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'Cat kingdom' holds fuzzy feline hot spring event to promote kitty adoption

Takako Hikima is seen in her Niko Nyanko Okoku cat shelter in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, on April 19, 2018. (Mainichi)

CHICHIBU, Saitama -- A hot spring spa owner here is encouraging visitors to think about adopting abandoned cats with an event combining soul-soothing warm soaks and the chance to pet warm, fuzzy felines.

    The event was held from April 20 to 22 in collaboration with the hot spring spa Seine no Yu. It was organized by Takako Hikima, 54, who owns the neighboring Baieru spa and also runs "Niko Nyanko Okoku" (smile cat kingdom), dedicated to rescuing and caring for abandoned cats in the Chichibu area. She is aiming to hold the event every month.

    Hikima has taken in abandoned felines for more than 30 years. About 20 years ago, she built the shelter with a floor space of some 270 square meters. Moreover, she started the Niko Nyanko no Kai corporation in June 2017 to operate the shelter.

    The shelter has passages connecting the three units allowing the cats to come and go freely, and the animals also have access to an outside space enclosed by a net. Hikima also has a 24-hour YouTube feed for anyone curious to see how the cats are doing (see URL below).

    Hikima said, "The cats don't get stressed because they live as though they were loose. Even cats that were scared of people before they came to the shelter become friendly."

    The cats has been vaccinated and neutered. Niko Nyanko Okoku workers also wipe the cats with spring water, based on advice from an acquaintance and hot spring writer, which has proved effective in preventing skin diseases.

    (Japanese original by Yuichi Nishigori, Saitama Bureau)

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