Photo/IllutrationFor the first time since 1994, cats outnumber dogs as pets in Japan. (Mihoko Takizawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Cats as pets have been on an upward trend for many years, but finally felines outnumber canines in Japan.

According to the Japan Pet Food Association, cats outnumbered dogs this year for the first time since 1994.

The association estimated there are 9.53 million cats, compared with 8.92 million dogs.

The turnaround seems to stem from the rapid aging of society in that elderly people are increasingly turning to cats for companionship because they require less care and attention than dogs.

“As dogs need to be trained and walked, pet owners are shying away from them because cats are easier to keep,” said an association official Dec. 22 in releasing the results of the latest survey.

As pet owners age, they tend to increasingly hold off acquiring a new dog when their old one dies. Japan underwent a pet boom in the late 1990s.

The Tokyo-based association, a group of pet food makers, started taking annual surveys in 1994.

For the latest study, estimates on the number of cats and dogs were based on an online questionnaire covering 50,000 respondents aged 20-79 nationwide.

Compared with the 2016 survey, the estimated number of cats edged up by 2.3 percent while the comparable figure for dogs dropped by 4.7 percent.

Dogs consistently outnumbered cats since the survey began, but the gap had been narrowing in recent years.