A pet's life in Japan
What to know before deciding to buy a pet in Japan
Family comes in all shapes and sizes, some big and tall, some small and furry. If you're someone who likes the idea of having some animal family in your Japanese house, here's a little advice from someone who has a few.
I live in a non-pets apartment myself, so I sat down with a friend who owns their own place to talk about his pet degus and his life with pets in Japan.
As I mentioned, the first thing that you should know about Japan is that not all apartments will allow pets. If you look up apartments online, they will clearly indicate if they allow pets or not.
You should also be aware that "pets" in Japan usually refer to cats or dogs, and that some landlords will specify the size of the pet that they allow. Depending on the apartment building, you will get specifications on how large a cat or dog is allowed in your unit.
For other pets (e.g. fish, snakes, birds, etc), if they are caged, you stand a better chance of your landlord agreeing to host your pet. Otherwise, it's really up to how nice and pet-friendly of a landlord he is.
My friend mentioned that, when he used to rent, he asked the landlord if he could keep a parakeet and was turned down, because of the possibility that the pet would cause too much noise. Ultimately it's up to your landlord, and we both definitely do not recommend sneaking pets into your apartment without telling your landlord.
If you are coming from abroad and already have pets, and want to bring them to Japan, you definitely want to do your homework:
- Check which airlines will take pets. Make sure to confirm whether you will be expected to carry them in the cabin with you, or if the airline will insist that they be kept with the checked baggage in the hold.
- You will want to check with your vet back home regarding what vaccinations you need to complete and get documentation for before getting on the plane!
- Particularly with the current pandemic going on, you should expect to be required to quarantine your pet when arriving in Japan. Keep checking for additional details that are relevant for your importation situation.
According to my friend, Japanese neighbors really love cute pets. This usually means puppies, kittens, or rabbits, something round and furry.
If you're thinking of getting other than that, however, be aware that you may need to do a little introducing to your Japanese friends to get them to share the love that you have for your animals.
In his case, he's been really lucky that his neighbors have kids, and kids are generally more open to new experiences, which has given him the opportunity to teach the parents a bit more about pets as well.
In Japan, the home is a really special place, something that is incredibly private for many people. My friend mentioned that going on vacation is really challenging because not many of his neighbors or friends want to bring his pets (cage and all) into their homes.
We both agreed this is completely understandable, but as we both come from Canada where people coming in and out of our homes was a regular way of life.
It is still something to keep in mind and remember when you get a pet: you're probably going to be on your own taking care of it!
As with anything, you should probably consider the financial commitment that it will take to have a pet. Aside from the ever-popular cats and dogs, who enjoy a great selection of accessories, foods, and products, you might not be able to find great options for products that you need for your pets.
If this is your first pet, I would take the time and do the research to see how much food and medicine, and vet's visits will cost, before taking the plunge. A few initial costs that you should think about in Japan are:
- Pet food: this may be more relevant if your pet is coming from abroad, but the brands that you are used to may not be available in Japan! It's not a big problem but will certainly be an adjustment.
- Cages: since the selections are fewer, choices are limited and maybe more expensive if you're comparing with international prices)
- Veterinarian visits: you may have to pay to "register" your pet with the vet clinic, and pay for the check-up, and also the medicine. Your pet may or may not qualify for insurance, so be aware that you may be asked to pay upfront).
After we had our talk, I asked my friend a final question: would he do it again? On the screen, I saw him smile and respond, "Definitely. Especially with COVID-19, some people are all alone, but I have my pets".
He also asked me to mention that he highly recommended people interested in pets research rescue pets, rather than going to the pet shops. Since there are so many pets who are looking for homes in Japan, it's a way for people who are interested and able to take on pets to have that joy and take care of an animal friend who needs a home.
If you feel the same way he does, and wouldn't mind sharing your space with a couple of friends, I hope this information will help you set up your pet life in Japan!
Kevin is a professional writer with experience in music, education, news media and entertainment. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in English before moving to Japan for work. He's lived all over Japan, spending time in Kanto, Chubu, Kinki and Okinawa.
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