By Barbara Walker
I’ve lived with cats all my life. So, when I moved to Japan where I’d be living on my own for the first time, I was extra lonely without a pet to come home to.
But Japan can be a difficult place to keep a pet. A lot of apartments and employers don’t allow animals, and if they do, they often limit what kind and how many. Space can be another issue entirely.
Now, finding a cat is much easier, whether one lives in the city or the countryside. Of course, there are pet shops that sell kittens, but there are so many strays in need of a home that shops here seem redundant. There are even cat cafes that double as rescues and adoption centers. Adoption is much cheaper and more feasible for most.
Chai Tea Latte, or just Chai, was a couple months old when I first encountered her. She was an orange and brown tabby that came running up to me in the parking lot after I kneeled down and held my hand out. She and her siblings were so friendly and sweet and loved to run around the small patch of weeds that I call my garden.
She disappeared over the colder months only to reappear in the spring, climbing on my screen door and demanding entry on rainy days. I checked the pet rules with my building manager and then asked around the neighborhood to make sure I wasn’t stealing someone else’s pet. It turns out the house next door had raised Chai and her siblings, but they were all busy adults so they said, “Go ahead! Catch her and take her.”
It felt like fate. I was so happy to finally have my own kitty that was so affectionate and gentle.
However… there are risks to taking in a cat from the streets. Sadly, unchecked stray cat populations are at great risk of injury and illness.
I only had Chai for a month before she passed on. She was a very sick cat with internal birth defects that took her before she made it to her first birthday.
When I informed my vet, who had been helping me manage her symptoms, he made a promise to me to find a healthy cat in need of a home. Many veterinarians work with foster carers to find homes for their strays. I was devastated about Chai, of course, but I had already decked out my house with cat towers and toy mice. This felt like another chance to help.
And along came Kurumi, a 2-month-old gray tabby with a charming, stubby tail. Such a young kitten can be a handful at times, but she’s brought nothing but joy to my life these past eight months. Well, maybe also a little stress since she loves climbing curtains, but mostly joy. I still miss Chai a lot, but if I hadn’t taken her in for her last month of life, I wouldn’t have given in to my urge to adopt and Kurumi might still be looking for a home.
Because sometimes, you choose the cat, and other times, the cat chooses you.