Earlier this April we made our way to Fukushima to do some investigative reporting of the current conditions in the five- to ten-kilometer area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

In part 1 of this story we reported on the efforts of several animal protection groups to rescue dogs left behind by their owners. In this next part we would like to shift the focus to the cats left in the same situation.

We traveled with a rescue team formed by several animal protection groups as they visited the town of Namie and the Otaka district of Minamisoma city, both of which were devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Now, as both cities fall within the designated 20 km evacuation zone, they have become ghost towns as the nuclear crisis drags on and residents remain unable to return.

However, hundreds of cats and dogs were left behind by their masters and are in danger of both starvation and radiation poisoning so long as they remain in these cities. Namie in particular is considered to be at risk of significantly high levels of ionizing radiation, and these animals have been there, unprotected and uncared for, since the disaster on March 11th.

The team was created to rescue these animals and relocate them to shelters outside the evacuation zone. There, they are fed and looked after by volunteers until they are adopted, or their masters found.

The cats were captured using special cages that automatically close once a cat enters to eat the food placed inside. We were told these are the same cages used when capturing stray cats.

The rescue workers would set a cage, then come back in about 10 minutes to check it. We were dubious the cats would fall for the trick, but nearly every time we returned to a cage there was one more cat and no more food. With no one to feed them for weeks it’s little surprise that these starving cats would rush for food the moment they smelled it.

Once a cat was captured the worker would leave a description of the cat and a contact number at the location the cat was found in case the owner returns.

All of the rescued cats and dogs were required to go through radiation screening before they could leave the city. Luckily, every single one of the pets rescued were within safe limits.

However, though the pets were ready to be transported to Tokyo and other regions outside the evacuation area, there are still too few people willing to adopt, or even look after them temporarily. The rescue operation is being carried out by several animal protection groups, including Nekohito-kai, Animal Friendship and Noraneko Sumida; we would like to encourage anyone currently living in the Tokyo area to consider contacting one of these organizations to help in this regard.

Translation: Steven

For more on our time in Namie and Minamisoma see the following articles: