In Japan – where they take their cats very seriously – they call Yuki Hattori the Cat Saviour. He is so popular that he saw 16,000 patients last year, and crowds regularly queue up to hear him talk about neko no kimochi (a cat’s feelings), while people from all over Japan make the pilgrimage to his practice. Sometimes clients turn up from further afield. “One flew in from Iraq for a personal consultation,” Hattori says, “without his cat, due to border quarantines.”
In Japan’s rarified world of cat doctors, the vet Hattori is very much a superstar – but now there is a chance for English-speaking feline fans to benefit from his wisdom thanks to What Cats Want, a translation of his 2017 Japanese best seller Neko no Kimochi Kaibo Zukan (The Encyclopaedia of Cat Feelings). The Japanese original is a breezy 162 pages of illustrations, diagrams and short observations that delve into cat behaviour and activity.
“All I want is for more people to realise what’s special about living with cats,” he tells me when I visit his office.
If you think cats are hard to read, Hattori provides a useful chart of nine basic facial expressions (ranging from relaxed to aggressive) and 12 tail positions, each of which represents a mood (straight up for greetings, puffed to express anger, lowered for caution). He also advises not to confuse a long, plaintive miaow (help!) with a brief one (hello!). And if you have the urge to sweep up your cat in a tight embrace, you might want to reconsider. Most cats are averse to being unable to make a quick escape. His recommends taking things slowly so that gradually you will be rewarded.
The book includes diagrams for optimum room layouts depending on a cat’s age, recommendations for how to safely evacuate with cats in the event of a natural disaster and warnings about potentially harmful or deadly substances, including aroma oils, Welsh onions, diet supplements and cold medicines.