On the Japanese island of Aoshima, there are more cats than people. First introduced by fishing boats to the small island, as humans gradually left Aoshima, the cats began taking over, until the cats outnumbered the humans by a ratio of over 30:1.
Despite being a popular tourist attraction, efforts are underway to make sure that the feline population remains in check…
Cats taking over an island sounds like the plot of a movie, set on a distant, faraway rock that humans haven’t visited in centuries. These felines didn’t overthrow the humans, in their defense, but with over 200 cats and just five humans as of 2023, it’s clear who is dominant on Aoshima.
Once a thriving fishing community, Aoshima (or Ao) was gradually abandoned as younger people headed toward Japan’s sprawling cities for better career opportunities. The people left on Aoshima now are all pensioners.
The small, sleepy island is only one mile long. Located in the Ōzu District of Japan’s Ehime Prefecture, it is in the bay of the mid-sized city of Matsuyama.
The population was close to 1,000 around the end of the Second World War, but had plummeted by the 21st century. The cats were first used to combat rodents on fishing boats, but soon made it to land and now reside there permanently.
Considering the specific series of events that have conspired to leave Aoshima dominated by cats, it is surprising that it is only one of a series of cat islands in Japan. Back in 2016, there were as many as 11 of them, with Aoshima being one of the biggest.
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This is likely why it has also been the site of a government scheme to neuter and spay the population of cats since February 2018. Ehime Shimbun, a Japanese online newspaper, reported that by October of that year over 210 of the cats had been spayed.
The island is accessible by a ferry that departs from Port Nagahama every 30 minutes.