380 yen per month gets your choice of cat, but what is the real cost?

15 December was the launch day for Neko Hodai, which some observers are calling a cat subscription service. In other words, for a monthly fee of 380 yen (US$2.86) you can acquire a cat of your choice from a participating shelter and also freely return the said cat to the same or another participating shelter.

Once news of the new service spread, many cat lovers online were immediately appalled at the idea of temporarily owning a cat and then returning it, considering such a system tantamount to animal abuse. Comments such as the ones below argue that, like many animals, cats undergo a great deal of stress when being relocated to a new environment and shouldn’t be seen as an object that can be easily shipped around.

“That’s disgusting.”
“That’s insane.”
“Cats can die from the stress of moving. This is really dark.”
“Poor things… Treated like an object.”
“Is this even legal?”
“Cats should be given a home, not passed around with all the stress that comes with it.”
“You shouldn’t subscribe to a service in order to receive a living thing.”

A lot of the anger was directed at the way the service is marketed as well. The name Neko Hodai uses the term “hodai” which is often found in words like “tabehodai” (“all-you-can-eat”) or “nomihodai” (“all-you-can-drink”). These unlimited food and drink offers elicit a sense of at-will consumption with reckless abandon that is pretty much the antithesis of caring pet ownership.

However, Nora Neko Bank, the Tokyo-based company that runs Neko Hodai, explains on their website that the service is mainly aimed at elderly people who are capable of providing good homes and in need of companionship, but worry about what might happen should they pass away before their cat. In this way, Neko Hodai acts as a sort of intermediary between owners and shelters should a cat suddenly find itself no longer with an owner.

Beside that application of the service, some others online argued that cat abuse and neglect has been going on long before Neko Hodai existed and there is a possibility that the service could help reduce these problems overall by allowing unsuitable owners to easily offload their cats safely.

“Some people who don’t get along with their pet end up abandoning them. Returning them to a shelter seems more conscientious at least.”
“Being able to return them easily could prevent some people from abusing their pets.”
“There aren’t enough people to take care of all these sheltered cats. This could help take the burden off the shelters.”
“The reality is most of these cats will never get a home. And it seems like the price is so low, they’re not trying to make money off it.”

Neko Hodai has no additional charges for accepting or returning cats and they are all spayed or neutered at Nora Neko Bank’s expense as well. It’s hard to say for sure without a closer look at how they operate, but it appears that Neko Hodai is operating more as a public service than a purely profit driven company.

It’s definitely not an ideal solution to an ever-present problem, but if handled with the utmost care the core concept seems like it could potentially help to reduce the amount of animal abuse out there.

Source: Neko Hodai, Sanspo, Itai News
Top image: Pakutaso
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!