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The pet whisperer of Fukushima

Most steer clear of Fukushima's restricted zone in Japan.

But for Sakae Kato, it's the place of his life's mission: taking care of abandoned pets, which he refers to as 'kids.'

"There were some frustrations in the past ten years that made me wonder why I was doing such things. But if humans have trouble making a living, the society will take care of them, and provide them social aid. If these kids are in trouble and no one is taking care of them, they will die."

All of his family and neighbors fled after an earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant meltdown 10 years ago.

But Kato vowed to stay on in a near-empty township and began taking care of stray pets.

Kato and his 41 stray cats now live in a dilapidated house.

Water is collected from a nearby mountain spring and Kato uses public toilets outside the restricted area.

"It's getting harder to take care of the animals so I think it will be even much harder in 10 years' time. I want to be around when the last cat dies, then I want to die after that, no matter if it takes a day or an hour, I want to take care of the last cat here before I die. Otherwise it would be cruel to leave it alone. I will not breed any more cats but it's also sad to see them go."

Kato isn't technically allowed to sleep at his house and is officially a resident of Fukushima city which is a two-hour drive away.

He says his family is opposed to his charitable, but costly, project.

Taking care of the animals eats up around $7,000 a month for food, fuel and veterinary expenses.

Kato estimates he has spent at least $750,000 over the past 10 years looking after the pets.

But his kindness has not always received a warm welcome from onlookers.

In February, Kato was arrested on suspicion of freeing wild boar caught in traps set up by Japan's government.

"People don't like wild boars and they say they're vermin. But the boars have come here in front of the garage since they were babies. They're getting bigger and bigger and now they also bring their children here with them, so to me they're like my children."

Despite these obstacles, Kato insists he has permission to stay in the area and won't be deterred from what he sees as his life's purpose.