AI app helps Tokyo woman monitor elderly cat’s health

Mayumi Kitakata is deeply concerned about her 14-year-old cat, Chi. As Chi indulges in treats and catnip, Kitakata worries about his advancing age and potential health issues.

To give Chi the best care, Kitakata, 57, turned to artificial intelligence. In March, she began using CatsMe!, an AI-driven app that detects if a cat is in pain, reducing the need for stressful vet visits.

“Chi is at an age where more diseases are likely,” said Kitakata, who lives alone with a grown son. “Minimizing trips to the hospital is important for both of us.”

In Japan, pets have a significant role due to the ageing population and declining birth rate. The Japan Pet Food Association reported nearly 16 million pet cats and dogs last year, outnumbering children under 15.

Carelogy, a tech startup, and Nihon University researchers developed CatsMe! by training it on 6,000 cat images. Since its launch last year, over 230,000 customers have used the app, which boasts an accuracy rate of over 95%, expected to improve as it processes more data.

Nihon University professor Kazuya Edamura noted that while vets can often identify if an animal is in pain, it is harder for pet owners. “Our statistics show over 70% of elderly cats have arthritis or pain, but only 2% visit a hospital,” Edamura said. “The app helps owners recognize if their cat’s condition is normal.”

Kitakata and Chi live in central Tokyo, with a perfect napping spot near a balcony window. Kitakata monitors Chi’s health daily using the app.

Reflecting on her past cats, including Soran, who died from cancer at eight, Kitakata expressed regret. “If I had noticed it sooner, maybe we could have started treatment earlier,” she said, tears welling. “I might have been able to save him.”