Monday 4 September 2023

Japanese islands issue ID cards to all the cats

The Amami Islands to the south of mainland Japan, are considered to be a living fossil because it is cut off from the rest of the world and has great wildlife and for that reason. The local government has decided to issue ID cards to all the cats on the islands. ID cards are already issued to their owners. This, therefore, is an extension of the scheme.

ID cards for cats on Amami Islands
ID cards for cats on Amami Islands. Image: Kazuaki Kanda.

But unlike for humans, the cats won't be getting the cards for social security and tax purposes but, instead, to ensure that they are registered and thereby improve cat ownership with the subsequent benefit of less predation on wildlife. The government wants the cat owners of these islands to keep their cats inside full-time.

A government spokesperson said that, "By issuing the card, we want to increase the number of owners who keep their cats indoors and accelerate momentum to eliminate unwanted cats". Comment: they feel that they have a cat problem and a predation on native wildlife problem it seems to me. This move seems to be a reflection of the general trend worldwide to keep domestic cats indoors full-time more often to protect wildlife. There is a greater sensitivity to the protection of wildlife in many jurisdictions in 2023.

In every country or every jurisdiction there comes a moment when the government takes steps, quite severe steps, to protect wildlife from domestic cat predation. That moment has arrived on the Amami Islands.

Feral cats have been a persistent problem on the island because they prey on the Amami rabbit which is designated a "special natural treasure" by the government. And there are other species that the government was to protect from predation.

The card issued to people is called "My Number Card". For cats it will be "Maya Nyamber Card"

This is a play on words because "nyan" means cats in the local dialect while "nyamber" is a wordplay on "nyan" which sounds a bit like the meowing of a cat.

The inspiration for this seems to have come from a very popular video published in 2011. Nyan Cat is a YouTube video uploaded in April 2011, which became an internet meme. The video merged a Japanese pop song with an animated cartoon cat with a Pop-Tart for a torso flying through space and leaving a rainbow trail behind. The video ranked at number five on the list of most viewed YouTube videos in 2011.

The card will bear the name of the cat, their address and details about their appearance such as the colour of their coat. The card will carry a photograph of the cat and an emergency contact number other than the number of the owner.

Currently around 2500 cats are registered on the island. There are approximately 1600 strays. More than 90% of domestic cats have been spayed and neutered and 73% have been micro-chipped.

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