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Japan’s Obsession with Cats

Ewa Nowogorski

Who doesn’t love cats? Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid cat lover myself, but the Japanese take their love of cats to an obsessive level. Japanese people started keeping cats as pets to ward off rodents over 1000 years ago, and the practice of keeping these adorable creatures has not died since.

With the estimated number of pet cats exceeding 9,500,000, they outnumber pet dogs, making them the more popular pet. And this figure does not even include stray and feral cats, of which there are sure to be millions more. There are neighborhoods and even entire islands dedicated to cats, where you will see dozens in a particular area roaming free and being fed.

Japan’s most famous mascot, Hello Kitty, is modeled after a cat, and there are so many cat-themed things to do or see here. There are thousands of cat cafes across the country where you can pay a small fee to enter a room full of cats for a short period of time and play with them. There is also the famous maneki neko, or beckoning cat, which is seen as a lucky charm said to bring business success.

Cats are also used in design for products such as clothing and stationary. There are cat-themed pencils, erasers, stickers, tape, and so on. There is the potential to buy something of everything with a cat on it somewhere. And while I do think it is overkill, I quite enjoy the occasional cat-themed trinket. They are so cute.

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