Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japanese Celebrity Cats after the Tsunami

I do not know anyone from Japan. The emotional impact of watching videos of the tsunami wave consuming whole cities would be greater had I visited that country and made some friends there. While I really feel condolences towards everyone affected and follow the news about rescue operations, the extent by which it has touched my everyday life has remained small - I have to think about my school homework and other things.

I, like millions of others, look at pictures of cute cats on the Internet. There is nothing to be embarrassed about - everyone does it! Even girls do it! There are even some celebrity cats that have their own fan pages on Facebook, blogs and there have been photo books published of their pictures. They have quite a following.

Several of these celebrity cats come from Japan: Maru, Shironeko, Pokke and others. I am not trying to give an extensive list here, merely commenting on a couple of them.

Maru is a very playful Scottish Fold male cat. Videos of him playing with and in cardboard boxes are hugely popular and books and dvd's of his adventures have been published. Maru's owner has already posted a statement in Maru's blog, saying that the cat is alright, though his carrying case was prepared for possible evacuation.

Pokke is another famous Scottish Fold cat, often pictured playing and known for his big eyes. A recent post in Pokke's blog confirms that Pokke is OK, though he was really scared during the earthquake.

Moire is better known as the Ninja Cat (who comes closer without moving). She is a hybrid of several breeds and her mother was a stray cat. In her blog there is a link to a video at YouTube where the cat is sitting comfortably on a bed after the earthquake and tsunami.

Shironeko, also known as the most content and relaxed cat on Earth, is a plump-looking Turkish van who turned 9 years old four days ago. His blog and YouTube channel are full of photos and videos of this incredible relaxed cat and his feline friends sleeping and posing with different fruit and other objects. Unfortunately, Shironeko and his family live in the tsunami affected area and their status is unknown at the time.

It has also been reported that Tashiro-jima, better known as the Cat Islandmay have been submerged by the tsunami, lying very close to the epicenter. The 100 (human) residents of the island have not been contacted after the catastrophe. The island is known for its large population of friendly cats roaming freely around the island.

There has also been some concern about the situation on the Iriomote Island, which is the only habitat for the critically endangered Iriomote Cat, which is the most endangered cat species in the world.

Why do I care? Thousands of people have perished in Japan and they are still struggling to get a nuclear power plant in control. The net is full of desperate messages, news of destruction, human distress. Shouldn't the fate of some pets be irrelevant in this context?

Once again, why do humans keep pets? Why do they look at cute cat photos on the Internet? Among other things, they comfort us. When we are stressed, worried and tired, seeing a content, purring cat can make you feel much better, knowing that some living creature is very content with its life. A feline friend is still a friend even if its communications consists of meowing, purring and clawing, a friend that you come to know and love. Shironeko's photos are a reminder of a life without worries, but companionship of friends, safe adventures, sleeping and eating. A life without jobs, paychecks, debt, studies... or earthquakes and tsunamis.

Do not take away the naïve, worriless fantasy world of Shironeko and the others. We need it.


  1. Mikko--thank you for your beautiful commentary. I cannot help but be concerned about all the wonderful cat loving reporters I had the good fortune to meet when Scarlett was alive. She was/is a cultural hero there and we hosted many reporters (TV, magazines, books) who did stories on Scarlett. She was also the subject of a Kamishibai. This is a children's book in which the story is told on large cards. These people were so wonderful, and in the Japanese tradition, brought small gifts when they came to the house. I think of them now and I want to cry.


    During the previous major earthquake, Shironeko's family was quick to signal that they are OK. This time it could be a power outage or something worse.


    It seems that the Cat Island is alright, but no new info about the status of Shironeko.

  4. An update on Shiro. They are reported to be safe!