Cats & Dogs

To the Owner Who Lost Her Dog Today

I'm not a doctor, but I can tell. Sometimes, the animal is already dead. Sometimes, they're dying. I rush him to the back all the same, because I'm not a doctor. Maybe I'm wrong. I wait up front with you.

You ask me: Will he be okay?

And I lie.

It feels like a lie.

I tell you I don't know. I can't tell. The doctor is working on him right now. I emphasize that last one because if the doctor is working on him, then maybe he really will be okay.

My job is to keep you calm until you fill out the required forms. My job is to listen so you can tell me all the things you think the doctor needs to know.

I help you clean the blood from your hands. Get you a cup of water.

Then the doctor buzzes up front, and you look at me when I call your name. It's too soon. You know what the doctor's going to say, but you ask me: Is he okay?

I put you in an exam room.

Then I wait.

Wait.

For the sound of your heart breaking. Sometimes, it's a barely audible gasp. Sometimes, it's a wail loud enough to shake my heart.

Because I know what it feels like to be the one to ask: Will he be okay?

When I already know.

No.

He's not okay.

Cateriam: A Cat Cafe in Tokyo

Shimokitazawa is popular for its independent music scene and trendy boutiques. Delicious restaurants line the streets serving almost anything you want from actual poutine and handmade udon noodles to spaghetti and okara donuts. Most importantly, Shimokita is where you'll find Cateriam—an adorable cafe where you can sip green tea lattes like a queen while letting your freaky cat lady flag fly. About a block or two from the train station, there's a doorway with a Cateriam sign right next to a 7-Eleven. You climb up a flight of stairs and enter through another set of doors. A friendly proprietor will use an English menu to explain the rules. You basically prepay for the amount of time you plan on staying, and if you'd like, you have the option to add on food or drinks. You'll take off your shoes then place your things in a cubby hole. Once you wash your hands, you're free to commence with the all-you-can-snuggle fest.

I will admit that my animal rescue side was a little anxious before I arrived—I've heard one too many bad stories in my lifetime—but all the cats seemed happy and healthy. I surreptitiously checked the paws of a cat lounging on my lap, and he hadn't been declawed. The state of the scratching posts in the room told me the same. During meal times, the oldest cat was fed in a separate area which is what I have to do for my own animals at home too.

As for litter boxes, there was a room behind glass walls with what appeared to be its own ventilation system. Each time a cat did his business, the proprietor scooped it out right away. More than once, I got the impression that us humans were there to entertain the cats instead of the other way around.

IMHO, this is the best (and only) way to live.

LONG LIVE OUR KITTY OVERLORDS.

There's nothing quite like starting off a hectic day with thirty minutes of awwwwfully adorable cats, and Cateriam's ambiance was as peaceful as a spa. When things got a little too mellow, the proprietor would bust out cardboard boxes, crinkly toys, and strawberry hats! You don't know happiness until you've been in a room with ten cats—some dressed as strawberries—zooming, swatting, and pouncing.

Most of the chairs were too small for this American-sized ass, but the seating seemed better suited for cats than humans anyway. Cateriam was popular with both tourists and locals alike, and most people opted to sit on a pillow or the floor while flipping through pet-related manga and books. While there, I tried the hot chocolate, green tea latte, and black sesame drink. Everything was delicious. They even decorated the drinks with cocoa powdered paw prints!

Each time I went—AND YES I WENT BACK MORE THAN ONCE HOW COULD I NOT—I took plenty of pictures. Thanks to a handy dandy pocket wifi, I texted photos to our petsitter back home so I could show my cats how much fun they were missing out on. She texted back to tell me they didn't seem impressed :( which kinda goes to show you that no matter where you are in the world, cats will always be cats.

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi

 Image by Susan Pi

Image by Susan Pi