Review: The Cat With Three Passports

Pawsome Reads Book Club is an online Facebook book club for like minded pet owners and animal enthusiasts who appreciate the bond between humans and their animal companions. A friendly community, the only rules are nominated books must relate to pets or animal/human and that members must treat each other with kindness.

Featured books are discussed by sharing of thoughts and findings with no personal details of members shared. This post carries reviews from host Catherine Smith and from myself of the club’s featured read The Cat with Three Passports.


The Cat with Three Passports is an honest account of one girls struggle to fit. Author CJ Fentiman is forever moving from place to place, escaping situations and people until, whilst in Japan, she stumbles across a homeless kitten, Gershwin.

That chance meeting changed the course of CJ’s life forcing her to remain in the country until she could make plans for the silver tabby. Instead of running away CJ immerses herself in Japan’s fascinating culture, lingering long enough to experience the changing of the seasons which she describes beautifully, from budding cherry blossom, falling vermillion and lemon leaves to the harshest of winters.

CJ writes a lot about ikigai, ‘finding your purpose, your meaning in life’ and ‘the balance of doing what you love while making a living and letting neither path control your life’  something we all should strive for but can she achieve this?

If you love cats, experiencing new cultures and believe in ikigai, then this book should be on your reading list. 


The Cat with Three Passports is a deeply personal and multi-faceted narrative by CJ Fentiman. In addition to being the real story of how CJ learned to stop running from places and people that she disliked, it’s also a sweet story of a homeless kitten and a cultural memoir about CJ’s life in Japan. The title attracted me because of its subject, but I also appreciate how vulnerable Fentiman allowed herself to be readers about her journey to learning to open up her heart.

Five cats actually make their appearance in The Cat with Three Passports. Two of them were adult cats that came with the first staff apartment that CJ and Ryan lived in during their stay in Japan as teachers. Another was a stray kitten in ill health. At first, the vet thought the cat might have FIV but thankfully the cat simply had the flu. Yet another was a stray adult at a different school that staff fed undercover, due to cats not being allowed at British Hills. These were all in addition to Gershwin, originally known as Ninja Attack Kitten, that the couple decide to keep. In making that decision, they had to contend with immigration paperwork and with quarantines.

The three stray cats weren’t the only ones in need of a place to belong. CJ had a habit of fleeing from anything that made her uncomfortable and, for that reason, was not only estranged from her family but also living abroad instead of establishing roots in her home country of Australia. While in Japan, CJ began to try new things, wrestle with the voices that told her to run, and to make peace with her past. She learned about the Japanese religion of Shinto, the importance of their bathhouses, Japanese kimonos, their mountain trails, and more. Aside from her cultural adventures, CJ began to grow in her confidence by asking questions about the meaning of life, reaching out to an aunt whom she had lost contact, organizing a fundraiser for animal rescue, and more.

By sharing her journey of self-discovery, CJ elevates her memoir beyond that of simply a travel log or a cat tale. CJ wraps up her story by writing, “That wonderful country and one special silver tabby have left an ever-lasting paw print on my life.” The Cat with Three Passports will have a similar effect on its readers.

Catherine Smith is a pet owner, artist, and entrepreneur. She founded Muttleys, a fully-insured and professional First Aid Trainer, Dog Walker, and Pet Care Service provider based in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. She also started Pawsome Reads Book Club

Allison Hunter-Frederick is a cat behavior consultant and trainer, cat therapy handler, and pet education blogger. Through her business, Allison Helps Cats LLC, she helps cat owners improve their relationships with their cats. She also creates an animal welfare village for pet lovers through educational articles, profiles, and tributes at her blog Lincoln Pet Culture. Her articles have been published in local and national publications.

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