What is the Reason Behind the Existence of Cat Islands in Japan?

The idea of cat islands came into being when fishermen required cats to get rid of mice on their fishing boats.

Japan is known for its fondness for animal-themed attractions, from the rabbit cafes in Tokyo to the friendly deer in Nara and the snow monkeys of Jigokudani that bathe in hot springs.

It has also become a trend to assign job roles to cats, such as appointing them as lords of castles and managers of train stations to attract tourists.

However, there is one specific furry attraction that surpasses them all, which is the “Cat Islands” or “Neko-Shima” in Japanese.

Yes, entire islands are inhabited by these furry felines.

The most well-known cat island is the Island of Aoshima, located in the Ehime prefecture, although there are multiple “Cat Islands” off Japan’s coastline and even on inland saltwater lakes.

Tashiro-jima is the second most popular island for cats, but as the concept is becoming a popular tourist attraction, more islands are becoming cat havens.

The 11 Islands are also known as “Cat Island” or “Neko-Shima”.

Below is a list of the names for the 11 cat islands, along with the prefecture where each island is located:

Okishima (Shiga prefecture)

Sanagishima (Kagawa prefecture)

Aoshima (Ehime prefecture)

Muzukijima (Ehime prefecture)

Manabeshima (Okayama prefecture)

Iwaishima (Yamaguchi prefecture)

Aijima (Fukuoka prefecture)

Aishima (Fukuoka prefecture)

Genkaishima (Fukuoka prefecture)

Kadarashima (Saga prefecture)

Tashiro-jima (Miyagi prefecture)

What is the Ratio of Cats to Humans on Cat Island?

The ratio of cats to humans varies from island to island, and as it develops into a popular tourist attraction, islands are competing to have the most cats.

The island of Aoshima has approximately 10 cats for every human, with the island having only 13 human residents, resulting in over 150 felines.

On the other hand, the island of Tashiro-jima has a human population of 100 and over 100 cats, resulting in a ratio of about 1:1.

Manabeshima Island has the largest population of both humans and cats, with just under 300 humans and allegedly around the same number of cats to humans.

How did the Cats End up on These Islands?

The stories behind the arrival of cats on these islands are unique, depending on their location.

Most of them have a story revolving around rodent problems, but some have developed from myths and legends.

Aoshima has so many cats because it was a fishing hotspot back in the 1900s, and fishermen repeatedly faced issues with mice on their boats, often adopting cats as a solution.

Over time, the cats ventured onto the islands, leading to their massive population today.

The island of Tashiro-jima, however, has a different story behind its cats.

The island was used to raise silkworms, which naturally attracted mice, so cats were introduced to help control the mice population.

Although there is no specific reason for the excessive amount of cats on Genakaishima Island, it was once the largest cat island, but it was severely affected by an earthquake in 2005.

Most of the island was destroyed, but the number of cats has increased since then.

According to legend on Kadarashima Island, a dog disobeyed its owner and Yasakajinja Shrine punished all dogs, resulting in their expulsion from the island.

The island remains a paradise for cats, as no dogs live there.

How Cat Islands Boost Tourism in Japan

The Cat Islands are popular tourist destinations throughout the year, and some islanders and tourism boards are developing them as attractions.

Tashiro-jima Island has even built a cat shrine to honor the cats that live there and their contributions.

The shrine has become a popular tourist spot.

Japan is often affected by bad weather and earthquakes, so cat tourism has become a way to attract visitors to areas that have suffered damage.

By attracting tourism, the islands are receiving funds to restore affected areas.

If you love cats, Japan is the perfect destination.

Although the cat islands were not originally intended as tourist destinations, they are becoming increasingly popular to visit.

By visiting a cat island, you can support the local community through tourism and spend your day with cats.


1. What are cat islands in Japan?

Cat islands in Japan are a phenomenon where the cat population is more than the human population on the island. These islands have become popular tourist destinations where visitors can enjoy the company of friendly felines.

2. Why are there cat islands in Japan?

There are many theories, but the most widely accepted one is that cats were brought to the islands to control the rodent population on fishing boats. Over time, the cats multiplied, and as the human population decreased, the cats took over.

3. How many cat islands are there in Japan?

There are around a dozen cat islands in Japan, but the most popular ones include Tashirojima, Aoshima, and Okishima. These islands have become famous for their cat populations, and visitors come from all over the world to see them.

4. Are the cat islands in Japan safe for cats?

While the cat islands in Japan may seem like paradise for cats, they also face challenges. Many of these islands are remote and lack veterinary care, and the cats may suffer from health problems. Additionally, some visitors may not treat the cats with respect or may feed them inappropriate foods.

5. Can visitors interact with the cats on the cat islands in Japan?

Yes, visitors to the cat islands in Japan can interact with the cats. However, it’s important to remember that these are still wild animals and should be treated with respect. Visitors should also avoid feeding the cats human food, as this can cause health problems for the cats.

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