Clubs at Mercari, Vol.1: How #z-cat (Cat Club) Became a Forum for Reducing Waste and Growing Families
At Mercari, we’ve created a company club system as a part of our efforts to foster communication between our members. Under this system, members of Mercari Group who share the same interests congregate on Slack to chat about their hobbies, hold online and offline events, and interact on a level that erases the lines between teams and job descriptions. Introduced in 2015, our company club system continues to go strong with multiple new clubs being created each month for a total of more than 400 separate clubs (as of July 2023).
Here at Mercan, we are kicking off a new series that will showcase the color and variety of Mercari’s club activities. In this first article of the series, we’ll be looking at “#z-cat.” Created seven years ago and boasting no less than 350 members, it is one of the company’s largest clubs by membership numbers and offers its members a space to share their love of cats. For this article, our members relinquished the spotlight to their cats in their profile pictures!
Featured in this article
Satoe Takahashi (@satoe)Under Mercari’s Your Choice program, Satoe currently telecommutes from Miyagi Prefecture, where she and her husband live with their three cats: Machiko, Nano, and Pon. She enjoys living in the forested wilds of the countryside. Satoe grew up in a household with dogs and therefore loves them as well.
Masahiro Wakame (@vvakame)Masahiro loves cats. For a long time, he was a regular at a cat cafe in Ueno, Tokyo, and in 2017, he finally brought a cat into his home. Her name is Yukari, but on social media, she is known as Fuwafuwa-chan. At home, she answers to Oyu.。
Maya Ono (@maya)Maya loves animals. Over the course of her life, she has had two dogs and six cats. Two years ago she came across a lost cat that she named Pippi. Then in June 2023, she welcomed a kitten that she named Puppu into her home to complete her family of three. Her family even has its own Instagram account: @pippi_20210725
Recharging on cat pictures
——Hi, everyone! For this article, we conducted the interviews remotely; @satoe and @vvakame joined us with their feline friends.
@vvakame: Hello! This is my cat Yukari.
@maya: Adorable! I love her black and white fur. She looks like a cat I used to have.
@satoe: Hi there! Sorry about the noise. My cats are all over the place today. (laughs)
Starting left to right: @satoe, @maya, and@vvakame
——I just took a screenshot, but it turned out blurry. However, I think this better conveys the sense of whimsy that embodies z-cat; in this case, a blurry shot just might be better. (laughs) Already the interview is off to an exciting start. First, can I ask you all about how z-cat came to be?
@vvakame: I thought z-cat would be the most effective way for me to “get my fix of” pictures of cute cats.
——Get your fix! We’ve just started, and already we have our first curveball phrase thrown over the plate. (laughs)
@vvakame: The z-cat channel on Slack allows club members to share pictures of their cats with each other. For the most part, the club is about comforting each other. I think my fellow cat people will feel the same way when I say that I really like looking at other people’s cats too. My own cat is of course my favorite, but other people’s cats are very, very close to being just as cute.
@satoe: I know what you mean! I have three cats, and when I mentioned that in the self-introduction I gave after joining the company, my team members recommended that I join z-cat. At first, I was suspicious, like “What is this club thing? What are they trying to get me to do?” However, people told me that z-cat club was just about looking at people’s cats for the sake of looking at cats and feeling comforted. “They won’t expect anything from you,” people reassured me, and so I joined straight away. From then on, clicking on the z-cat channel to look at pictures of cute cats became a part of my daily routine.
@maya: Once I had joined the company, I was told, “Out of all the clubs we have, z-cat has the most passionate fanbase of all, so you should definitely join,” so I went for it! (laughs) Just like @satoe, every time someone posts a picture in the channel, I go and have a peek. Some members of the channel have decorated their rooms to be really posh for their cats, which never fails to impress me.
——I see! So rather than posting your own photos, the three of you prefer to look at other people’s photos?
@vvakame: Sure. I make a point of peeking at the channel once a day. My cat is cute but my home is not, so I can’t really show people any of the pictures that I take. (laughs) But this is what makes z-cat so great. It’s the sort of relaxed club where you can just go to look at other people’s cats.
@satoe: In the evening, right around the time when my fuel tank starts to run dry, I like to look at cute cat pictures to give me a boost. (laughs) And okay, so all I’m doing is going on the channel and saying, “Aww look how cute this one is,” to myself but this puts me on cloud nine. I often hear that some of the members who belong to z-cat do not have their own cats, say for instance because they are allergic and therefore can’t keep a cat of their own, so they visit the z-cat channel to get their dose of cat vibes.
@maya: I post on the channel from time to time. The other day I bought a new cat toy, so I took a picture of my cat playing with it and uploaded it to the channel. Of all the clubs we have at Mercari, z-cat has one of the highest activity levels.
Pippi displays her joy after being presented with a new toy (photo by @maya).
@maya: One recent post that really impressed me was the series of pictures @bowei shot on Sanagi Island in Kagawa Prefecture titled “Jumping Cats.” The cats really look like they’re soaring through the sky. The shots were simply gorgeous and even touching. The pictures made me want to visit Sanagi Island someday.
Whenever someone posts a cat picture on the z-cat Slack channel, the club members immediately react to it with their stamps and comments.
The search for homes that nearly broke one member—the support of z-cat as a bedrock of strength
——So you say that looking at pictures posted on z-cat is a way to help you recharge. Do you have any stories of a time when the club’s activities left an impression on you?
@vvakame: The other day, I gave other z-cat members some cat food that my kitty simply would not eat anymore. What my cat will or will not eat can vary all depending on how healthy she feels. A lot of the time, even if I buy her something good, she won’t touch it, and the expiry date draws near. However, throwing it away is a waste, so I decided to offer it to other members on z-cat. I brought quite a lot of it to the office, and yet it was more popular than I thought; it disappeared in two days. One of the members who inherited my cat’s food posted pictures on the channel of their cat chowing down with a caption that read, “Delicious!” I felt really good about that. I’m glad we were able to be true to Mercari’s goal of reducing waste in this case.
@maya: I also took a share of the food. My cat’s liver is not all that healthy, so we have her on a therapeutic diet, but she really liked the food and finished it in a hurry. In a lot of cases, anytime we buy a new brand of cat food, it doesn’t pass her sniff test at all, so it helps a lot to be able to sample different foods that other people give away before making any purchases.
@satoe: I used z-cat to search for homes for some rescue cats. One day, my husband’s friend came to us for advice. He said there were kittens living in his shed and he didn’t know what to do with them. When we went to check out the shed, there were a total of seven kittens, but their mother never came back for them. I took them all home with me for the time being and then started searching for homes for them. I asked my friends, but it was hard to find anyone willing to take all seven kittens, so I turned to the z-cat channel to find them new homes. When I did, a number of members DMed me, and as a result, I was able to find homes for three of the kittens. One of the kittens actually went to @maya.
——Really? No kidding!
@maya: At home we had one cat who, in people years, was about 20 at the time, but she’s all grown up and has really settled down, so we thought that she should have a brother or sister so that she wouldn’t feel lonely when I’m not home. Just when I was thinking about getting another cat, I saw @satoe’s post and contacted her right away.
@satoe: What made me especially happy about my communications with @maya was that she said she was willing to take any one of the kittens. Usually, people hunt for the cutest of the litter or the one that they like, but @maya said, “This is fate, so I’ll gladly take home the last of them.” Wow, I thought, her love for cats is off the charts. Soon after that, the kitten that would make her way to @maya’s home was “selected,” and we had plans in place for her departure.
@maya: I’m so happy at how everything worked out for us. For a while, I’d only seen the kitten online, so I was really looking forward to meeting her offline. I really wanted to see her while she was still kitten-sized, so I was hoping to somehow hit pause on her growth until I could meet her. (laughs)
In this picture, @maya is at @satoe’s home to collect her new kitten. Thanks to the help of the members of z-cat and @satoe’s friends, all seven of the kittens now have homes.
@satoe: It was a lot harder than I imagined to find homes for all seven of the kittens. Some of the kittens were only two to three weeks old and had to be given milk every few hours, so I would feed them milk and had to clean up after them when they went to the bathroom. There were times when the work nearly crushed me. However, the members of z-cat reacted with stamps and posted comments for me and others DMed me. They urged me not to give up, and that helped me a lot. People’s warm messages cheered me up, and it helped me believe that I’d be able to find great homes for each of the kittens.
I did my best to take care of all seven kittens until I was able to find homes for them, so I started to feel a bond with them, but I thought that if I could place the kittens with cat people who were members of z-cat, I’d be able to rest easy. I’m just so grateful to z-cat.
——I think I’m going to cry (sheds a tear). It’s incredible to think that a company club could deliver people a new family member. Is there anything else you’d like to do with z-cat going forward?
@satoe: I wouldn’t say that I want to do anything new, but rather I want everyone to post their pictures of cute cats so that I can react to them with stamps and feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I guess I just want to continue feeling the sense of peace that the channel gives me.
@maya: Yeah. I feel the same way. Looking at the z-cat channel every day is what our activities are all about, so I’d like to keep things light and keep going with it.
@vvakame: I think one of the great things about our club is that even people who don’t have a cat can enjoy viewing the channel. I’d be happy if the number of people who view the channel grows by even one more person and they feel comforted by the images posted there.