We visited Mount Godaisan on May 1st, after being contacted for the second time in the past year about the stray cat situation in the area. Diane, an American woman visiting Japan, contacted us in April and we decided to take the 3 hour drive out to Kochi.
On the drive up the mountain we were able to see colonies of cats in different areas and we were even luckier to find a woman feeding the cats from a car. We learned that, in fact, there a four people who go up the mountain to feed every day and they are more than happy to co-operate with us to trap and neuter the 50 or so cats in the area. With recent contacts in Kochi Prefecture, we have been able to gather some volunteers and to find a Vet in the area who will do the operations at high-volume (10 cats a day) and low-cost (11,000 yen for females and 5,000 yen for males). This project will cost us roughly 400,000 yen ($4000) and with our tight budget we are looking for any support you can offer.
Last year (June 2009) I was visiting my daughter who is teaching in Kochi City on the island of Shikoku, Japan. While hiking on Godaisan Mountain / Chikurinji Temple, a popular tourist destination of Kochi, we found several groups of cats living in various areas on the mountain. As we walked up the trail to the temple, it was difficult to reconcile the rich, lush, serene landscape and spiritual historical temples with the apparent neglect of animals that were once a companion to man. It was heart wrenching to see a nest of kittens huddled in the crotch of a tree as it towered over a hillside just above a busy road, and another pregnant cat sunning on a statue base, knowing well that their futures, mothers and young ones, would not bode well.
Though we do have our share our abandoned cats in Buffalo, New York, I had never experienced so many in one area before. I was glad to see that there were some kind-hearted community members feeding the cats in spite of the posted park signs. Aside from the dangerous road traffic, the mountain is an idyllic place for the cats to live out their lives, though a TNR program is desperately needed.
Last summer, I had contacted ARK of Kansai Osaka Japan in an effort to get some intervention for the temple cats. I was not successful - they had no one in the area and had no funds to divert. When I returned to Kochi City for the second time in April, I remembered ARK referring to an animal rescue organization in Tokushima which is located several hours to the east of Kochi.
I met with Susan Mercer of HEART Tokushima on May 1, 2010 - May Day. On arriving to Godaisan, she happened upon one of the feeders and learned that the colony was about 50 cats. Susan, along with her group gathered information from area veterinarians on costs and logistics of TNR. May Day is a day of many cultural celebrations - a celebration of Spring, a day of political protests, a neopagan festival, a saint's feast day, and a day for organized labor. The day was significant for me in that, like Spring, I felt hopeful that a new, positive force for the temple cats was beginning. I received a May Day basket as well - a box of 4 abandoned kittens, two white and two black. As we were leaving, my daughter and I discovered them softly mewing in a box amidst an ivy covered clearing just off a parking area. Fortunately, I was able to get them to Susan and her group who were meeting with the temple director and had not left as yet.
I have learned that the current mindset of too many people is that companion animals are disposable - use them and toss them away. Through organizations like HEART, this can change.