On March 11, 2011, three Fukushima Daiichi reactors had their power supply cut off after an earthquake hit the area. The melting of the reactors resulted in a nuclear accident that destroyed towns and killed almost 20,000 people. However, it is not just the human lives that were taken, animals also died, but one man swore to stay by the side of the remaining ones no matter what. Here is the story of the man who saves cats in Fukushima’s nuclear zone, not minding how deep he has to dig into his pockets to keep them alive.
To Him, the Cats are His Kids
When the disaster struck, Sakae Kato had a construction business; therefore, he helped to demolish the remaining houses that had fallen. As he went about his duties, he came across so many dead pets; the ones he found alive, families feared relocating with them due to contamination. With no one else to care for the abandoned kitties, Kato decided to remain and provide for them as others left. When he started taking care of them, there were 64 cats, but so far, 23 have died, leaving him with 41. It has been ten years since he took them in, but the dedication to the felines has not faded with time. According to Times Now News, the cats gave him a reason to also remain in the family land where he houses them in a dilapidated two-story wooden structure. He can only visit the animals because he is not allowed to sleep there, and even if the government has asked him to evacuate, Kato is adamant that he will die with the animals.
Caring for the Cats, One Hurdle at a Time
The house might last for another three years at most before Kato has to look for another. The floorboards are rotten and sagging, while the wall panels and roof have holes after an earth tremor struck the area a month ago. The walls are already leaning in, but even with so many problems to deal with, Kato has a heart big enough to rescue a dog, Pochi, and feed wild boars. Catering to the animals comes with a massive budget of around $7,000 due to food, veterinary care, supplies, and fuel. Thankfully, his construction business is still in operation and has helped foot the bills. Since there is no running water, Kato has to go up the stream to fetch water and take it to the animals in bottles. He also has to drive to a nearby town to use public toilets, and since there is no electricity, he has to rely on paraffin to heat the house. According to Japan Times, his problems are far from over because he was arrested on February 25, 2021. The Japanese government set up traps in November 2020 for wild boars, which farmers consider pests. Due to his compassionate heart, Kato was suspected of having freed the boars. Unfortunately, even if neighbors have been kind enough to take over the cats’ feeding, one has died since Kato was detained.
Another Man Saved the Abandoned Cats and Dogs from the Disaster
After residents living in the disaster area were evacuated, Akira Honda realized that most animals would be abandoned as humans feared the contamination. Therefore, according to VC Star, he went to the area and asked for volunteers to join him in rescuing the abandoned animals. With so many animals to be saved and nowhere to take them, an animal shelter made sense. Consequently, after a month of the rescue mission, Honda established the Nyander Guard Animal Shelter 25 miles away from the radiation-contaminated exclusion zone.
By 2016, it had rescued 740 cats and dogs, some of which were reunited with their families and others adopted by new families as the shelter holds regular adoption events. Those that remain are fostered, and by August 2016, it had 130 animals. Trying to get people to foster was particularly hard at first since the Japanese believe in buying their pets. Some cat owners refused to take their kitties back due to health problems, as was the case with Kevin Costner, a female cat named after the movie star. The owner thought it was a male cat, and since “he” liked the actor, it was the appropriate name.
Since it is a no-kill shelter, Honda and volunteers strive to maintain a suitable environment for the animals. Cats are allowed to roam, small dogs are kept indoors to protect them from harsh weather, and the big dogs are housed in kennels outside. Running the shelter is still hectic because donations keep dwindling, leaving Honda to cater to all the expenses, although volunteers help out. Regardless of how tough it is, according to 24-7 Release, Honda acquired another shelter that had been rescuing animals affected by the Fukushima disaster.
A Farmer Saves other Animals besides Cats and Dogs
Like Kato, Naoto Matsumura vowed to help abandoned animals after the nuclear disaster. According to the Washington Post, the residents were in a hurry to leave and left animals tied to posts and chickens in cages. When Matsumura returned to the area, he found so many dead animals that he decided to do all he could for the remaining ones. Although the government wanted the animals slaughtered because they couldn’t be sold for food, Matsumura reasoned that it would be wasteful. He resolved to care for them despite being worried that he would get cancer or leukemia. Doctors confirmed the likelihood was there but only after 30 years after the exposure. Since he figures he will be dead by then anyway, Matsumura does not mind being in the exclusion zone to adequately cater to the animals’ needs. He is not the only one ready to take the risk; other farmers like Keigo Sakamoto refused to leave and started a sanctuary to care for all types of abandoned animals.