I met my first stray cat when I went jogging in Japan. There are many domestic cats walking around (so far I have never seen a stray dog here), but strays always look different and give me different looks. That skinny cat I met had white fur, with lots of dirty stains and even some blood ones. Luckily, I could see him/her again when I went to the same spot again.
Hajime NAKANO on Flickr
Next time I decided to bring some cat food. I bought a couple of cat food sachet and disposable plates to clean afterwards. It was a nice surprise to see other people feeding stray cats there and some even playing with them. I kept on coming there every time I could, until that cat disappeared. I hope nothing bad happened to him/her.
Another time I saw a stray bunny in the Shinjuku Central Park. This rabbit had a white color, and I confused them with the white cat at first. There was nobody with this bunny, and with it being white, I wondered if someone had let it go into the wild.
George Bannister on Flickr
LuxTonnerre on Flickr
Unfortunately, my apartment does not allow the keeping of pets. This is actually very common, as animals can damage property and cause other disturbances. So I started to see how else I could help strays. I started to read about the stray animals situation in Japan. A number of articles and atrocious videos online terrified me. But as you learn from the article in the Japan Times, things are not all that grim, and there are animal shelters in Japan.
Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK) is one of those. It is based in Osaka, but they hold events in Tokyo and other parts of Japan as well. I found it amazingly convenient that not only do they accept money donations, but also items that animals need. They have Amazon wishlists both in Japan and abroad. Your gift can also be personalized with a message.
Nhandler on Wikipedia
I am a student and all I could afford were small inexpensive items, such as various cat foods, to send to ARK. I felt quite embarrassed when they sent me a thank you postcard with the cute photo of cats and dogs in the shelter. They also automatically included me in the list of subscribers of the newsletter. Very kind of them. Now I can stay updated on their activities and hopefully help more.
John Gillespie on Flickr
Besides shelters, there are also very popular cat, rabbit and other animals cafes in Japan. Some of them are hosting special breeds that one can play with. But some are aiming at helping strays. Recently I learnt about the “Neko Republic.” They are also following the usual concept of a cat cafe, but house stray cats and lets visitors contribute by purchasing goods whose profits go to supporting strays. It would be great to have such beautiful places in more parts of the country, wouldn’t it?
Planettrekker on Flickr
Of course, one does not have to travel far to help our little fury neighbors. Some volunteer not only to feed local strays, but practice TNR (trap, neuter, return). Hence, the problems are solvable in the long-term with enough helping.