The Do’s and Don’ts of Pet Ownership in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

The Do’s and Don’ts of Pet Ownership in Japan

By Caitlin Collins Aug 26, 2022

Any expat can tell you that living abroad can be lonely at times:  It’s tough to be so far from friends and family back home.  One of the best ways to combat loneliness is with a pet!  But owning a pet in Japan may be very different than owning a pet in your home country.  From housing rules and smaller homes, to unfamiliar items—pet ownership can be tricky in Japan!

What to Know About Owning a Pet in Japan

Let’s look at some of the do’s and don’ts of pet ownership in Japan, so that life with your furry friend will be a little less stressful!

Don’t: Expect Your Building to Allow Pets

If apartment hunting wasn’t already stressful enough, just try and add a pet to the mix.

Sad, but true.  It can be very difficult to find an apartment (especially in a big city like Tokyo) that allows cats or dogs in the apartment. Pets cause damage, and can be noisy, which are all big problems for building owners.

Do:  Search for Pet-Friendly Housing!

They may be few and far between, but when you do eventually find a pet-friendly apartment, they often also offer a great number of services for pet owners.  From foot baths for dirty paws outside the building to leash hooks next to the door. Pet-friendly apartments in Japan offer a wide variety of perks for pet owners!

To find a pet-friendly apartment in Japan, the best term to search ペット可(petto ka), which means ‘pet OK’, on to one of the many online apartment hunting websites, or make sure to tell your real estate agent that is what you are looking for!

Don’t: Expect Your Home to Have a Garden

Dog and cat owners who may be used to their pets having a large garden to run around in (and do their business in) may be shocked to find that most Japanese homes don’t have a yard at all!  And the ones that do are incredibly tiny.

So where can you let your dog out to ‘go’?

Do: Take Advantage of Japanese Pet Products

No one likes to talk about dogs doing their business, but it’s an important aspect of pet ownership to consider.  With no garden to speak of, most people tend to use ‘potty pads’ (large absorbent odor-blocking pads) to use inside the house or out on a balcony for a dog to do its business.

Another fallback of living in Japan is the small apartment or home size.  Without a big yard to run around in and get exercise, pets need to find fun ways to stay active in a smaller space!  In Japan, there are countless kinds of toys and activities for both cats and dogs and a lot of great items made to accommodate smaller spaces.  From cat climbers to electronic mice and balls, there are countless ways to keep your pets entertained even while you are at work.

A top tip for keeping cats happy in a small space is to have lots of places to climb and explore and make sure to have a nice place to sit by a window so they can watch what’s going on outside.

an image of an orange cat

Don’t: Neglect the Health of Your Pet

It’s not only important to keep your furry family members updated on their vaccines for their own health, but it’s also required by Japanese law!  This is also incredibly important if you want to bring your pet with you when you travel or leave Japan, and always check a country’s requirements before bringing your pet abroad!

Besides travel concerns, you should also be taking your pet for regular check-ups and have a good relationship with a local veterinarian in case of any emergencies.

Do:  Follow Immigration Proceedings While Taking Your Pet Abroad

Moving to Japan and hoping to bring your pet?  Or maybe it’s time to leave Japan, and you’re taking your pet with you.  Either way, always make sure you check immigration laws and procedures before booking that plane ticket.

If you are bringing a pet into Japan, your pet must be microchipped and have all the required documentation of vaccines, blood tests, and licensing.  It can be a long process so give yourself plenty of time before arrival to get your pet ready to go!

an image of a pet cat

Do:  Check Your Options Before Choosing Your New Best Friend!

Japan has an abundance of pet stores.  In every shopping mall, you’ll find at least one pet store full to the brim with adorable puppies and kittens.  Pet stores tend to be incredibly expensive and only cater to the most popular or trendy breeds of the moment, so if you are looking for an older animal or something more economical, there are many great organizations that want to help you find your new family member!

Some great resources for pet adoption are:

Animal Refuge Kansai – A nonprofit organization with locations in Osaka and Tokyo and offer assistance in both English and Japanese.

Learn more at

The Japan Animal Trust—A nonprofit organization located in Osaka.  They also advertise pets looking for homes outside of Osaka.  English and Japanese available.

Learn more at

Kanagawa Prefectural Animal Protection Center—A division of the Kanagawa Prefectural Government. Donation information available in English, adoption information only available in Japanese.

Learn more at

Rencontrer Mignon—Pet adoptions in Tokyo.  Only available in Japanese currently.

Learn more at

Are You Ready to Own a Pet in Japan?

We hope this information has been helpful to you and your furry friend! There are so many aspects to take into account when looking for a pet in Japan, or bringing your pet from your home country. We’d love to know your experience with owning a pet in Japan, let us know in the comments or send us a message on Instagram.

Related posts:

Mental Health in Japan: How to Find Help When You Need It

This article was originally published in October 2018 and has been edited and updated for 2022.