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Living with a cat in Japan. Is it possible?


Living with a cat in Japan. Is it possible?

Raising a cat in Japan may seem difficult and expensive, but is it truly so?

Thu Hà

Thu Hà

Published on 04 May 2020, 11:10

For a foreign student in Japan, the main concerns may not include raising a cat in your apartment. However, having a furry friend as your partner can bring more joy and happiness than you imagined, and this process is not so challenging or costly!

My cat - Tuti always lie next to me when I wake up in the morning
My cat - Tuti always lie next to me when I wake up in the morning

Before welcoming a cat

1. Check with your real estate company

The first thing you need to know if you want to keep a pet in Japan, is to check with your real estate company on whether your building is a pet-approval one. Since raising a pet inside your apartment may cause some damage to the apartment itself (ex: cat scratches the paper wall) or may have some noises that annoy your neighbors (ex: dog's bark), having an animal in a non-pet building can cause you a large sum of fine money.

This check can be done simply by a phone call or a meeting with your real estate consultant. If your building is pet-approval, then you just have to follow their instructions (instructions can vary from company to company).

2. Where you should take a cat from

For the case of a cat, the second thing you need to think about when you are finding a furry friend is where you should take a cat from.

The price for a cat in the Japanese pet store is very expensive (around ¥200,000), so some people choose to pick a stray cat on the street and bring it to their house (well, Japan does have a lot of stray cats). However, I will recommend either way.

Picking a stray cat on the street is not a good idea because of two reasons.

  • A stray cat has lived outdoors for so long, immediate change of environment can cause tremendous stress for a cat, lead to aggressive behaviors which can turn out to be hurtful to you.
  • A stray cat can possibly contain diseases such as diarrhoea, etc which may cause inconvenient situations to your apartment.

If you insist on having a stray cat as your pet, I would suggest to hand them over to the vet for around 3 days (depend on the cat's health condition). The vet can help check on the cat's health condition and start to deal with diseases (if any). Moreover, keeping the cat indoors with professional people can help it to adapt to the new environment, and give you some times to prepare for this new resident. However, be aware that you will have to cover the whole cost.

Tuti was neither from the street nor the store
Tuti was neither from the street nor the store
The best way to start having a cat, in my opinion, is to adopt cats from acquaintances or friends who are trying to find a new home for their cats.

In my case, I adopt my cat (Tuti) from a senior who has a female cat that gave birth to 5 kittens, and those kittens needed a new home. Adopting a cat from acquaintances or friends is a good idea because the cat has already got used to living indoors, and it's easier to know its health condition beforehand.

Crucial items for the life with this furry boss

Okay! Now you have officially become a server, yay! There are 3 essential things you must have when start living with a cat: a litter box for the toilet, a scratch tree and food/water bowl(s). We will walk through these things one by one.

1. A scratch tree (or a cat tree)

A scratch tree (or cat tree) is something for the cat to, basically, scratch their nails on the two front legs on. This is a crucial item, because without it, your cat is going to make some damage to your apartment by scratching the wallpaper or wardrobe doors, and the penalty money for those damages is not small.

Tuti's cat tree
Tuti's cat tree

It's a cat's nature to scratch their front nails, however, cat tree in Japanese pet stores can sometimes be pretty expensive (from ¥5,000 to ¥10,000). A more affordable choice to purchase this item is to find it on Amazon.

Sometimes Amazon will have this incredible sale program when you can purchase one item on a specific time of day with at least 40% sale.

I bought the big tree for my cat through Amazon for ¥3,000 (the original price was ¥5,000), since it was on the sale program of Amazon at that time. However, if you can't spend that much money on one item, there are a lot cheaper options on Amazon that you can explore. The first cat tree I purchased for my cat was around ¥1,400 on Amazon, and it worked perfectly.

Cheaper choices also work well
Cheaper choices also work well

This cat tree from Mwpo was a simple and cheap one. Buying stuff like this from Amazon has a disadvantage that you will have to put it together by yourself. However, with this scratch tree, you just have to simply put the top pieces and the bottom together. This height is around 50cm to 60cm, which is okay for even a mature cat.

2. A litter box (toilet box)

A litter box is obviously a must if you want to live with a cat. For this item, I actually went opposite with the cat tree, in which I bought it from a local Japanese pet store. When I was searching for a cat litter box on Amazon, the price range was around ¥2,000 to ¥6,000, for which I thought to be so overpriced.

My cat's litter box
My cat's litter box

I then purchased this litter box from the local pet store for ¥700. However, what you really need are a box that will not leak and a small shovel to help clean the cat's waste.

You can actually make your own litter box from a carton box (you can get it for free from any supermarket) and plastic tape. By taping the whole inside of the box with the plastic tape, you can make it into a non-leaking box.

And the price for a shovel at the Japanese pet store will be around ¥400. In addition to the litter box, you will need to buy the toilet sand for your cat also. There are various types of toilet sand for cats, and you can find it easily on both Amazon and pet store for the similar price range (¥500 - ¥1,000 for a bag, depending on the weight). I often purchase this type of sand on Amazon and it can hold up to 2 months.

This sand works well because of its capacity to hold back the smell
This sand works well because of its capacity to hold back the smell

3. Food/Water bowl(s)

Make sure to prepare 2 bowls or 1 bowl with a separate section for food and water. Having food and water source next to each other will encourage the cat to drink more water. Set up a corner as their eating/drinking corner in your house and let them get used to it. It will also be helpful for cats to adapt to their new home.

The eating and drinking corner of my cat
The eating and drinking corner of my cat

For cat food, you can find it easily not just in the pet store but also in any drug store, with a lot of options and price range.

When buying cat food, make sure to pay attention to the age of cat that the food is for, to match with your cat's age.

Raising a cat while you are living in Japan is actually very easy and affordable. A cat can be bossy sometimes, but the love you receive from them does worth all the effort, doesn't it?

Thu Hà

Thu Hà

Hello, my name is Ha and I'm currently living in Japan. I hope that my share of experiences about life in Japan with the perspective as a foreign student will help you to visualize a bit about how life in Japan for a foreigner is like.


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