Izumi Suga is vice-president of Medicom-Toy, a global toy company famous for their ‘BE@RBRICK’ series. Alongside her partner, company president Tatsuhiko Akashi, Suga shares her home with three cats – Bon, Boi and Bibi. However, there was also a point in time when Ms. Suga lived together with six different cats. We talked with her about the 16 years she’s been living with feline friends.
The Life of a Family of Six
– All three of your cats seem so calm…
“Bon is seventeen while both Boi and Bibi are sixteen years old, so they don’t run around so much anymore. All three are tomcats. At one time, we actually had six cats in our house. It all started with a single female. Then I got Bon, thinking she may be lonely. They soon had four babies. Sadly, two of them past away soon after being born. We were so saddened that we decided to keep the two surviving kitties. Then they had five babies soon after that. We ended up giving away three of them and keeping the other two. This meant four kittens in total as well as the parents – that’s six cats. But I do recall them all being quite gentle.”
– So they were all blood relatives?
“Yes. It was indeed a big family (laughs). But a couple of years ago the mother passed away, and soon after that the youngest kitten died of cancer. And we lost the other female cat just the other day… so now all we have left are three boys.”
– What first motivated you to get a cat?
“When I used to live with my parents, we had a dog. And though I still to this day love dogs, the fact is they never let me have a cat. So when I started living by myself, I got myself a cat, and ever since then I’ve been a huge cat lover. My current cats are actually my third generation. At first, I took in a Siamese. It started out as a house cat, but then one day, a bunch of half-wild cats from the neighborhood started to come by our place. They would hang around and take our cat out and about. Though the cat used to come home every evening, pretty soon it started staying out overnight. Eventually, she stopped coming back home altogether. I of course looked for her all over the place, but couldn’t find even a trace of her. So I had to give up. After that, I found a couple of abandoned kittens and decided to take them in. One of them used to go down into the apartment below mine quite often, to the point that the downstairs neighbor came to my door and asked if they could keep it. At first I was like, ‘No way, it’s our cat!’ But they asked me so many times and so nicely, I finally relented and gave it to them.”
– I see. And how did you first encounter your third generation cats?
“When I married my husband (Medicom-Toy President Tatsuhiko Akashi) and started living in a house, a kitty just happened to come into our yard. It was very cute so we decided to keep it. Unfortunately, I guess it was very weak at the time because it passed away in just three days. So we talked and made a decision to get a new cat of our own, our first lady feline.”
Highly Independent Cats
– So now you have a lot of experience living with cats.
“Yes, but there’s always a remaining sense of self-reproach and doubt. I’m never sure if I’m good enough for them. And this feeling just intensifies my love for cats. There are a lot of challenges when it comes to taking care of cats. Like when we had six of them, just keeping their litter boxes clean was a tough enough task. And then there’s their hair, we had to continuously clean the house. And sometimes they would go to bathroom in places where they were not supposed to. But still I think they are much easier to care for than dogs. Cats take pride in their independence, and that’s what I like about them. Dogs want too much of our attention sometimes. But we are the ones asking cats for their attention. I guess all cat lovers probably say the same thing, but the best thing about cats is their prim and proper demeanor. That’s why I can’t stop living with them.”
– How do your 3 cats differ personality-wise?
“Bon is very smart. He seems to understand what my husband or I am saying. When we have to go on a business trip, Bon is the only one who notices it and approaches our suitcases – he’ll appear to be in a bad mood. The other two don’t have a clue. Boi is always absent-minded and gentle. Bibi tries to be a loner, even though he really is just a spoiled child.”
– When you have multiple cats, don’t they start to become a bit more social?
“They all love Bon and follow wherever he goes. It’s not like he’s some kind of boss. But even when the female cats were still alive, they’d pay attention to what Bon was doing. Where are you going, Bon? Can I come with? Whenever he goes for a sip of water, they’ll go. Like, ‘Ooh, I want some water, too! The mother was strong-willed and mischievous, but the other cats all got along well. Now that there are only three of them, they all stick together.”
Cat Goods Produced by Cat Lovers
– I see a you’ve got a lot of Lisa Larson figurines. She’s collaborated with Medicom-Toy on many products. What is the charm of Lisa’s cats?
“The first one I bought was the black cat ceramic figurine. For people who are not interested in cats, it may look like any other black cat. But to me, it captured the very essence of a cat’s form – so much that it kind of shocked me. I bet Lisa herself is a cat lover and that’s why her designs are just such a hit with cat lovers. I was just collecting her stuff as a hobby when one day I had the chance to meet her daughter, Johanna. That’s where the BE@RBRICK collaboration started. I felt there was a bit of destiny involved. We were also lucky to receive an inquiry regarding a possible collaboration with Yoko Sano in relation to her book, ‘The Cat that Lived a Million Times.’ That was another occasion when I felt a special connection between cat lovers. ”
– What are your standards when deciding to produce a cat-related item?
“They must be cute to me personally. I rely very much on my intuition when making the call. But considering our project staff members are all very good, they quickly catch my drift. All I do is look through the finished designs and then judge them. As an actual fan of Lisa Larson, I ask myself ‘Do I want this’? It’s not as if there’s some simple formula – like saying ‘If they have close-set eyes, they’ll automatically be cute.’ Whatever we end up making, the most important thing is the feelings of affection the items or motifs generate.”
– What is the best part of living with cats?
“When I come home, I see three giant hairballs. Wherever I look, I see fluffy cats. If that’s not happiness, I don’t know what is. They keep me company but stay at just the right distance. That’s why I love them.”