For some people nothing completes a family like an additional member in the form of a pet. Whether it is a cat, dog, or something a little less orthodox, it can be really nice having a companion around the home.
The most popular pets in Japan are cats and dogs. Due to space restrictions in Japanese homes dogs tend to be quite small. It is uncommon to see larger breeds like retrievers or German Shepherds, particularly in the cities. Other animals such as goldfish and terrapins are also popular, as well as more unusual animals. You can sometimes see people taking ferrets to the park, and I have even seen someone in my neighbourhood walking a hamster on a leash.
In most towns and cities – particularly in shopping centres such as Aeon – you can find pet shops with lots of animals for purchase. The most common stores are Kojima Pets, Coo and Riku, and Aeon Pet. Of course, this being Japan, cuteness sells, and you will find all manner of adorable animals, especially cats and dogs. When it comes to dogs, breeds are very important, so you may find many stores tailor towards the fasionable breed of the day (toy poodles and dachsunds are particularly prevelent at the moment). Animals most in demand can be expensive – for an example, the cat in the above image is going for 98,000 JPY – and for pure breed cats and dogs it is typical to pay upwards of 300,000 JPY. These stores generally provide a “waranty” against sickness and death within the first year, as well as discounts on vetinary treatments.
A downside of a breed’s popularity is that some unscrupulous breeders have been known to interbreed animals causing deformities. I know of people who have purchaced kittens at pet stores, only for them to die within weeks. The pet store should be able to provide breeder details and you can check out where your animal comes from.
Perhaps due to the Japanese desire for things that are both cute and brand new, animals that are abandoned and housed in shelters tend not to be adopted. It is a sad fact that in 2010 (the latest government figures), of the 204,000 animals that were taken to animal shelters, 82% were euthanized (this compares with less than 6% of the 126,000 dogs sheltered in the UK). This means that shelters have many animals to be re-homed, and if you are not insistent on getting a young animal, adoption can be a cost effective and humane way of taking in a pet.
You are required to walk your dog on a leash at all times. If you live in apartment building you should carry your pet in the communal areas and elevators at all times. You must also clean up after your dog when out walking.