As one of Japan’s largest auto parts and service chains, Yellow Hat is naturally very concerned with traffic safety, so it’s not much of a surprise that the company has put together a public service video on the subject. What is surprising, though, is who the video is for.
No, it’s not for elderly drivers, who have been involved in a number of high-profile accidents and unsafe incidents in Japan recently, nor is it for young kids, who often commute unaccompanied to school and need to be on the lookout for motor vehicles when crossing the street.
The video is for cats.
▼ All of the presenters are either cats or human actors in cat costumes.
Just to be clear, this isn’t just a regular traffic safety presentation with some cat images tossed in. Yellow Hat developed the video with the help of members of Kyoto University’s Camp-Nyan animal psychology research team, including Professor Kazuo Fujita, a specialist in zoology and cognitive science. Following the researchers’ suggestions, Yellow Hat made sure the video contains plenty of moving elements in order to command kitties’ attention.
▼ “There are many dangers,” warns the narrator, who speaks only in meows.
Similar care went into the audio components. The team tested a variety of candidates for the video’s “narrator” before deciding on the specific set of meows that cat test audiences responded to most attentively. The background music contains the sound of chirping birds, and also sine wave sound patterns similar to the squeaking of mice and other small rodents, the aim being that cats’ hunter instincts will kick in when they think they hear their preferred prey hiding somewhere onscreen and keep them watching the video.
▼ A test screening, held at a cat cafe
Ideally, Yellow Hat would like people as well as cats to watch the video, as evidenced by the inclusion of for-humans Japanese subtitles for all the narration’s meows.
▼ “Don’t jump out into the street!”
And yes, the video does an admirable job of helping human drivers understand certain aspects of cat psychology, such as the seductive warmth of middle-of-the-road manhole covers, the excitement of hunting at twilight when birds return to their nests, and how sometimes honking horns and high-beam headlights can startle cats enough that they can’t leap out of the way, so drivers need to slow down too. Still, the video also seems to be earnestly trying to get cats to understand and retain the fact that where there are streets, there are cars, and hopefully hammering home that mental connection will keep Japan’s cats a little safer when they’re out and about.