Docile Japanese cats

Are Japanese cats more docile than other cats? Before having lived in Japan, I would have thought this to be a ridiculous question. Surely cats are the same everywhere? Cats are not subject to cultural differences, are they? But living in Japan, surprises are never far off. I have seen Japanese cats tolerate things from their owners that most Belgian cats would never stand for. There was that one time when I saw someone walking a cat on a leash in Okinawa. And then there was the time when I was walking through crowded Asuke village in Toyota City at the start of autumn leaves season and saw a guy having a walk while holding his cat. Can you imagine visiting a festival and bringing your cat along? I am not sure how the cat felt about it, but in any case it wasn’t trying to escape, which is saying something.

docile Japanese cats

Never mind me, just having a walk with my cat during a crowded festival

docile Japanese cats

The cat looks slightly dubious but remains calm nonetheless

docile Japanese cats

If you ask nicely, most people in Japan are more than willing to pose for a picture. Too bad my Japanese wasn’t good enough to ask him why he was carrying this cat around.

I am not sure why these Japanese cats are so docile. Are these just exceptions and are most Japanese cats in fact as ferocious as Belgian ones? Or were these particular cats treated like that from when they were kittens and have grown used to it? Or, the far more interesting possibility, are these cats somehow influenced by the calm personal energy that, in my opinion and compared to Belgium, is typical for Japanese culture? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts in the comments section!

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11 thoughts on “Docile Japanese cats

  1. ここにどうして猫を運びますか。
    Koko ni doushite neko wo hokobimasuka?
    Why are you holding a cat here?

    The above for future reference- because now I really want to know why he was holding a cat as well….

  2. There are some cat-related Japanese phrases:

    neko no te mo karitai = I am so busy I could use even the help of a cat.
    neko no hitai hodono hirosa = as narrow as the forhead of a cat
    karitekita neko = as quiet as a borrowed cat
    neko ni koban = as wasteful as giving a gold coin to a cat
    neko nadegoe = a wheedling voice like the purr of a cat
    neko kawaigari = doting on someone like on a cat
    neko kaburi = behaving like a gentle cat to hide one’s true character
    neko baba = hiding one’s theft like a cat covering its droppings
    neko jita = cat’s tongue (unable to take hot food)
    neko ze = hunched like a cat’s back

    Are they unique to Japan? I’m sure there are western equivalences for some of these Japanese phrases.

    • I only knew ‘neko jita’. Thanks for sharing these Yasu-san. I do think the Japanese have a special connection with cats. I’m trying to think of Dutch phrases with cats.

      de kat bij de melk zetten/ putting the cat near the milk = to tempt someone
      de kat de bel aanbinden/ to tie a bell to a cat’s neck = to bring up to a sensitive topic or to start a difficult endeavour
      maak dat de kat wijs/ go tell that to the cat = i don’t believe you
      zijn kat sturen/ to send his cat = not showing up
      een kat in een zak kopen/ to buy a cat in a bag = to end up being cheated
      dat is geen kattepis/ that is no cat’s piss = that’s a serious matter
      dat is geen katje om zonder handschoenen aan te pakken/ that is no cat to handle without gloves = a difficult person, often said of women

      Now that I start thinking about it, there are many more. So maybe cats are inspiring sayings everywhere 🙂

  3. So I am on holiday in Sofia, Bulgaria this week. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived was that there are so many stray cats. Of different varieties, too. It’s just like Tokyo. Cats everywhere. And some of them try to run and hide as soon as you spot them but others don’t mind staying around and be cuddled (though I never dare).

    I think it just may have to do with what kind of environment they are in. I later figured out why there are so many more stray cats in close proximity to my apartment than in other neighborhoods. There is one old lady (they are always old it seems) that feeds the cats on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had names for all of them.

    Anyway, cats are cats and they do what they please but they know who feeds them and that’s probably the most important thing? I can be wrong. I have never had a cat or any other pet.

    • I always love seeing the pictures of cats on your blog.

      We have old ladies feeding stray cats in Belgium as well. In the town where I live, the cat ladies even organized into a non-profit organization to help stray cats and to neuter them and find new homes for the kittens.

      I have always had cats myself. My experience is indeed that cats do as they please and that the only way to get them to do what you want is to ask nicely and hope for the best. My cats could be very affectionate, and loyal too, but only if their personal autonomy was respected. I guess that pretty much comes down to not forcing the cat and letting it preserve its dignity.

      So I cannot imagine walking around with any of the cats I’ve had in the same way as the guy in the pictures is doing. They would wriggle to get free and run away, maybe even scratching or biting me in the process. That is why I was so amazed whenever I saw the things that I described in this post.

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