But filling it out it will make you sentimental!

The hardest thing about living with pets is that one day the time will come when we have to say goodbye to them. Pet loss can seriously affect people, and the grief that comes with it can hide within even a busy everyday life. But we might be overlooking something important: one day, we will die, too, and then what will happen to our pets?

There’s a product that’s quietly gaining popularity among Japanese cat owners called the Neko Help Techo. It looks similar to a health record book, where you might record your prescriptions or your and your child’s health after childbirth. It’s designed to be kept with you, in your bag or somewhere obvious in your car so that, if you happen to meet with an accident that renders you unconscious or unable to express your intentions, it will allow people to know that you have a cat (or cats) at home that need(s) to be taken care of.

Our Japanese-language reporter Saya Togashi owns two beautiful ginger tabbies, whom she loves dearly. She has automatic feeders and smart electronics in her home, so if anything should happen to her, her cats could survive on their own for a while. But cats, though often said to be indifferent to humans, actually return their owners’ love in spades. They also are far more patient than humans could ever be. Saya’s cats, for example, would wait endlessly at the window for Saya to come home, and that’s a thought Saya simply couldn’t stand.

▼ Even though they scattered to the winds when she became overcome with emotion at the thought and tried to snuggle her cats.

So Saya decided to buy and fill in the Neko Help Techo right away, just in case, but right off the bat, she encountered a hurdle. Her cats are rescues, so she has no idea what their exact age and birthdays are. She could guess, but her guess could be wrong. Since stray cats often can’t get enough nutrients, they don’t often grow as large as household cats. Saya had a case where she rescued a cat so small she thought it was a young cat, but it turned out to be a mature cat over 10 years old.

Still, realizing this was like a domestic suspense drama. It gave her a cold feeling to realize that she knew nothing about the age of the furry housemates she’s been living with.

Well, she didn’t have a choice, so she skipped the birthday part. Under “breed”, she wrote “mixed”. Since she didn’t have any information on her cats’ pedigrees, she couldn’t even be sure of that, though she was reasonably confident they weren’t any kind of pure breed.

Apparently, cats also have a registration number, though Saya had no idea if her cats did. Maybe she could ask for a certificate from somewhere?

She also didn’t know the weight of each cat, but that was an easy problem to solve. She could hold a cat and stand on a scale, then subtract her own weight from the one that came up.

What she could easily input was the medical and vaccination records. It really was like a mother and child health book! Those who don’t have pets might think it’s silly to fill out such a thing for a cat, but for Saya it was very important.

The last half of the book had pages for recording her cats’ daily health, such as their appetite and bowel movements, and if they went to the vet for treatment or not. Here, too, Saya encountered a hurdle. If you own multiple cats, you can’t distinguish whose work in the litter box is whose, or even, in some cases, when it was done. (Saya has always thought it would be nice if each cat’s poop smelled different, but alas, we are not so privileged.).

What’s more, though Saya has the best intentions and tries to get her cats to regular vet appointments, taking rescue cats to the vet is a nightmare. Her cats absolutely hate it; so much so that Saya is convinced they’d be happy to die before they allowed her to shove them into a carrier. She never comes away unscathed. While looking at old documents in her effort to fill in the Techo, Saya came across notes from her cats’ original rescuers, noting that “They hate going to the vet” and “They become aggressive at the vet.” Clearly, it was a problem even before she had them.

▼ The look on this face says, “Just try it, missy.”

But Saya knows that these are only excuses. She has allowed herself to be lenient on her stubborn children and wasn’t diligent about keeping up with their health. She will do better.

The last few pages of the book are empty pages where you can attach test results or otherwise use as you please. Saya used these pages to dictate what kind of treatment she would have liked for her cats if something should happen to them. Even then, she wavered. In the past, she owned a cat who, in its older years, had to be given a constant IV drip, because if his stomach was empty for too long, his liver lipidosis would become dangerous to him. Her experience with that cat’s treatment made her think more closely about the value of extending life versus ending suffering.

▼ “If he doesn’t want to eat…”

On the first page, by the way, there’s a place to write the information for an emergency contact. After all, the person who might find this memo book won’t likely be able to come to your house themselves.

Saya decided to choose someone who would be kind to her kitties. Someone who wouldn’t mind when they tore off the wallpaper, or wouldn’t be bothered by all their expensive things or the half-dead cicadas they dragged in. She’d like, at the very least, someone who would remember to refill the automatic feeder. But she’d prefer a loving owner. Would she be able to pick someone who would dote on them as she does…?

Once again overcome by emotion, Saya reached out to pet her beloved cats…who once again fled from her like the plague.

“So cold,” Saya sniffed, but her love did not abate.

In any case, this handy memo book provides an opportunity to collect all of the important information you never really think about to keep on hand for emergencies. Each memo book has room for one cat’s information, so if you have more than one cat, you’ll want to get one for each. There is also a version for dogs as well as exotic animals like rabbits and birds, and there are also stickers you can put on your car that say, “I own a cat”, so if you were ever to meet with an accident, it will let people know someone is waiting for you at home.

If you’re someone who likes to be prepared for every eventuality, these might be something to look into! The Neko Help Techo, in particular, can be found on the Helmo online shop for 850 yen (US$6.13).

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[ Read in Japanese ]