When I came back from Japan, friends and family asked me why sixty percent or so of my trip photos starred cats. It’s not that I’m a cat fanatic, although I do love them, but the city of Beppu has so many stray cats, and they make interesting foreground subjects. Beppu isn’t the only city with a stray problem. In Nagasaki, too, cats perched on the monuments at the Peace Park, where in 1945 the atomic bomb fell.
Some of the felines hanging out in storefronts seemed to be adopted by shopkeepers, who had set out bowls of kibble. Sometimes I saw a kind lady at Kitahama Park (Beppu) offering the resident cat gang a large tub of catfood for dinner. Mostly though, the strays looked to be on their own.
A mom and her kittens hung out in a wood box on the side of a boat garage. The mom was a Calico, and it was very obvious from one of the bright white kittens what sort of man the dad had been. Mom-cat was shy and protective of her litter, so I couldn’t get too close. Sadly, a week later someone had filled the woodbox they’d been squatting in with wood, so the family had to move out and I didn’t see them again.
Strays have rough, dangerous lives, especially in the vulnerable and naive kitten stage. I was very depressed when I saw a kitten that didn’t make it lying on a sidewalk one night. Cars, cold, malnutrition; it’s a miracle that so many do survive the obstacles to become adults.
Unlike in California, in Beppu there didn’t appear to be active spay and neuter programs to stem the stray cat population. As charming as it was to pet friendly strays while I explored town, they shouldn’t be fending for themselves between busy streets and alleyways. I don’t know anything about local policies or the economic situation—I can only say what I observed for two short months—but I hope there is change in the future.
On a side note, I didn’t see a single stray dog. The dogs I did see (mostly shibainu) played in the parks with their owners.