray Cats”.
It is not illegal to feed stray cats in Japan. But it seems quite clear to me that there are some Japanese people (not all) who quite strongly dislike it. And I believe this attitude comes about because they like an ordered neighbourhood and society. Perhaps they like to be in control of their environment and the presence of stray cats reminds that this is something they do not control. They want the problem to go away. They want to achieve that objective by eradicating the cats, not by killing them but by allowing them to starve. Is that a fair assessment? If not please tell me in a comment.
If you are a Japanese citizen, please comment in full and tell me what it is like for stray cats in Japan.