A feral feline foofaraw erupted earlier today, when the internet rediscovered Aoshima, a remote mile-long Japanese island where cats outnumber people six to one, earning it the nickname “Nekojima,” or “Cat Island.” After someone posted a photo of Aoshima’s cat masses on Twitter in 2013, the island’s 20 mainly elderly residents—whose numbers, incidentally, include a “cat witch,” who feeds the critters—have been overwhelmed by a surge in tourists, reports RocketNews24.
Well, brace yourself, internet. In addition to Aoshima, Japan has 10 other cat islands (this news also comes courtesy of RocketNews24, which clearly has the cat beat covered). Tashirojima is perhaps the most famous Nekojima. Like Aoshima, cats were first introduced by fishermen, who needed cats to protect silkworms—used to spin fishing nets—from mice, reports Kotaku. Nowadays Tashirojima sees a steady stream of felineophile tourists. It also ban dogs entirely and has vets pop by occasionally to keep the cats in good shape.
Then there’s Genkaishima. Long home to the country’s largest island-based cat population, its numbers took a hit in a 2005 earthquake. For those who can’t get enough feral cat pics, this photoblogger has spent years documenting them.
While many Nekojimas are fishing villages, one is in the middle of a lake—and on cat-overrun Muzukijima, you’ll find a citrus grove paradise with the best oranges in all of Japan.
Some are even semi-urban; on an island off the coast of Tokyo, the feral cats coexist with surfers and sunbathers.
Japan’s also certainly not the only place where cat islands abound: the US until recently had at least 18, and Australia at one time boasted 15.
Then again, Japan handles its cat islands a little differently. It’s worth noting that those figures on the US and Australia come from a paper entitled “Review of feral cat eradications on islands” (pdf). On the 83 islands in 15 countries surveyed, humans used hunting dogs, traps, and poison to try and eliminate their cat populations. Japan is more cat-friendly—consider the Tokyo cat cafes, cat shrines, and Hello Kitty shops. Now add cat islands and cat witches.