Pet owners must care in more than just name
Although the topic attracted scant attention, Sept. 13 was the centennial of a certain cat's death. Some readers may have guessed correctly. I am talking about the famous nameless cat that belonged to writer Natsume Soseki (1867-1916).
Of course, Soseki's celebrated work "Wagahai wa Neko de aru" (I Am a Cat) is a novel, but its feline narrator was based on a real cat. I heard that it was found dead in the morning on top of a furnace in a shed.
Soseki buried the pet in his yard and placed a haiku he had composed in its memory on a plain wooden grave marker: "Under here/ Lightning may strike/ One evening."
I don't know how many cats and dogs were kept during the late Meiji Era (1868-1912) but today, amid an unprecedented pet boom, more than 20 million are said to exist across Japan.
The pet market is said to be worth more than 1 trillion yen, making it a major industry.
But more pets means more animal deaths. I heard that pet funeral businesses also are on the rise.
Soseki simply had a favorite rickshaw operator bury his cat. A century later, companies that conduct not only funeral and cremation services for domestic animals but also provide care for people grieving for their pets have emerged. It is also proof that people are personifying their pets and treating them as partners.
When it comes to such behavior, Soseki was a pioneer. Although people tend to think he was a cat lover, it seems this was not necessarily the case.
This is also apparent from the following complaint voiced by the cat in the novel: "How little I have been respected is also clear from the fact that I have not even been named to this day."
The real cat kept by Soseki also died without a name. Perhaps it was Soseki's style not to get too close or too distant.
While the pet industry is booming, some people also abandon their animals as easily as they take off their wrist watch.
As a human, I feel ashamed of the selfishness of the owners when I think of the countless cats and dogs that are sent to gas chambers.
Now is "Be Kind to Animals Week."
At this time, I feel as though I can hear the lightning caused by nameless cats and their angry cries from beneath the ground.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 24(IHT/Asahi: September 25,2008)