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Cat lovers find solace, carefree lifestyle in shared house with feline companions

At Qhouse, five human residents share a house with three feline counterparts, in this photo taken in Fukuoka's Minami Ward on April 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Noriko Tokuno)

FUKUOKA -- What if you feel like having a feline companion at home but realize that you are in a single household and cannot take care of it while you are away on business trips or vacation?

A shared house here offers a solution.

Qhouse, as the residence is called, in this city's Minami Ward in southwestern Japan provides a dwelling for both human and feline residents alike, allowing cat lovers to not only share rooms but also take turns in looking after their fluffy housemates.

A cat commands a view from a cushion atop a refrigerator at Qhouse in Fukuoka's Minami Ward. (Mainichi/Noriko Tokuno)

Seiko Egashira, 38, head of Fukuoka Renobase Co., a company specialized in utilizing vacant houses and apartments and renovating their interiors, hit upon the idea of the unique housing when she was working for a firm in Tokyo while living by herself with a cat. As she had to go on many business trips, how to tend to her beloved animal during her absence was a headache.

Eventually, she managed to launch a shared apartment for cat lovers in the city of Fukuoka in 2013. In November 2017, the facility was relocated to a 42-year-old house following renovation.

Inside the house are common spaces such as a kitchen and a living room, as well as five rooms accommodating five men and women in their 20s through 40s -- along with three cats that Egashira used to keep.

Residents take turns in feeding the cats and cleaning their toilet areas, which allows the people to be away for business and other trips from time to time. Mikako Yamazaki, 26, a company employee who lives in the house, raves about the scheme, saying, "Even when I come home late from work, the cats here give me comfort and motivation to go to work the next day. I can also go traveling without worrying about the cats."

Gentaro Umezaki, 31, another resident, echoes her thoughts, commenting, "Just having the cats around melts my stress away."

At Qhouse, residents also share pricy home appliances such as a washer-dryer and cooking apparatus that single-household residents cannot normally afford. They can also deepen ties through conversations about anything feline, their shared interest. The monthly rent for the housing ranges from 45,000 yen to 52,000 yen, slightly higher than the market average, but Umezaki and others chose to settle into the place because of the cats.

The three cats living in Qhouse are seen in Fukuoka's Minami Ward. (Mainichi/Noriko Tokuno)

Shared houses have come under the spotlight in recent years as a good way of making use of rising numbers of vacant houses and apartments nationwide, which has become a social problem.

According to the House and Land Statistics Survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the number of unoccupied houses had reached a record 8.46 million across the country as of Oct. 1, 2018.

"We get numerous inquiries about launching shared housing utilizing abandoned houses. We would like to lend a hand if there are people willing to join the initiative," Egashira said.

(Japanese original by Noriko Tokuno, Kyushu Photo Department)

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