These 'Cat Islands' Have Thousands Of Felines Running Free But They're Not The Paradise They Seem

24/5/2017

The "Cat Islands" in Japan sound like any animal lover's paradise. Thousandsof free-roaming felines wander the streets of the little islands.

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Source: Thomas Peter/Reuters

The lack of predators mean that their numbers have continued to grow since the animals were brought there by fishermen to control the rodent population, and with them, the number of tourists coming to witness this incredible sight.So as soon as Andrew Marrtila, a cat photographer, and his girlfriend, Hannah Shaw, founder of 'The Kitten Lady,'heard about the 11 islands, they knew they had to pay a visit. And so, in November 2016, they did.

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Source: Andrew Marttila

While the pair was immediately struck by the idea of having so many cats around, there was something about the situation that concerned them. Shaw wrote for Paw Culture:

A small island bursting with friendly felines sounds almost too good to be true if you’re a cat lover. [...] On social media, cat islands are commonly referred to in utopian terms—a dream destination. As a full-time rescuer and cat advocate, the idea gave me pause. But with an open mind, my partner and I visited Ainoshima, a cat island in Fukuoka.

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Source: Thomas Peter/Reuters

When they arrived, they noticed that none of the cats were spayed or neutered or receiving any veterinary care. Most of the older cats were healthy, but many of the kittens seemed to have some sort of upper respiratory infection.

Eyes and noses crusted, the kittens huddled together on the warm pavement of the only road on the island, many struggling to breathe. The adults looked decently healthy, though unsterilized; they mated loudly on the shore, and pregnant females approached for food and affection.
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Source: Andrew Marttila

The residents of the island ask tourists not to feed the animals, although that is rarely adhered to. As the population grows, locals are hoping to let nature 'take its course' to reduce the number of cats.They refuse medical care for the animals and have taken no measures to ensure their well-being.

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Source: Thomas Peter/Reuters

While a hands-off approach is the current strategy, the fact is that human intervention is already impacting the growth of the population, just not in a way that benefits anyone. [...] It benefits no one for kittens to be ill, or for the population to be in a constant cycle of birth, early death, and more birth.

Some of the islands have implemented trap-neuter-release programs to protect the well-being of the cats already in existence, but most haven't. Shaw is advocating for this program to be put in place everywhere, especially if tourism continues to increase.

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Source: Andrew Marttila

It’s possible to appreciate these fascinating island cats while simultaneously advocating for their welfare—to tell their story without cropping out the troubling parts. 

Tens of thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters each year, either due to neglect, abuse or abandonment. Consider adopting before you shop, and visit your local shelters before going to a breeder. Every dog and cat deserves a fair chance at a forever home.If you live in England, you can visit the RSPCA, and if you live in the United States, you can visit the ASPCA to get more information about pets available for adoption.

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At Holidog, we aim to improve the lives of your furry friends.Enjoy your holidays with peace of mind, knowing your pet is in great hands (find a petsitter near you) and spoil them with our monthly subscription box filled with yummy treats and toys (get your free box here). You can count on us!