How to Adopt a Pet in Japan

Dog and Cat Asleep on Owner's Lap

If you are residing in Japan, you might be looking to add a pet to your family. Pet ownership in the country has grown consistently over the past few decades; recent statistics show that around 25% of Japanese homes now have a resident cat or dog. Adopting a pet is a wonderful way of making your new surroundings feel like home. In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about adopting a pet in Japan, including the adoption process, the costs, the legal requirements, and caring for your new furry friends.

What You Need To Know About Adopting A Pet In Japan

The process of adopting a pet is relatively straightforward, though there are plenty of things to take into consideration before you can bring a new pooch or kitty home.

Calculate The Costs Before You Get A Pet

Be sure to work out the cost of owning a pet before you go out and get a new cat or dog. Pets are an ongoing expense, and you should calculate the expected costs of pet ownership before you adopt. As well as the cost of cat or dog food, don’t forget to include other regular pet supplies that will also add up, such as cat litter or dog litter bags. Also, factor in the potential cost of any unexpected vet bills, as well as the price of any possible vaccinations and pet insurance (more on these below).

You’ll Need Your Landlord’s Permission

Cat Napping in Cat Bed
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If you’re renting a home, you’ll need to make sure that you’re allowed to keep a pet as part of your rental agreement. Many apartment listings in Japan will say whether or not tenants are allowed to keep pets. Unfortunately, most landlords won’t allow pets, meaning that there is less choice on the rental market for those wanting to adopt a pet. Another thing to keep in mind is that the rent for apartments that do allow pets is usually a little higher than those that don’t.

However, pet-friendly landlords are not unheard of and are becoming increasingly common. If you’re looking to adopt a pet and already leasing an apartment, make sure that you have consent from your landlord or building manager before you begin the process of adopting a four-legged friend.

Where To Find A Pet

Puppies in Basket
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There are two main options for those looking to adopt a pet in Japan, either from a pet shop or through an adoption shelter. Pet shops are common throughout the country, and while they are certainly an option, adopting a pet from an animal adoption center is arguably much more ethical and will almost certainly be much cheaper.

The cats and dogs available from animal shelters have usually been abandoned or rescued. Each shelter carries out complete medical checks on all of its rescued animals, to determine their overall health as well as their suitability for rehoming. It’s also common practice for shelters to spay or neuter their rescued animals.

There are a number of animal shelters in Tokyo and throughout Japan with long lists of cats and dogs looking for a loving home. Unfortunately, many shelters won’t let foreigners adopt their animals, but there are a few that do. Some shelters even have English-speaking staff as well as websites in English, which makes it easier to adopt a pet even if your Japanese still needs a bit of work.

Dog Looking With Puppy Dog Eyes
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One of the most well-known animal shelters in Japan is ARK. Though based in Osaka, ARK also has cats and dogs in foster homes in Tokyo looking for a permanent home. Another animal shelter with English-speaking services in Tokyo is NPO SALA Network, which aims to rescue and rehome abandoned dogs and cats. WanWan is another rescue charity that aims to relocate dogs abandoned in rural areas to populated cities, while the Japan Cat Network helps to rehome both cats and dogs all across Japan.

How To Adopt From A Shelter

Each animal shelter has its own set of rules and procedures regarding the adoption process, but generally the format is fairly standard. Before you can adopt a pet, the shelter will ask for details of your home arrangement to make sure that your living space and lifestyle is suitable for the cat or dog that you’d like to adopt.

As part of the process, you’ll be asked about how you plan to fit your life around your new pet. For example, the adoption shelter will want to know how long your pet will typically be left on their own during an average day and how your pet will be cared for if you go on holiday.

Gray Cat Being Stroked
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The adoption center will also ask for details about the size of your family and the number of occupants in your home. Some shelters might even ask to inspect your home to guarantee that it’s the right fit for your potential pet. Only when the animal shelter is satisfied that you are able to provide a safe and loving home for a pet can the adoption process begin properly.

Costs Of Adopting From A Shelter

You should keep in mind that there will be costs to adopting a pet from an animal shelter. Adoption fees can vary, but are usually around 15,000 to 20,000 JPY per animal.

These fees usually cover a range of costs, such as spaying or neutering the animal, any required vaccinations, and possibly microchipping your new pet. Whichever animal shelter you choose to adopt a pet from will confirm exactly what their fees cover.

Dog Waiting for Walk
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Owning A Pet In Japan – What You Need To Know

Once you’ve adopted your new furry friend, there are a few extra things (and costs) you’ll need to be aware of.

You Need To Register Your Dog

Firstly, if you adopt a dog, you’ll need to register it with the local ward office. Registering a dog costs around 3,000 JPY and must be done within 30 days of taking ownership of your new pet.

Once your dog has been registered, you will receive a license tag that will be specific to your dog. This tag is to be attached to the dog’s collar. Remember that if you move, you will also need to update your dog’s registration details with the new address.

While there is no legal requirement to register cats, it’s worth noting that there is a very large stray cat population in Japan. If you plan on adopting a cat, it might be worth making sure that your kitty stands out from the crowd and doesn’t get mistaken for a stray. The easiest way to do this is to place a collar with an identifying tag on your newly rescued cat.

Dog Getting a Vaccine
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Dogs Must Have An Annual Rabies Shot

Rabies has been eradicated in Japan, and ongoing efforts to keep it this way means that all dogs have to have a rabies vaccination every year. The vaccination for rabies has to be carried out between April and June each year.

Rabies vaccinations take place at the local government level, usually in public facilities or parks, and costs 3,650 JPY. Once vaccinated, your dog will be issued with a certificate confirming their rabies shot. This certificate should be placed inside a small pouch which should also be attached to the dog’s collar.

Finding A Vet

Due to the boom in pet ownership, there are a huge number of vets and animal hospitals in Japan. Neighborhoods in most cities usually have at least a few vets, and ideally you’ll want to find a vet as close to home as possible in case of emergencies.

If you need to find an English-speaking vet in your area, check to see if any vets provide bilingual services close to you. Areas with high expat communities are a good place to check first, and a Google search with “English veterinarian” and your desired area should yield some results. Some veterinarians that provide English-speaking pet care in Tokyo are West Cross Veterinary Hospital, the Akasaka Animal Hospital and the Toranomon Veterinary Clinic.

Cat and Dog Napping Together
Anna Hoychuk /

Think About Pet Insurance

One final cost to consider when thinking about adopting a pet in Japan is pet insurance. This is another growing industry thanks to the rise in pet ownership, and many insurance companies offer pet insurance, such as Axa.

Pet insurance policies vary from covering basic medical needs to full-care plans that cover the cost of surgery. Be aware that the cost of pet insurance premiums often depends on the age and health of your pet.

Enjoy Pet Ownership in Japan

Before picking out your new kitten or pup, make sure you have the blessing of your landlord and be aware of the financial commitments and legal obligations that come with owning a pet. Once you’ve covered your bases, all that is left is to find an adorable cat or dog looking for a loving home. If you’re wondering what kind of dogs are popular in Japan, check out our article called 10 Japanese Dog Breeds That Will Melt Your Heart With Their Cuteness!

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.