Aoshima (Cat Island)
Known as “Cat Island,” Aoshima, Japan, is a sleepy island in the Ehime Prefecture, with feline residents outnumbering humans by about eight to one.
Aoshima was once a bustling fishing island, but now only a few human residents are left. However, the cat population is thriving. They were initially introduced to help fishermen keep the mouse population in check, but now they are YouTube sensations and the island’s star attraction.
Despite being semi-feral, the cats on Aoshima are accustomed to human visitors. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find a crowd of tourists trying to befriend the kitties as a result of the recent boom in publicity. Fortunately, there are over 100 felines living on the island, so you won’t have to compete too hard for their affection!
If you give them food and undivided attention, these fluffballs will play with you and let you take photos. The island’s community center has a designated feeding area just a few minutes walk from the port, so if you wish to feed the cats, please do so there.
Likewise, locals often overfeed the cats, especially the elderly, to develop companionship with the creatures. However, no cat lover can blame them for that.
There are also cat islands worldwide, not just in Japan. For example, there were at least 18 cat islands in the United States and 15 in Australia. However, it’s often the topic of conversation to eradicate the cat populations in these U.S. and Australian islands. Though some people think culling the cat population on Aoshima is also a good idea because large groups of cats can create stress.
It has been discovered that cats in Aoshima form hierarchies, with males competing for territory and females competing for food. However, despite so much competition, cat researchers argue that living conditions in this so-called haven are anything but heavenly. Often, kittens die before adulthood due to starvation, disease, or a type of infanticide previously observed only in lions due to so much interspecies competition.
In the warm seasons, tourists bring food to the cats, but no one comes when it gets cold, and the sea is rough. It is sometimes impossible for boats to cross rough seas. In 2016, a plea for food led to a plethora of donations.
The Aoshima Human Residents
Aoshima Island was once a thriving fishing village with 900 people in the mid-1940s. Only a few elderly residents who didn’t relocate after World War II left. There were only six full-time residents as of 2019.
A photographer known as Fubirai has been documenting the island’s cats for several years on his blog. With the help of Buzzfeed, the photos went viral in 2012, leading to a small tourism boom. Apart from that, Aoshima isn’t exactly a tourist hotspot. There are no hotels, restaurants, shops, or even vending machines.
Bring all your supplies and take all your garbage home if you plan to visit Aoshima. Respect the elderly residents and be kind to the felines on Japan’s cat island.
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