The active fashion model Emi Suzuki lives alongside four pets – a Bengal named Bebi, a Munchkin named Danyo and a pair of dogs called Kirari and Chrome. We interviewed Emi, who has been an animal lover since her childhood, about the joy of living with cats and dogs.
Surrounded by Animals
– You have quite a family here. Not only two cats, but dogs as well.
“Right now, we have two cats, Bebi and Danyo. Then there’s Kirari the miniature dachshund and a miniature schnauzer named Chrome. So a total of four animals. And that’s not counting babies – so it’s quite lively here, to say the least (laughs).”
– Have you been living with animals since you were a child?
“Yeah. My mom was an animal lover and we always had various animals at home since I can remember. And not just cats, but snakes, squirrels, rabbits and birds… so it’s natural for me to live alongside natural creatures. Of course, back then it was mom who took care of them.”
– How did you first meet Bebi and Danyo?
“When I started living by myself, I initially got a cat. Though I really wanted a dog, I thought a cat would take less time and effort. So I took in an Abyssinian and named it Pepe. Then I fell in love with the cat and ended up getting another one. Then came the dogs, Kirari and Chrome. And then finally Bebi and Danyo.”
– So at first you were more of a dog lover?
“Because dogs are so active, I wanted to live with them at least once. So when I got a cat for the first time, I tried to train it like a dog – by using leash and trying to take it for a walk. Of course it didn’t even move an inch, so I gave up on that idea quite quickly. I guess I just had this stereotype – something like ‘pets = dogs.’”
Whether you’re a dog or a cat, it’s good to be active
– What motivated you to get a second cat?
“I was crazy about Abyssinians. In addition to being beautiful, they are quite active. So I began frequenting pet shops to see if they were getting any new Abyssinians in. One day, I heard about an Abyssinian that caught a bad cold and ended up with a cataract-like condition in one eye. The pet shop said it couldn’t be put out for sale any more, so I told them that I would take it in. At first, the two cats didn’t get along. But the one with the bad eye – maybe because it had a bad eye – has a very gently character. So eventually the fighting ceased they came to get along.”
– And then came the dogs?
“I still couldn’t hold back my desire to live alongside dogs. First, I took in Kirari. More than cats, dogs appeal directly to you for attention, don’t you think? Then Chrome came to live with me as well, and the two Abyssinians passed away. That’s when Bebi came into my life. My friend told me about a breed of cat called a ‘Toyger.’ I looked them up online and saw some pictures. They are very handsome with their tiger stripes. But since they were a rare breed and aren’t very well-suited to being pets, I looked for an easier breed to take care. Of course, I found out about Bengals.”
– How did you first encounter Danyo?
“We first met at a photo shoot for the magazine called ‘MAQUIA.’ Danyo was a pet model. For pet-related photo-shoots, editors usually make specific requests to animal model agencies – they’ll ask for a cat with such-and-such an image or character. Most of the time, experienced animal models are used. However, on this day, it happened to be Danyo’s first-ever job. He was running around with these short legs and just was too cute. I just couldn’t give him up! So I asked the agency to give him to me. I didn’t want to make him work anymore! (laughs)”
– You already had two dogs and a cat by then, you didn’t hesitate?
“I had lived with so many animals that I was already used to taking care of them, so didn’t think it would be too much work. But living in Tokyo, I do think four animals is about the maximum. Considering that there’s now a baby as well, I don’t plan on further increasing our number of pets.”
– Can you tell us about the character of each pet?
“Danyo is a tough fighter. He’s a boy after all. Bebi is mischievous and moody, like a girl should be. I think cats are closer to people than dogs. They seem to be listening to us talk. They even understand us, but still they like to mess with us, it seems.”
– How do you define your relationships with the animals?
“They are my housemates. They are all free-spirited. As for their relationships between each other, the two cats are scared of Chrome. And Kirari has a very strong maternal instinct, she even breastfed them when they were kittens. She didn’t have any breast milk, though, so she got mastitis once. She’s the only one who doesn’t complain when my kid plays with her. Of course, four animals means four times the care. No matter how tired I am after coming home from work, I still have to feed them, clean up their litter boxes and play with them. But because they keep me busy like that, I never have time to get lazy or down. So I thank them very much for that.”
– You mean that living with animals is not just a simple method for healing the soul – that taking care of pets actually gives you energy to live?
“Of course just being with them also heals me in a way. However, the fact that they can’t live without me, the fact that of my existence is important. I see myself as a bit of a loner. And they take me in for who I am, no matter how different I look or act outside of the house.”
– Are there any big differences between dogs and cats?
“Dogs need my constant attention while cats have a healing existence. Everything about cats is just so cute. How they look, how they move, the way they keep their distance, everything about them is perfect. Their mouths. Their whiskers. Their paws. I could just spend all day looking at them.”
– What are your standards for being ‘cute’?
“Whether they make my heart throb or not. Or, whether they make me want to protect them. I also find it attractive when they show me their two-faced nature. Cats have a very cute appearance. However, they also have a rather sharp and prim side. It’s the same as with people, I guess.”