I‘ve always had a thing for cats. The cat in the photo on the left was taken in Hong Kong as it dashed out to me in hopes of affection or food. I’m a sucker for such innocence and helplessness.
However, not all cats are quite so innocent. Especially the cats here in Tokyo. While American cats will hiss a warning at you even before you spot them, Tokyo cats seem to be more full of game. They’ll lay purring on their backs looking like they’re welcoming a petting, then suddenly lunge and sink their teeth into your approaching hand. These are often the cats you see strolling along the streets of Tokyo in fluffy white coats as if they own the place.
I once observed a Japanese Chihuahua that had cornered such a cat, yapping away as if it had accomplished something. A moment later it was squealing in pain with a shredded ear as it vanished down the street. I swear the cat was grinning sadistically as she licked the blood from her pretty paw.
Here are a few tips about Tokyo cats based on my experience.
- Beware the quiet. I used to carry my cat around the neighborhood in the evening. At first she would constantly meow as she surveyed the novel environment, a flood of possibilities filling her mind. Then came the quiet. About 4 seconds after the quiet, there would be a sudden flurry of clawing in an attempt to escape the safety of my arms.
- Plan to get dirty. Sometimes, when my cat was just a kitten, I would let her explore a small patch of shrubs for a while before calling her back so I could safely carry her home. That was fine for the first few trips out, but she eventually got obstinate when I attempted to retrieve her. I far too often found myself crawling through the thorny shrubs, alternating between threats and promises as she smirked at me. I did usually get the final revenge as I hosed her soiled pelt down to a scrawny semblance of herself in the shower.
- Know the previous owner. One cat I owned actually turned out to be the ex-cat of a yakuza boss who was known to take cat thieves on one-way excursions on his boat. I dyed the cat black.