Japan

Cat Heaven Island: A Close Up Look at Tashirojima, Its Cats and Its People

cat-island

Tashirojima is a small island off the coast of Japan. It has become known as “Cat Island” due to the large stray cat population: cats on the island outnumber people four to one. Cat Heaven Island is a feature documentary that will take a look into the lives of the people and the cats who live on this beautiful peace of land.Continue Reading

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Cats in Japan, one year later

Japan Cat Network cat in Fukushima

Today is the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck 40 miles off the coast of Japan. The quake tilted the earth’s axis and triggered a series of powerful tsunamis, which wrought destruction for more than 6 miles inland. Fifteen thousand people died, thousands are still missing a year later. There are no statistics on how many animals died in the quake, but the number is sure to be staggering.

Immediately after the quake, animals rescue groups from around the world came together to help animals displaced by the massive disaster. One of the groups instrumental in coordinating rescue efforts on the ground in the early days was Japan Cat Network. I got in touch with Susan Roberts, the founder of Japan Cat Network, to find out how cats are faring in the earthquake area, one year later.

Japan Cat Network’s volunteers are still tirelessly working in the affected areas to help as many cats as they can. Continue Reading

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The ultimate cat house

The Cats' House Japan 

Most of us consider our homes cat friendly. We provide scratching posts, cat trees, and lots of toys to keep our feline family members happy and entertained. But how many of us have an entire house that was designed specifically for cats?

A family in Japan does. The Cats’ House was designed by the Japanese architectural firm Fauna+DeSIGN for an avid cat lover.

The house, owned by a family with 16 cats and 5 dogs, features beautifully designed modern furniture and various structures that were created especially for cats: shelves and platforms with rounded corners, bookcases that work like stairs, hidden tunnels and passageways, catwalks on the ceilings, a floor-to-ceiling scratching post and all kinds of other goodies meant for discovering, climbing, playing and of course sleeping. The architecture is very open and invites a lot of natural light to every room.

Be sure to visit The Cats’ House website and look around. I don’t know Japanese, but the page headers are in English, and it’s well worth clicking around for more images of this stunning house.

Here’s a video to give you an idea about what this amazing house looks like:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfO80sSVhkc

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Book review and giveaway: I am Tama, Lucky Cat

I am Tama, Lucky Cat

I am Tama, Lucky Cat by Wendy Henrichs, with illustrations by Yoshiko Jaeggi, is based on one of the versions of the Japanese legend of Maneki Neko, which literally translated means Beckoning Cat. Maneki Neko is also known as Lucky Cat, Welcoming Cat, or Fortune Cat. 

From the publisher:

Under the shadows of the white-capped mountains of Japan, a white cat with unusual markings arrives at the door of a rundown temple. With little more than a few grains of rice to share, a kind and gentle monk take him in and names him Tama, after the river of the monk’s boyhood memories. As Tama gets accustomed to life in the temple, he promises he will bring good fortune to his new master and the worshippers who come to pray. One afternoon, a mighty spring storm gives Tama the chance to do just that, and he earns the nickname “Lucky Cat.”

Heinrich’s almost lyrical style of telling the story, combined with Jaeggi’s absolutely charming illustrations, create a special magic. I found myself pausing at each page, absorbing the words, and losing myself in the pictures. The drawings of the cat capture feline body language and emotion purrfectly and make you feel like you want to reach out and touch Tama.  

In addition to telling Tama’s story, the book also provides a glimpse into Japanese culture and the teachings of the Buddha. When Tama first arrives at the temple, he realizes that his monk “never considered his own hunger, but looked with compassion upon the hollow cheeks of his people…It was for me and the temple worshippers that he wanted more food…more warmth…more comfort.”

This beautiful book is aimed at children ages 4-8, but I think adults will enjoy it equally as much.

I’m giving away one copy of this book. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment and let me know why you’d like to win the book. For an additional chance to win, share this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook and share the link in a separate comment. This giveaway ends Friday, August 5.

July 26 update: Wendy Heinrichs generously offered a second copy for this giveaway, and she’ll even personalize and autograph it for the lucky winner!

This book was sent to me by the publisher.

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Update on animal rescue efforts in Japan

animal rescue Japan

Thre weeks have passed since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, which was then followed by the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan. As recovery efforts in the affected areas continue, radiation has contaminated water and soil in Japan, and possibly beyond. This is a developing story, and there are still more questions than answers as to the environmental impact of the crisis.

In the meantime, animal rescue groups are on the ground in Japan, trying to rescue as many animals as they can. One of the biggest challenges rescuers are facing is re-uniting pets with their owners. As The Cat’s Meow blog reports, most shelters don’t allow pets, and pet owners were often faced with making a horrible choice between evacuating and leaving their pets behind, or staying in unsafe homes.

“This is a big calamity for pets, along with people,” said Sugano Hoso of the Japan branch of the U.S.-based United Kennel Club. “Many are on their own, and many more are trapped in evacuated areas where people have left.”

Tamae Morino brought her Persian-mix cat, Lady, to Fukushima city’s main shelter , but Lady is forced to stay outside. Like many of the animal victims of the earthquake and tsunami, Lady is frightened and agitated, and it’s been difficult for her to cope with the sudden change in environment.

“She got sick, and is still very nervous,” Morino said. “She is an important part of our family. But they don’t allow pets into the shelter, so she has to sleep alone in the car. She seems very lonely. We are happy to have her with us, though. So many cats just vanished.”

Thanks to the dedicated work of volunteers from rescue groups in Japan and from around the world, there are a few happy stories in the midst of all this devastation. Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support posts daily updates of their rescue efforts, chronicling both challenges and successes, on their Facebook page.  You can also follow them on Twitter.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) posted a comprehensive FAQ for pet owners about the earthquake in Japan on their website.

And what about the cats and people on Cat Island? Conscious Cat reader Paula has been in touch with several people in Japan, and based on what she’s hearing, the cats and people on the island are okay. According to an e-mail Paula received from a Japanese journalist, the damage in Tashiro was not as big as it was in other parts of Honshu. They had a 16 to 20 foot high wave, and the buildings closest to the port were destroyed. Sadly, some cats near the port were killed, but the rest are fine and are being taken care of by people, just like before the quake. According to the journalist, the Japanese defense forces and the US military have been flying food and supplies, including cat food, to the island.

The following video shows a Japanese woman who was reunited with her cat a few days after the quake:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrKy_rFi550

Conscious Cat reader Paula provided the following translation: “She says that it’s the first time she came where her house was, then she says that she kept a cat. Then she says that she went there when the tsunami hit and she looked for it but couldn’t find it, so she just ran as she stood. Then when they go inside, she explains where the dining room was and then she hears meowing!!! And she says “the cat, it survived.” Kitty’s name is Non and she calls it Nonchan (term of endearment).”

Photo source: JEARS Facebook page. This photo was taken in a small shelter in Sendai. The building was water damaged, and there were overturned cars and debris everywhere. Miraculously, the 60+ cats inside were all okay.

For more on the earthquake in Japan, please read:

Help the animals in Japan

Radiation concerns and your pet

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Japan’s Cat Island is safe

Cat Island Japan

As we’ve been watching the rescue and recovery efforts in Japan for the past ten days, trying to wrap our minds around the devastation, and desperately looking for some good news in the middle of all the bad news, cat lovers around the world have been anxiously waiting to find out what happened to the cats on Tashirojima, Japan’s Cat Island.

Conscious Cat reader Paula has been in touch online with a Japanese online site directly devoted to Tashirojima,  and she provided the following information earlier today:

“A girl whose friend returned from the island yesterday confirmed that while a few cats died (near the gatehouse), the others are okay. There are about 50 people left on the island, and they are said to have received food (both for the humans and the cats). It seems that when power and water will be restored, things will be fairly okay, all things considered.”

A few minutes ago, a volunteer from Japanese Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, a coalition of Japan Cat Network, Heart Tokushima and Animal Friends Niigata, posted this update:

“I just got through to a representative at an NPO called Hiyokkori Hyoutan Tashirojima on the land phone, and ‘everybody, humans and animals, is safe.’ He said that it is the areas in Ishinomaki that need more help now! Food, water, everything is sufficiently supplied. It is the electricity that is still needed on the island. The kitties are all safe. With the kind of purity and reverence the residents have for our beautiful feline friends, the cats are being well taken care of by these beautiful people. I am so happy! This is direct from someone on the island. Safety confirmed!”

As we breathe a sigh of relief that the island cats are safe, please remember that there are still many animals that are lost and missing. Numerous rescue groups, including World Vets, are on the ground in Japan trying to save as many of them as they can, and they need your  help. For more information on how to help, please read Help the Animals in Japan.

Photo source: tofugu.com

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Radiation concerns and your pets

Two women walk in a tsunami devastated street in Hishonomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 15, 2011

Our prayers go out to the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. As the world watches events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, worries about a nuclear diaster abound, and with it, fears of what radiation exposure might mean to those exposed. Several of my readers, especially on the US West Coast,  have indicated concern about what this  might mean for pets.

I don’t know much about nuclear energy or radiation, so I look to the experts to get my information, and among them, the consensus seems to be that the only people currently at risk are the workers at the affected plant.  Nevertheless, there has been a run on radiation pills in the United States, as reported in this article on AOL News.

Jonathan Links, director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, is quoted in an article on NPR.org as saying that not only do the pills offer limited protection, but the nuclear plant hasn’t released enough radiation to cause health problems in most of Japan, let alone in the U.S. In the AOL News article, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Greg Jazcko is quoted as saying “You just aren’t going to have any radiological material that, by the time it traveled those large distances, could present any risk to the American public.”

So any fears for humans or pets appear to be based more on media hype than fact, but that does not make them any less real for those who are concerned about their pets.

The most frequent question I received from concerned pet owners was about potassium iodide, a supplement that is said to have protective properties against certain radioactive isotopes, and whether it can be given to pets as a precautionary measure. I asked a number of veterinarians for their input.

Potassium iodide should never be given to cats, it can have serious side effects. Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian, cautions that commercial pet foods already contain high levels of iodine. Adding the potassium iodide supplement on top of that could cause serious health problems.

Obviously, this is a developing story, but as you follow the news, please use common sense and consider the source before you panic. As with all issues affecting your pet’s health, consult with your veterinarian before giving supplements or medications.

March 17 update: UC Davis released this statement today: Pet owners cautioned against giving potassium iodide to animals

March 18 update: The VIN (Veterinary Information Network) News Service also cautions against giving potassium iodide to pets in this article: Fearing overseas radiation, Americans seek potassium iodide for pets

For information on how to help support animal rescue efforts in Japan, please read:

Help the animals in Japan

Photo credit CNN.com: Two women walk in a tsunami devastated street in Hishonomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 15, 2011

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