On the coast of Japan there are a few islands with many more feline than human inhabitants: are called cat islands. They are very prominent tourist destinations, but they may not be as happy as they seem at first glance. We invite you to meet Aoshima, one of the cat islands in Japan.
Where the cat islands are located
Aoshima is one of the best-known cat islands in Japan. Only 15 people live in it and, on the other hand, the felines amount to more than 100. This island is located in the prefecture of Ehime, in the south of the country.
Another of the best-known cat islands is Tashirojima, which receives about 10,000 visitors a year. It is located in Miyagi Prefecture, in the northern third of the country and much closer to the coast than Aoshima.
In both cases, it is necessary to travel by boat from the main island of the country. The trips depend on many factors, but both trips last approximately half an hour. The schedules vary according to the seasons and the influx of visitors but are usually limited to a couple of daily tours.
How have you got to have so many cats
The greatest attraction that these places have is the enormous abundance of cats that live in them. In the case of Aoshima, it is estimated that there are six cats per inhabitant. These animals, which depend on humans for food, since there are not enough prey to hunt on their own, are very docile and friendly.
They are used to the presence of unknown people on the island, thanks to the influx of tourists. They know how to pose for photographs and get tourists to feed them; they are not, therefore, like the usual stray cats we find in other parts of the world.
Visitors who come to these places find a hard-to-find postcard anywhere in the world: hundreds of friendly cats that are easily photographed and also ask to interact with people.
The islands of cats are faced with a difficult dilemma: the presence of tourists, who feed cats, has allowed its population to grow out of control. However, tourists do not leave economic or human resources to keep this population healthy, sterilized and well-fed.
Caregivers in the cat islands
As many of the people who visit these places say, many of these cats are affected by common and easily treatable diseases. The most frequent are respiratory and eye infections, although there are wounds, skin problems and many other problems derived from them.
In addition, no one has been responsible for sterilizing the cats that live in them, so litters continue to be born continuously and the feline population in the cat islands will continue to grow.
For a few years, groups of volunteers who do not reside on the islands have moved to them to treat animals, and have launched a modest CES project (Capture, Sterilization, and Release). Despite their efforts, their economic capacity is not enough to serve all the cats that live in these places.
When asked about how to improve the quality of life of these cats, one of the visitors to these places declared for a magazine that he was making a report:
“ It’s a complex issue that doesn’t have to have a single solution. In our visit, we learned that we must be aware of the impact of our presence on the tourist destinations where there are animals. ”
The impact of tourism
In fact, in these islands, the presence of foreigners who brought food has allowed cat populations to grow until they become another tourist attraction. The more people visit the island, the more food available the cats have, so they continue to reproduce.
The presence of people on the islands of cats by themselves does not, however, ensure the health of these animals, the hygienic control of the places where they live or their veterinary care. It is a vicious circle in which, if tourism disappears, cats will no longer have food, but if tourism is not controlled, cats will continue to multiply.
Aoshima and Tashirojima are not the only places where this occurs: more than a dozen islands have been counted in the same situation in Japan alone. There are other tourist destinations in which the populations of monkeys or seagulls, for example, have been out of control thanks to the abundance of food.
Tourists visiting these destinations should be aware of the impact their presence has anywhere in the world. It is possible to make responsible and ecological tourism and enjoy the wonders of the flora and fauna of our planet without negatively affecting it.