Pets are big business these days. Cat and dog cafes, animal accessory shops, dog hotels and even aesthetic salons for animals are easy to find. On weekends, in the large park near my house, I see people walking what appear to be entrants in a pedigree dog competition: dachshunds in mini-sweaters promenade alongside beribboned King Charles spaniels. Many a pet's lifestyle would be the envy of most salarymen.

However, the park — like many others in Japan — is also home to a legion of animals who live a life far removed from those of the coddled pets. After they have gone home with their owners, dozens of stray cats remain.

The number of animals abandoned every year in Japan is high. An investigation conducted by the Environment Ministry estimated that each year around 350,000 animals are put down at government-managed control centers. Some owners see dumping unwanted pets in a park as a better alternative to taking them to a control center — it is certainly less troublesome, given that no money needs to be paid, nor reasons given.