There are dozens of islands off the coasts of Japan that known as ‘cat islands’.
This is because the number of cats that live on these islands outnumber the humans living there.
Aoshima for instance only had seven people living there as of 2021, and is reported to have over 10 cat residents for every one human, with the island itself just over half a mile long.
However, despite its small size, Aoshima is one of the most famous cat islands in Japan due to having the largest feline population of the surrounding islands.
The cats that live there have done so for decades, and since a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program was implemented on the island in 2018, the population has stabilized and the health of the cats has improved.
Many of the cats have their ear tipped, the distinctive universal sign that a cat has been spayed/neutered.
The human population
Although life on Aoshima sounds idyllic for cat lovers around the world, the lack of people living here has caused facilities to deteriorate, so those that plan to visit Aoshima are encouraged to bring their own food and drink for the day.
The seven people that live in the fishing village on the island are the caretakers of the cats.
Tourism is also a big part of islands like Aoshima, with people traveling all over the world to come visit and spend time with the cats.
The locals have set up a system of feeding areas away from the docks so that visitors don’t unintentionally draw cats to areas that need to be kept clear for fishing.
The below video is a recent illustration of how things work on Aoshima as a tourist:
Popularity brings better health for cats
Although Aoshima is the most famous cat island with the highest feline population in Japan, others like Tashirojima have more reasonable ratios of cat to human residents.
The experience of this YouTuber shows what Tashirojima was like back in 2016, before massive TNR programs were introduced on all of the Japanese cat islands:
The video shows a glimpse of how the cats on these islands were fed and sheltered, but not spayed/neutered or vaccinated.
However, due to the popularity of these cat islands spreading through the internet and concern from animal welfare activists, both at home in Japan and internationally, TNR programs were carried out in 2018.
Now the feline populations on islands like Aoshima and Tashirojima are taken care by a vet that travels to the islands every two months to help maintain the health of the cats.
The program ensures a better life for both the cats and the humans that remain living on these islands.
Top image, which was cropped from the original, used under the following Creative Commons license.