more than just pets," said Naoki Yanase, a professor of
English literature at Seijo University. "They radiate serenity
and are essential for the well-being of humans."
officials, after surveying almost 9,000 cat lovers, chose
February 22 as Cat Day because the month and the day, 2/22,
matched the number of miles the lost cat had traveled in
search of its family. What's more, the pronunciation of 2/22
in Japanese, ni-ni-ni, resembles the sound of a cat meowing.
Such linguistic and numerological convergence is not to be
Sunshine and Shadows
Japanese love for companion animals is prodigious. Japan's
population, 126 million, ranks ninth among the nations of the
world. Japan is fourth, however, in cat population, with 8
million feline residents. The only country that outspends
Japan on drugs and food additives for animals is the United
States, and judging by the extent to which the Japanese are
willing to pamper their pets, Japan stands second to none in
its regard for cats and dogs. Many Japanese pets have their
own water beds and gold jewelry; a number of resorts offer
special menus and sleeping facilities for dogs and cats; and
five years ago a record company in Japan hired composer Hiro
Sakamuchi to write music designed for cats' and dogs'
listening enjoyment while their owners were off at work. The
compact disc of Sakamuchi's compositions sold out within days.
these outward trappings of indulgence, "it's difficult to view
the conditions for dogs and cats in Japan as ideal," wrote
Japan Times Weekly in its February 1998 international
edition. "While people spend a fortune on pedigree pets and
many shed a tear over the tale of a loyal dog, a large number
of dogs and cats are abandoned annually. At least 414,506 dogs
and 307,626 cats were put down by local municipalities
throughout Japan" in 1995, accounting for 88 percent of dogs
and 98 percent of cats gathered at pounds. A 1996 survey
conducted by the Japanese Antivivisection Association revealed
that 313,812 cats (4 percent of the cat population) had been
surrendered by their owners that year.
Japan run away from people," wrote Elizabeth Kiritani in
The Daily Yomiuri for August 30, 1997. "Street cats
slink about, never too far from a parked car or tall fence to
escape under or over. Starving cats furtively paw garbage bags
and run lickety-split when I approach. In the United States
hungry cats approach me, begging for food... The shy types sit
hunched a short distance away and wait for me to approach
them... whereas the Tokyo Tom makes it a point to steer
history of the Japanese bobtail has been marked by similar
reversals of fortune to those that have visited all cats in
Japan. "The Japanese emperor Ichijo (986-1011) is credited
with introducing the cat into his country," wrote zoologist
Claire Necker, who counted a Japanese cat lover and author
named Mr. Kimura among her correspondents. After Kimura had
sent Necker a print of a piebald, short-tailed feline, she
inquired after the history of this kind of cat, which has long
been featured in Japanese sculpture, woodblock prints and
silkscreens as well as paintings. The walls of Tokyo's
Gotokuji Temple, constructed in 1697, are adorned with
paintings of bobtail cats, and two longhair bobtails are
featured in a 15th-century painting that hangs in the Freer
Gallery of Art in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.
Japanese domestic cat as you have mentioned is not so specific
species," wrote Kimura, "but is very popular in Japan.
According to the Japanese classical literature such domestic
cat was introduced into ancient Japan from ancient China."
observed that "kinky-tailed cats are exclusively Eastern."
According to one study she cited, "Hong Kong had the smallest
number of kinky tails found in East and Southeast Asia --
about one-third of the cat population," while Singapore, with
69 percent, had the highest percentage. "Such a preponderance
of distorted tails points to their superiority over straight
tails for a tropical climate," Necker concluded, "but what
they can offer a cat in a hot climate that straight tails
can't is anyone's guess."
kinked tails are commonplace in the East, Kimura also noted
that tail length in free-roaming Japanese cats "varies very
much" and, interestingly enough, "most Japanese cat fanciers
pay very little attention to the ordinary Japanese cat."
Pom-Poms Without Honor
another pet in other lands, the Japanese bobtail was once a
favorite among the ruling class in Japan. Nevertheless in
1602, Japanese authorities decreed that all cats should be
conscripted into service in the pursuit of vermin that were
threatening the nation's silkworms and its spin-off
industries. This decree meant that cats had to be set free
and, furthermore, that buying or selling cats was forbidden.
From that time forward bobtailed cats and their normal-tailed
compatriots lived on the streets and farms of Japan, making
their way in a world from which many of them had previously
reduced social status notwithstanding, Japanese bobtails
continued to be considered symbols of good fortune in Japan;
and the best fortune was associated with the mee-kay or
three-fur pattern -- an essentially white cat with a few
scattered accent patches of black and red tastefully deployed
on its glistening coat. A particularly fetching good-luck
charm is the maneki-neko or "beckoning cat," a Japanese
bobtail seated with one paw raised. A maneki-neko statue is
often found in storefronts and restaurants.
much the Japanese bobtail was thought to assure good fortune,
the Japanese people did not believe bobtails would bring much
glory in the show ring when the cat fancy began to blossom in
Japan. "Ego, social structure, and pride of ownership among
the Japanese dictated that foreign cats (as they generally
are, no matter what the country) were the most prized," wrote
international cat judge Richard H. Gebhardt. As a consequence,
"Japanese brokers had a field day buying cats in the United
States for resale at inflated prices back home."
for their part, discovered the Japanese bobtail when cat show
judges from the United States began officiating on occasion as
guest judges at shows in Japan in the 1960s. The first
recorded importation of Japanese bobtails to the United States
occurred in August 1968. The following year the Cat Fanciers'
Association (CFA) granted registration status to the breed. In
1971 bobtails were advanced to provisional status in CFA, and
as of May 1, 1976, they were eligible to compete in
championship classes. These days the bobtail -- in both short
and longhair varieties -- enjoys championship status in
virtually every cat-registering body in North America.
tail is its calling card, the Japanese bobtail is not a breed
wherein the caudal appendage wags the cat. Indeed, when cat
registries in their infinite wisdom assign point values to the
various parts of the bobtail's anatomy, color weighs as
heavily as tail does (generally 20 points). Head, too, is
allotted 20 points, while overall body conformation is worth
medium-size cat with clean lines, the Japanese bobtail is well
muscled, but nonetheless straight and slender rather than
massively built. Its body -- long, lean and elegant without
being tubular -- is supported by slender, graceful legs. The
hind legs, though considerably longer than the front, should
be so deeply angled that the bobtail does not appear to rise
from front to back when standing still.
Japanese bobtail's head should approximate an equilateral
triangle. Its cheekbones should be high; its eyes -- large and
oval, not round -- should exhibit a gentle curve that
precludes their exceeding the planes of the cheekbones or
forehead. The eyes should be set into the skull at a
pronounced slant, which ought to be especially noticeable when
the cat is viewed in profile. The ears are large, upright, set
wide apart and tilted in repose.
a cross between a question mark and an exclamation point,
displays itself in "a million different configurations" says
one bobtail breeder. Although tail designs can be grouped into
five or six basic categories -- pompon, corkscrew, teacup
handle and so on -- each tail is unique, like each snowflake
bobtail's tail might measure four or five inches if it were
stretched to its full length (which is not a good idea to
try), most standards suggest that the tail should extend no
more than two or three inches from the body; and it is no
small wonder that anything so concise can be so various,
especially when its vertebrae are fused.
responsible for this curlicue treasure is a recessive one,
therefore, the only way to produce bobtail kittens is to breed
one bobtail to another.
Japanese bobtail is a charming personality, the kind of "loyal
and comforting friend," says one bobtail owner, "that comes
running to the door whenever its people return home, no matter
how long they've been away. While some may wonder if bobtails
might be uncoordinated because they lack a tail, this isn't
so. They're athletic cats, excellent jumpers that are both
agile and powerful, especially in the rear legs."
Japanese bobtail has also been described as "fearless, bright,
and inquisitive." If you get one, say most owners, you will
shortly want another, perhaps more, "for the Japanese bobtail
is an elegant and beautiful cat that will win your heart --
over and over again."
who want to share every Kodak moment and then some with their
cats can purchase a unique toilet system built for two. The
Toto Company, one of Japan's premier toilet makers, designed a
john-john that has two seats (the smaller one, presumably, is
for the cat) on top of a shared drain. A fish-shaped ring
enables cats to flush this unholy contrivance by themselves.
Unfortunately that report we saw did not mention anti-theft
devices on the toilet paper rolls.