Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes

Cats outnumber humans by six to one in small community

Rose Troup Buchanan
Tuesday 03 March 2015 12:16
The cats watch tourists arrive, ominously
The cats watch tourists arrive, ominously

A former fishing village in Japan has been overrun by cats.

Aoshima, a tiny island located in Miyazaki province off the southern coast of Japan, officially has less than 20 people in residence – but over 120 feral cats, outnumbering the humans by six to one.

The animals were originally brought over to control a mice infestation, but with no natural predators – and a dwindling supply of mice – the number of cats soon got out of hand.

Humans first inhabited the 1.6km island roughly 380 years ago and in 1945 the island was home to approximately 900 people.

But as the local fishing industry declined so did the human population.

Now, the 20-odd individuals who still live on the island – known locally as Cats Islands – are pensioners, with tourism the island’s main source of income.

About a decade ago, as the number of people declined, the cat population shot up as their breeding went unchecked. Efforts are being made to cull the feline community – roughly 10 animals have recently been spayed – but progress is slow.

Most of the cats have become feral with fewer and fewer humans to feed them, but they survive mainly on the rice balls, energy bars or potatoes tourists, who visit from the mainland, give them.

"If people coming to the island find the cats healing, then I think it's a good thing," 65-year-old Hidenori Kamimoto, who makes a living as a fisherman, told ABC.

"I just hope that it's done in a way that doesn't become a burden on the people who live here."

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