How it's like to keep pets in Japan

12 Jan

pino 2009-1

Some time ago, I had a request from one of my blog readers if I can write about how it’s like to keep pets in Japan. Speaking of pets, dog and cat are the most popular pets in Japan. As one of dog owners, let me write about how it’s like to keep a dog. Unlike U.S or Europe, in Japan small dogs are more popular, which I think is because many of us have to live in a small apartment house with or without even a small garden especially at a central area of Japan because land costs very high. We usually keep dogs inside house. (Old type of apartments whether they’re purchased or rented, prohibit the residence from keeping pets inside the house. But nowadays most of the new apartment houses promote as “Pet OK!”)

As you may already know, I keep a Shih Tzu female dog of 1.5 years old named Pino, who I call “Pi-chan”. Now when I look around, it’s not too much to say that those who keep dogs are either old people who have retired from work, or full-time housewives or moms. Sometimes working women keep dogs like chihuahua at home. But in that case, the dogs have to stay alone at home until the owners come back from work late at night, depending on jobs.

I wanted to keep a dog of my own for a long time, but with full-time work outside it was totally impossible. I thought l should be responsible not to make him or her sad being left alone most of the time. I was working overtime daily and the weekends were gone while finishing laundry, cooking and things I couldn’t do during weekdays. It was since I shifted to freelance work, part-time working from home that I could finally keep a dog. That’s Pi-chan!

I was committed that I should devote my time and effort to my dog once I decide to keep her. While many of us buy pets at pet shop, my husband and I didn’t because we cared about health so much.

Japanese people buy pets from following places:

1)pet shop
It’s easy to access and find what you look for, but puppies are stressed under bad circumstances and sometimes not very hygienic, according to the environment and the management of stores. Many of the puppies can have some kind of physical or mental problems. There’s no way to know the genetic characteristics of the puppy.

In Japan it’s still allowed to sell pets in a showcase, and the sad story is always behind there. Pets that are left without purchased may become sick and eventually they can be killed. It’s not that I actually saw what’s going on at the backyard, but that’s what I hear. (>_<)
In fact, according to what I studied when I was looking for a puppy, most of pet shops sell puppies of too young ages. They are in most cases separated from their mom without waiting enough time because being small looks more kawaii and sells well. (That's why tea cup size is very popular here in Japan, and we may not pay attention to the downside of it. Chances are that too small dogs are very weak and easy to get injured. )This results in mental instability and physical problems.

2)online shop
Thanks to internet, we can choose a puppy from any online shops regardless of how far it is from our places. They will air ship the puppy to us. But we will have to decide only from photos and videos when the breeder is not in the same area. Sometimes I believe there's a thing we can sense only when we meet but not from photos, etc.

3)online auction
I feel very strange against selling pets like dog at online auction, but we can get it cheaper and easily there. However chances are that they are the left ones from pet shops and it’s possible they have sickness or any kind of problems.

We can see the family and the environment around the puppy. Puppies can stay enough time with his or her family. But we have no idea which breeder is good or bad. Even if we find a good one, usually breeders live somewhere far from cities.

Some people take dogs from shelter, but I don’t think it’s very popular yet in this country.

Once we keep a dog inside house, there are some problems that we may not have to face if we live outside Japan. In Japan, as you know, we take off shoes inside house. This means, every time I walk my dog, I have to wash her legs and dry them by hair dryer. This is inevitable task everyday. If I walk her twice a day, I have to do this twice! Walking an hour with my dog is OK to me, but this task is indeed tiresome! I cannot walk her twice a day. Also Tatami room turns terrible because of her nails! (T_T)

Pet industry in Japan is huge. Japan suffers from low birthlate but pets are increasing. It’s said the number of pets are now larger than infants and small kids. We have so many pet (especially dogs and cats) related services such as pet hotel to which we entrust pets while we leave house for vacation, pet salon for grooming, pet kindergarten for training, pet insurance, pet funeral, pet clothes, birthday cake for pet, hotel, restaurant and cafe where we can stay with pet, and more and more…

pino 2009-2 pino 2010-1

I was skeptical before when I heard pet owners say that pet is a member of family because I thought they just exaggerated. But now I can feel that they really meant that! XD Do you keep pets? Is pet market as big as Japan in your country? Do you have pet shops that sell puppies or kittens in your country?


48 Responses to “How it's like to keep pets in Japan”

  1. Gizmo January 12, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    At least where I live, most puppies come either from people's dogs having litters or from breeders. But like Japan, there are some breeders that do not treat their animals well. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    Most people get kittens from either other cat's litters or from shelters. People are very interested in adopting pets others might have abandoned at a shelter, so that is good! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • kirin January 13, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

      It's good that more people are paying attention to adopting pets from a shelter. As for myself, I want to raise pets from baby age, but instead, when I make a donation, I want to support animals and those who work for shelters.

  2. bloomzy January 12, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    I have a pet, a black Labrador puppy. I think he's a little big compared to the small dogs I have seen frequent the streets of Tokyo.
    I think pets are important in the U.K. but we don't have pet stores like in Japan. I visited a pet store in Roppongi, and fell in love with all the puppies and kittens lining the walls in their cages. I thought it was so cute, and nice to see the dogs. Although they seemed very expensive compared to pets in the U.K.

    • kirin January 13, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

      Pets at pet shops look so adorable, but you'll never know how much they are stressed in the small cages like that, besides they are separated from their moms when they still need them. More often than not puppies sold at pet shops in Japan are too young, because young is small, and small is kawaii, and kawaii is selling well. But they sometimes have serious problems.

      • bloomzy January 14, 2010 at 9:18 am #

        Those were my thoughts exactly. My boyfriend and I commented on how tiny and cute they were, but that it seemed likely that they were separated from their mothers at a very young age. This is something I know well as I just got a new puppy (as mentioned above) and we made sure that it stayed with its mother until it was old enough to leave.

      • kirin January 15, 2010 at 12:20 am #

        Good, you confirmed that before purchase! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. charlotte sternskog January 12, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    My name is Charlotte, I have two dogs, one yorkshireterrier who is 10 years and one chihuahua who is five. They are m babies and i have so much things (cute beds, clothes, carseat etc) for them. I just love kawaii!!! I am 47 years but my whole life- i loved things like that because it makes me happy – and now i have learned that there is a word for it.
    I Sweden we buy dogs at kennels and since the internet started thatล› a huge market.. But you always go and pick up the dog and you can find out if someone is not serious. Do you have special toilets for the dogs – like indoor cats? I work and the dogs are home from 08.00 – 15-16.00 – without problem. It feels better that they are two bu they sleep the whole day. It would be fun to hear from you!! Charlotte in Malmö in Sweden

    • kirin January 13, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

      Kawaii is Japanese word but now it's recognized by English speaking people gradually. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      We consulted a professional agency to find the most suitable dog that matches our life and requirements, and Pi-chan was selected and presented to us. We use in-house toilet for the dogs kept inside house. So we have to teach where to do while dogs are young. In early times, Pi-chan made mistakes often, but nowadays she doesn't any more.

      Most of us will have to do overtime work, say 2 hours everyday in average. (Work sharing is not popular in Japan at all, and instead each person works long hours, sacrificing his life. In fact my hubby leaves home at 7:15 in the morning and comes back at 9 or sometimes 10 at night.) Also there are many people who spend an hour or hour and half for commuting from home to the working place. Considering this, I think in Japan those who keep dog(s) and working full-time in Tokyo can only keep dogs like Chihuahua who don't always need everyday walking outside home because of tiny body.

  4. Amanda January 13, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    You have such a cute doggy. ^_^ I had no idea that Japanese people wash their pet's paws after a walk! That's really interesting, I'm going to tell my friends!

    I've seen a couple of tv shows about how many abandoned pets there are in Japan. I think it's really sad and it's a pity that people don't want to get their pets from animal shelters. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Next time I go to Japan I hope I meet someone with a pet hamster. I'd really like to hold one, they're so cute. ^_^ Hamsters aren't allowed in Australia.

    • kirin January 13, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

      I know your dog is also very cute! My Pi-chan is not as smart as your dog, according to the test that you introduced in the Youtube video. hahaha…^_^;

      Hamsters are not allowed there!? I know Australia is very strict at quarantine, but why hamsters…@_@;
      When I was a kid, I kept many pets including birds, hamsters, a rabbit, a dog…. if I were not this busy, and my house were large enough, I want to have a big family with various pets. XD

  5. tolex January 13, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    so cute

  6. Sparklewolfie January 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    I have my bunny Akito! And before him I had my guinea pig Bear! I think the pet industry in America is cleaner and more organized, so pet stores are actually a good place to get pets because they are not separated too early, they are kept clean, and sometimes they can have their shots already too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Usually I see people with medium to big size dogs as pets, not so much the mini mini type like celebrities like to carry in their purses. That just seems dumb to use an animal as a fashion accessory ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But in Japan there is little space, so I suppose a small pet is more useful!

    In Taiwan, I saw pet shops and also stalls in the night market selling pets. There were some interesting ones like a hedehog or a sugar glider, but the puppies and kitties all looked too young to be separated from their parents, and the conditions were all very flithy. Also, all the puppies and kitties were kept in wire-bottom cages, which is very very very very bad for their tender feet!! But I suppose that the seller did not want to clean up after the puppy or kitty, so just let the dropping fall through wire-bottom cages. It will give the babies damage to their feet though ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • kirin January 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

      Most of Japanese pet shops are clean and look good, but I was surprised when I found that the name of deseases was listed at every puppy in the cage at one of the most well-known pet chain store in Tokyo. It was not a big desease, but it'd need surgery in the future if the condition went worse. The pet shop listed it so that the customers should agree to that when they purchase.

      I've never been or seen Taiwan, but when I went to Shenzhen, China from Hong Kong by train, I found many Shi Tzu dogs were sold at small places which I was not sure if legal or not.

      • Sparklewolfie January 13, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

        That is sad! A lot of people do not think of the animal well-being when they sell them ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

        My uncle's family lives in Shenzhen :3 I want to go visit there! I have never been to the mainland before O.o Did the Shi Tzu dogs have clean places? I think that I would be wary of buying dogs and cats in Asia unless it is a big, clean, place… my bunny is probably more easier!

      • kirin January 14, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

        I have to say that many small pet shops in Shenzhen looked not clean. That's why I wonder if they are legal or not. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But that's over 10 years ago, and the situation might be different by now… I agree with you we had better choose the right place when we buy pets.

  7. Jessy January 14, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    now you answered my question why most people have small dogs.
    I have a miniature dachsund with short hair. I call her muchi.
    It's odd to hear about 'no pets allowed' because in my neighborhood, most of my neighbors have dogs and maybe a few cats here and there…

    but now that you mention,
    how does the pet insurance work? i always thought u.s. should have insurance for pets. surgeries are so expensive!!!
    my dog is a lot older now, so we always run into a health problem > .>

    i must say though, from what sparklewolfie said,
    in u.s. pet stores are clean, but the puppies still come from puppie mills. there is a middle person who works for puppy mills and tries to sell them to the stores. most puppy mills are located in farm states, so they are not seen from people.
    the number of people who are aware is still small, compared to people who buy from pet stores. but, hopefully more people will be aware.

    • kirin January 15, 2010 at 12:09 am #

      I pay about USD300 annually for my dog insurance. But it's safer because as you say, it's very expensive to have my dog got treatments at veterinary care. Once my Pi-chan had to stay over a dog hospital to receive intravenous drip injection because she lost blood-sugar count so badly, and it cost us 36000yen (about USD360) but since this was the time when she was new to our place (She was stressed under a new environment and she stopped eating at all then.), the insurance covered 100%. Now the special period is over and the insurance only covers 50% but since then my Pi-chan has never been sick or injured.

      In Japan, pet shops get puppies from the market place where breeders (I have no idea the quality of the breeders) sell too young puppies.

  8. Cath January 14, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    My husband wanted a puppy after we got married but unfortunately my skin is too sensitive to keep pets. Mm… but my little girl is born in the year of the Dog though. Haha… Is there a government body looking after the welfare of animals in Japan?

    • kirin January 15, 2010 at 12:19 am #

      Our government has a public health centre where they accomodate abandoned dogs or cats, but they have to kill them finally if no one comes to pick them up. I heard the sad story that they let those animals into a room and fill the room with gas to kill them altogether at once… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Many non-profit groups and some organizations try to help these animals setting up shelters and taking care of them but the number of dogs and cats are maybe too large for us to catch up…

      It's so sad once we look at what's going on..(..>_<..)

  9. Caitlin January 15, 2010 at 4:15 am #

    Aw, I love your dog!

    I live in an apartment so we have to walk our two dogs twice a day to give them exercise. There is a local pet shop very close to my house that treats their puppies very ethically and keeps them well-loved. We bought both of our dogs there and didn't have any problems. I would never buy a puppy from a mall where they mistreated the animals, that makes me so sad! You can just tell by looking in their eyes.

    I have never heard of online shopping for a dog! That is so interesting. Are the puppies okay on the air planes? I would think that would be scary.

    • kirin January 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

      I actually felt the same way as you think, if it's OK to air ship a small puppy. Maybe I was too nervous then. Many people seem to buy puppies in that way, according to what I've seen.

  10. Tiffany Harvey January 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    ใดใƒผใกใ‚ƒใ‚“ is so cute! Perhaps you could get her some little shoes that she can wear when she goes out for a walk, and then you would only have to take those instead of washing her feet? Do you have ็Šฌใฎ้ด in Japan? I wouldn't say they are at all common in the US, but I know they exist!

    • kirin January 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

      ใ‚ใ‚ŠใŒใจใ†๏ผพ๏ผพใดใƒผใกใ‚ƒใ‚“ใŒใ‹ใ‚ใ„ใ„ใฎใฏ่ฆชใƒใ‚ซ(I am maybe a doting mother to her)ใ€€ใ ใจๆ€ใฃใฆใ„ใพใ™ใŒใ€ใปใ‹ใฎไบบใ‹ใ‚‰ใ‚‚ใปใ‚ใฆใ‚‚ใ‚‰ใˆใ‚‹ใฎใฏใ†ใ‚Œใ—ใ„ใงใ™ใ€‚

      Actually I bought shoes for her but when she wears them, she doesn't walk properly. She hobbles when she walks and it's even dangerous…so I gave up. The tiny dog shoes cost more then ours but they are now kept in a box and never used since then…:( If she walks with those on, I'd love to walk her twice a day but I have no time to do all these washing and drying twice a day everyday. (Too much wash may not be good for her, either, I guess…) This also means I cannot have another dog besides Pi-chan. (@_@;)

  11. Shayna January 18, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    Pi-chan is so kawaii~~~
    snap more cute pictures of her.. hahha

    btw, in my country, alot of ppl keep pets. Even my house, we have about 12 cats.. Can you believe that? Hahhahahah.
    That’s because my mum and sisters and brothers love cats… All of them do, except me and my dad. I hate all the cats in my house ๐Ÿ˜›

    I used to have a german shephard, but he died 10 years ago. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • kirin January 18, 2010 at 6:56 am #

      Thank you for your comment to Pi-chan. I'll share more photos of hers from time to time. You know I was wondering sometimes it's only an owner who is deeply in love with her pets, and what she shares with people may bore them.

      BTW, 12 cats? That's…wow…((0_0))
      One thing I am so scared of is that I have to say bye to Pi-chan within 10-15 years. When I think of the day, I feel like crying. (T_T) I know that day will come, and I just hope I will not get mental sick under depression. I never thought I love her so much.

  12. Maria January 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    You need a mud room Kirin ๐Ÿ™‚ All newer houses have such second entrances in Finland. Very handy when you have children or pets. Hmm..I'll explain what kind of room that's a room that has tiled floor and a water tap, often it is also used as the laundry room. So when it's muddy outside you can send your children out in rain clothes and when they come in you can just clean the clothes without making a mess in the whole house or at the main entrance. In Finland we usually use just socks indoor. It is considered dirty to use outdoor shoes indoors.

    I don't have any pets because my husband doesn't want to have pets.
    I think pet market is a big business here. Many people have cats or dogs. Here pet shops don't sell dogs or cats but they do sell bunnies, guinea pigs, birds, hamsters, rats and other small critters. Some even have snakes and turtles available. Most people buy their dogs from breeders and their cats from shelters. Not many dogs end up in animal shelters because dogs are expensive (from 700€ to 1800€) but there are a lot of cats living in shelters because they are very cheap. Some people buy cats for their children to take care of and then lose interest in them.

    • kirin January 28, 2010 at 11:34 am #

      A mud room is a good idea. But Pi-chan (my dog) would feel sad if she has to stay there alone. She always follows me everywhere I go. When I go to a bathroom, she is waiting for me at the door. I know this is because I spoiled her. :p

      The price of dog in Japan is almost the same as the one you mentioned in euro. I've never paid attention to cats, and I don't know how expensive they are.

      • Maria January 29, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

        Ah, not to keep her there. Just clean her paws there. The rooms are designed so that cleaning would be easy, maybe lift her on metal counter that also has a drain and tap, so that you wouldn't need to crouch or be in uncomfortable position when you wash her paws. My brother-in-law has that in their mud room. His wife is always telling me how handy it is ๐Ÿ™‚

      • kirin January 31, 2010 at 2:18 am #

        That's the ideal way!! I'd love to have a mud room if only I have a chance to hire an architect to design our house from scratch! I am always dreaming to plan the interior of our house by ourselves. But if I want to make this happen, Tokyo is way too expensive for us to afford a house. Thank you for telling me various things. You make my dream bigger, hahaha. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Nadine February 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    I live in Louisville, KY, USA, and my fiance and I have 2 cats, one he found outside, and one we got from a shelter. We also have 2 rabbits, I took them from people that didn't want them anymore. They all live inside. I'd like to have a dog, I really love Shiba Inus and Pit Bulls ^_^

    • kirin February 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

      Wow, you have so many pets at a time! Cool~~!! I'm interested in such situation. It will be fun~ โค

    • kirin February 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

      Wow, you have so many pets at a time! Cool~~!! I'm interested in such situation. It will be fun~ โค

  14. Crysta June 2, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    I love this post – very informative and your dog is so cute!
    I have a little 6 pound dog that we keep indoors. Here in Canada we take our shoes off as well when we come in the house, so I have a towel by the door to wipe my dog's feet. We also have an outdoor cat (he isn't friendly and rarely comes inside) and an indoor bunny as well ๐Ÿ™‚
    Bad breeders can go to jail here but there are still lots out there. It makes me sad. I like to visit the shelter once in awhile to say hi to the animals.

    • kirin June 3, 2010 at 12:46 am #

      It must be so fun to live with so many pets. If I lived in a bigger house, (not an apartment) and if I can spend more time for animals, I'd love to have another dog or two, birds, rabbit, and etc. besides Pi-chan. :p

  15. kati August 13, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    hi! i've just moved to tokyo with my mittelschhauzer and i have no idea where to buy medium size dog food… please help!

    • kirin August 14, 2010 at 12:30 am #

      The best thing I would suggest is to go to vet to have your dog checked up and ask the vet for the best foods, because there are dozens of doog foods available in Japan. Dog foods should not be chosen as "food for mid size dog". Some dogs have sensitive skin, some are fat, some don't digest well, some are aged, some are castrated…so the food will differ from one to another even they are all the same mid sized dogs.

      But of course it's your choice, if you don't care that much, you can just go to "home center" (that's how it's called in Japan, which means do-it-yourself store) or disount store like Donquijote ( as they will also deal with pet foods. Pet goods stores like Pet City ( or Joker ( also have pet foods.

      Hope this helps.

      • kati August 14, 2010 at 9:54 am #

        thanks! in my home country the type of food was indeed recommended by a vet and as my dog is normal in all aspects (not fat, neither thin, neither castrated, neither has any health problems…) according to him a change of brand doesn't matter always when it's a standard dry food for medium size as for example royal canin adult medium (the one we used to).

      • kirin August 15, 2010 at 11:57 am #

        Actually I use royal canin, too. ^ ^

  16. Floor Lamp : October 28, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    the dog foods that we use are certified organic as we do not want to use those dog foods contaminated with chemicals`-;

  17. Metal Roofing : October 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    my cousin runs a local pet store and i love looking at those cute puppies that he keeps on the store,”:

    • kirin October 31, 2010 at 1:28 am #

      I see. ^ ^
      I am so much attracted by small cute puppies every time I see them, even though I already have my dog. ^ ^;

  18. Bath Towels November 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    i would usually visit pet shops because my dog and cats can eat so much pet food in one day ;.~

  19. Kyla February 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Great job explaining why it's a bad idea to get a dog from a pet shop. I always tell people it is very important to VISIT the breeder and SEE the parent dogs to be sure you're getting a dog of good quality (although, my first preference is always to adopt).

    • kirin February 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      Oh, adoption is nice. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Kei October 24, 2012 at 1:00 am #

    I am wondering how many dogs a normal apartment allows. I have two dogs, a Shiba Inu mix and a Pomeranian, as well as a cat that I want to bring. Do they normally only allow one?

    • kirin October 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      If it's a purchased or rented condo, normally 2 small dogs/cats are allowed. If it's a rented apartment, normally only 1.

  21. Kristin January 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Thank you for your post. I am moving to Yokohama in a few months and would like to bring my Shiba Inu, Kitsuko. She is currently 4 months old and 14 lbs. She will probably grow to 17lbs. I was wondering if dogs can go on the subway in Japan? I was planning to buy a carrying case or backpack, or maybe a stroller to put her in. Is this allowed?
    Thanks so much for your help!

    • kirin January 14, 2013 at 3:09 am #

      Roughly speaking, it is allowed to bring a dog to a train when the dog is inside a carry bag of which the size is under the sum of 90cm (the sum of width, depth and height) and the total weight is under 10kg. It's 270yen for JR, and the fare for your dog might be free if you take metro or bus. It depends on the transportation company. The bottom line is to carry your dog without letting her bark or hassle other people. As long as you keep quiet, it's OK. ๐Ÿ™‚

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