PET Bottles… an urban myth

Written by Lorna Shapiro

So, everywhere we went in the older parts of Kyoto, I saw flower pots (often, they were large and created wee gardens). Usually, they were surrounded by plastic water bottles filled with water. While the gardens were lovely to look at, I found the water bottles detract 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 knew 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. At first, I thought she was joking, but she was serious and quite surprised when I expressed skepticism about that theory. We googled it at the first opportunity and found something amazing. In Japan, it is a widely accepted urban myth that the sun will reflect against the bottles and scare away cats who could use those gardens as litter boxes! It caused me to wonder what urban myths we have here in Canada that we accept as truth without any critical evaluation.