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I had two cats in the apartment when I first arrived in Japan. Angie, my predecessor here in Mino-cho, couldn't transport them by plane in the summer, so she had to leave them with me for a few months until the airlines would transport animals again in the fall. They weren't really her cats either, they belonged to some friends of Angie's, then to Angie, and finally,for a few months, to me. Their names were Cleo and Bat. Cleo, the brown and white tabby, was one of the most skittish housecats I have ever seen...she was terrified of me and spent most of her time hiding behind the mattress in one of my rooms. The other cat, the black one, was Bat, and he should have been named Brat, because that's what he was. He was cute, and friendly...and evil! But I loved him.

They left in the fall, and I was desperately lonely for three days, and then a black kitten showed up at my doorstep...literally! I had no kitten food for the poor little fella, and it must have been comic watching me scramble around trying to find something palatable for him. He was a picky eater, initially, and I was worried he was starving to death because he wouldn't eat his own weight in food like my old cats back home. I named him Kage, which means shadow in Japanese. Japanese people thought it was one of the weirdest names for a pet ever...they tend to like names like Blackie....

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Kage was pretty intelligent for a kitten. He wasn't as affectionate as some cats, but he loved to play with his toys. I wanted another kitten, so they could amuse each other when I was at work or sleeping, so I put the word out in town that I wanted another kitten. Shomin, the Chinese lady at the office, said there was a hungry kitten up at the local onsen, Fureai Park. Evidently this kitten would run up to anyone and beg for food and love. We drove up there one night to get the little kitten. We looked for about 15 minutes before the young thing came running. She was the most affectionate kitten I've ever seen. She nuzzled up to my neck and purred so loud I thought she'd explode! She was absolutely filthy and quite thin, so I gave her a bath (Japanese baths are wonderful for cleaning animals! Much more convenient than the American arrangement) and dried her, and let her cuddle up to Kage.

She was as effective worming her way into Kage's heart as she was at mine. I named her Hikari, which means light in Japanese, even though she was more of a dark gray. She had a scar under her left eye that has never healed to this day. She's also quite a little huntress, even though she hasn't had to hunt for her food for almost a year now. She caught a bird one day while sitting on my balcony. She regularly catches geckos that get into my apartment, and she enjoys catching and killing cockroaches! All in all, she's a very useful little kitty! She's also unbelievably affectionate. At random times she'll run up to me, purring, and climb up me to wrap herself around my neck and nuzzle me. Sometimes she feels a sudden urge to lick my entire face while she's there, but more often than not she just wants to fall asleep on me and cuddle, even when it's over a 100 degrees outside! She's my little sweetie!

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As you can see, the two of them got along well together. Aren't they a cute couple? Unfortunately, last February, I brought Kage in to get fixed (he was being rather rude to poor Hikari...), and he died under anesthesia. So I had Hikari alone for about three months. She was usually miserable. She wanted a playmate,and I was gone at work every day, plus even when I was home I wasn't nearly as fun or active as a fellow kitten! I would play with her, and bought her a lot of little toys to help amuse her when I was gone, but it never helped for long. When I would play with her toys she enjoyed it, though, as these pictures show. Japan in winter is surprisingly cold, considering how hot the summers are, so we found each other to be good cuddling companions. Finally, in May, a student of mine said she had a little black kitten. When he was six weeks old I brought him home, a little fuzzball!

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I named him Yami. It means darkness in Japanese (are we noticing a pattern?). I really loved the name Kage,and I may use it again someday, but it would be too creepy to name my new kitten after the one who died, especially when they're both completely black males. Now that Yami's getting to be the same size as Kage was, they are eerily alike...the only physical difference I notice is that Yami's eyes are a strange reddish brown on the outside, and then the normal greenish gold inside, while Kage's had been completely greenish gold. Yami is also more evil than Kage. His favorite pastime is fighting, and when he's really bored he'll try to pick a fight with inanimate objects. He's calming down a little now, though, maybe most of it was kittenish energy. We'll have to see.

Well, that's the story of my cats. As you can see, I'm absolutely obsessed with cats. I would adopt every stray in the world if I could figure out a way to do it! Thanks for sticking around for my obsession.

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