Give them not only foods but a home

I criticize for feeding to stray cats. However, the person who could give a home to a homeless cat easily than anyone else is who has been feeding. The stray cats depend on humans who feed them. Unfortunately, as long as they continue to feed, another person would be difficult to close the cat.
Even if that the person is truly a cat lover.

I have recommended them several times to pick up the stray cat from the alley and keep it in their house. But their answer was always, “No.” They said, “My husband hates a cat.” “It is odd that there is no cat in the town.” “These cats are already my children, even though they are out.” The most probable answer was, “I don't think so. It's just a stray cat.”

It is not fewer people who think that house cat means selling stuff in a pet store with a pedigree paper and stray cat means no worth to sell. They assume a house cat and a stray cat are different species. My explanation, “A cat is a cat. People call a cat in different words such as a house cat, a stray cat, a community cat, but they are all the same species,” would be laughed.

Once in a town, I met a stray cat whose foreleg broken. I guessed the cat had been given foods from a bar. I knocked on the door. Then I asked the owner if he wanted to cure the cat. I intended to offer that I would pay for half of the treatment cost. But when he heard the word ‘cure,’ he immediately spread displeased look in his face. “I only feed,” he said. “It's a stray cat. That's none of my business. And I've got to set about preparing right now!”

My conversations with people who feed stray cats give me insight. Currently, I think decreasing the people who feed stray cats is the first step to help to reduce homeless cat tragedies. They are almost middle-aged or elderly. If the next generation doesn't feed stray cats in outdoors thoughtlessly and welcome a stray cat as their family member, miserable stray cats will be less and less.

Regarding a cat as a family member might be laughed and criticized as anthropomorphism. But I think that if we humans have no sense of anthropomorphism, we have no love for everything.

This photo was taken on 20 August 2013, Tokyo, Japan. ©Naoto Shinkai



僕は何度か彼らに、猫を路上から拾って家で飼うよう勧めたことがある。しかし彼らの返事は決まって「無理だ」というものだった。彼らはこんなふうに言う――「夫が猫嫌いだから」「町に動物の姿がないのは変だ」「外にいようと、この猫たちはうちの子」。 最もありがちな返答は「飼わないよ。だって、野良猫だから」というものだった。





2013年8月20日 東京都内にて撮影 ©Naoto Shinkai


One person rescues one cat

We, ordinary people, tend to leave issues of stray cats to an activist group such as an NPO. I also have asked to rescue stray cats three times for three activist groups in the past. But all of them rejected before I tell the details. However, if you think of it carefully, you will notice it's a wrong idea to expect that an activist group could rescue stray cats without restriction. And it might be a better idea that one person rescues one cat rather than one activist group rescues 100 cats. So we should do what we can do.

I don't recommend to rescue multiple stray cats at a time. Keeping multiple cats could be a more serious problem for cats when the keeper become poor or sick, and when they died. The ideal activity I think of is one person rescues one cat. If this idea and activities spread widely, stray cats would decrease. Though there are so many stray cats, they are less than humans.

Then we, people of Tokyo, come up against an obstacle that 90 percent of apartments in Tokyo prohibit to keep a pet. I don't think it is right to ignore bad rules. Though I broke the rule twice for rescuing fragile lives, a kitten and a sick old cat, I currently have moved to an apartment which one of 10 percent. Our society should shift. There are not fewer people who tell the reason why they can't keep or rescue a stray cat by the rule. I am eager to let landlords and management companies know that acceptance of keeping a pet means to save a life.

This photo was taken on 31 August 2012, Tokyo, Japan. ©Naoto Shinkai





2012年8月31日 東京都内にて撮影 ©Naoto Shinkai


Increasing of stray cats caused by media

The media, mainly publishers in Japan, often introduce stray cats as free, funny, cute animals living in outdoors. When a publisher features about stray cats in the magazine, they write a title of the article like, ‘Happy cat town of Tokyo,’ ‘Paradise island of cats,’ ‘Joyous encounter with alley cats.’ And plenty of photo books distribute happy looking images of stray cats to people.

I went to a cat photo exhibition before. A jumping cat was on the poster and the flyer. The photo seemed amazing. The tail was held vertically against the blue sky. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable in the face. The eyes weren't animated. I didn't know if the cat had jumped pleasantly. Meanwhile, people smiled at the sketchy impression.

It was a great experience, which hanging around in a town to encounter a stray cat, meeting a cat who looks happy, taking some photos, sharing on the internet with cat lovers. However, I gradually became to feel bad. I knew that there are more pitiful stray cats than happy those. When I took ten stray cat photos, I would hide seven miserable cats in my storage then three happy-looking cats would be introduced. It made me feel like I was betraying most of them. I began to think I should take photos which represent them.

I had been taking stray cat photos for six years. Then a conclusion came out. It was an unexpected idea of which all cats shouldn't be in outdoors. They should better relax in a human house. I learned this truth from a sick old cat who was rescued by me.

Some of the people, who feed stray cats or wild birds, are trying to make an ideal circumstance for human and animal coexistence. But this is a wrong idea. All the cities consist of exclusive ways for animals. Asphalt and concrete don't resolve animal excrement. Cat is a non-wildlife animal selected and evolved by human beings. The brain keeps infancy even when the body has grown up. The fact of stray cats is just lost infants who are living in outdoors.

The municipal governments of Japan must have been culling tens of thousands of stray cats every year for more than four decades. The fact exists behind the culture of uncritical admiration of stray cats. Media still contributes to making such a sad culture.

*I post this image of a stray cat leaping downward, as a metaphor of their lives.

This photo was taken on 10 February 2013, Tokyo, Japan. ©Naoto Shinkai









2013年2月10日 東京都内にて撮影 ©Naoto Shinkai


Stray kittens who have a distrust of humans

Infant stray cats born in outdoors become distrustful for humans so quickly. In many cases, their mother has been given foods by humans, but most of the people who feed stray cats are not to touch a stray cat. Stray kittens see that scenes and grow without expectations of human love.

A lot of people who feed stray cats scatter foods on the asphalt same as to pigeons. The fact which makes the issue complicated is they have no experience to keep a cat. They don't see a cat like their baby. After scattering foods, they would be satisfied and leave hurriedly. They don't care if some cats have health problems or why the other cats didn't come over the day. They also don't pick up leftovers, so they become rotten on the asphalt, and the neighbors get angry.

We tend to assume that a cat lover is humane and a cat hater is inhumane. A person who feeds stray cats looks kind and a person, who puts up a notice which says not to feed stray cats, looks cold-blooded. But this is a prejudice.

People who don't like stray cats only hate the unhygienic environment and a foul smell. Most cats don't have body odor. The people to think the smell of cat excreta is cat smell isn't fewer. This may be responsible for people who feed stray cats. They only give foods in passing by. Then the neighbors have to clean up the excreta.

Sadly, the anger of neighbors, who live around the feeding place, often targets stray cats, not for humans. They often make a loud sound with foot pounding or hitting something to drive the stray cats away. Recently, you can see the equipment of ultrasonic deterrent where stray cats live. Through their experiences, infants become more distrustful for humans. So it becomes harder to rescue them.

Some infant stray cats often show curiosity a bit for a person who tries to help them. However, they never cross over the boundary where the hands reach them. Most of them die before they grow up, or caught for culling by a municipal government. Some of them, who fortunately survive, would come to the end of short life in solitary without the trust of humans.

This photo was taken on 17 May 2013, Tokyo, Japan. ©Naoto Shinkai








2013年5月17日 東京都内にて撮影 ©Naoto Shinkai


Stop buying a cat from a pet store, but pick up from the outdoors

While I had been taking stray cat photos enthusiastically for six years in all, 1996 - 1997 and 2012 - 2015, I often found a stray cat who must have been a pet store.

Their lives in the outdoors are much harder than ordinary stray cats. Especially, long-haired cats are suffering. They can't keep their fur clean or remove fleas by themselves. They need grooming by a human. And the summer temperature and humidity in Tokyo are both extremely high.

Their ex-keeper might haven't expected that the kitten will grow up and become an adult when they bought them in the pet store. The average life span of house cats is over 15 years old. When you buy a pet, you should imagine the future after years, which should be your present age plus the average life span of the animal. If you have a baby cat when you are 25 years old, you must maintain the responsibility at least until when you become 40 years old.

I've been thinking through my stray cat photography of what entices a keeper to abandon their cat in the outdoors. When a keeper is about to abandon a cat, they might think that their cat would be happy where people feed stray cats every day. Should be criticized is who abandons a cat. However, encourage to abandon a cat is who feeds stray cats. Most of the places where they feed are where cats abandoned.

Please think of this issue before going to a pet store. If you want a cat, you can find it in a street or an alley. Though every stray cat isn't friendly, it is possible to rescue a stray cat when you can touch the cat. Now is the time to feed a stray cat when you decide to rescue and keep the cat. If you don't like an ordinary stray cat, you should give up to have a cat. You may not a cat-lover in nature.

Picking up a stray cat from the outdoors might cost to cure some disease. But it is more worth money to spend than a price tag of a pet store.

This photo was taken on 7 July 2013, Tokyo, Japan. ©Naoto Shinkai





僕は野良猫の撮影を通じて、猫を路上に捨てる人の背中を押すのは何か、をずっと考えてきた。まさに猫を捨てようとするとき、彼らはこう考えるのではないか。『野良猫がたくさんいる場所がある。毎日のように餌をあげている人たちもいる。この猫もそこで幸せになるだろう』 責められるべきは、捨てる人間である。しかし、餌やりの人たちの存在が、捨て猫を助長するのである。実際に、餌やり場の多くが、猫捨て場になっている。



2013年7月7日 東京都内にて撮影  ©Naoto Shinkai