The first cat I ever had in my life was called Play-Doh. She didn’t really belong to us; she lived in the courtyard we shared with our neighbours. She used to sleep curled up in a hidden place underneath our window, and that’s where she gave life to her kittens, too. Seeing the little balls of fur I knew immediately that I wanted a cat of my own, so we got one. And then another one…and yet another one…I think most of us will agree that sharing our lives with our four (or two, or six or even eight)-legged friends makes it much happier and more content. They know this in Japan, too; let’s see what kinds of pets they like to keep!

Bugged

It might come as a surprise, but keeping huge, horned beetles as pets (not pests!) is immensely popular in Japan. Little Japanese boys dream of having a rhinoceros beetle or a staghorn as a first pet, which they will keep in nicely furnished terrarium, which suits all insect needs. One could think it is a cheap way of keeping a pet, but it isn’t quite true: an adult rhinoceros beetle can cost about 50 dollars worth of yen, but there is a more economical option: digging up a grub for 1 dollar, taking it home and raising it! Of course the owner can find everything needed for this enterprise in the pet shop; they even sell tiny cups of special, flavoured jelly designed for insects, so that they can have their dessert, too…I think if we hadn’t realized we are in Japan now, it would most certainly become clear at this point!

Pug life is tough

However, dogs are still number one on the list of desired pets in Japan. Given the average living conditions in Japan, it is no wonder owners opt for smaller breeds: poodles, shi-tzus and chihuahuas are the most popular. Dogs are most likely to be purchased more (much more) than adopted, and once they got the pug, owners tend to dress them in designer outfits (selling dog-and cat tops and accessories is a trillion-yen industry…), and once the doggo is wrapped in Dior or Gucci, they put them in baby…I mean dog-buggies to take them to luxury spas designed for dogs. Here they can swim, get a massage and enjoy aromatherapy sessions. It is  a beautiful life indeed…until the owner gets bored with the dog. The painful truth is that–despite there being a lot of conscientious owners–some Japanese people treat dogs as fashion items they get tired of after some time, and take them to the so-called health centers where they are kept in small and uncomfortable kennels until they are put down or sold to laboratories. Few of them are put up for adoption and besides, neutering is virtually unheard of…luckily, thanks to the ever-growing voice of animal advocacy groups, new laws have been passed for the benefit of „discarded” pets, and today we can see more and more conscious and reliable dog (and cat) owners.

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