PET Bottles… an urban myth

Written by Lorna Shapiro

So wherever we went in the older parts of Kyoto, almost every time I saw a flower pot (often they were quite large pots, creating a wee garden) the pot was surrounded by plastic water bottles filled with water.  While the gardens were lovely to look at, I found the water bottles detracted from the effect of the garden pot.  At first I thought it was a unique case, but soon discovered that the water filled plastic bottles were to be found around almost every potted garden.  So, of course, I became curious and asked Chisato.  First of all I found that all Japanese refer to these bottles not as plastic but as PET bottles (this stands for polyethylene terephthalate, and is plastic with the #1 on it for recycling).  She then told me with certainty that the reason for this was that cats don’t like water in PET bottles and so the cats will not come and use the garden as a litter box.  I thought at first she was joking, but she was completely serious and quite surprised when I expressed skepticism about that theory.  We Google’d the theory at the first opportunity.  Turns out it is a widely accepted urban myth in Japan that the sun will reflect against the bottles and scare away cats who might be intending to use your garden as a litter box!  It caused me to wonder what urban myths we have here in Canada, that we accept as truth without any sort of critical evaluation.