Japan's 'Cat Islands' Offer Friendly Feral Cats, But Mask A Serious Health Problem

Japan's "Cat Islands" are filled with thousands of friendly feral felines, but they're experiencing serious health problems.

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Nov. 18 2019, Updated 2:22 p.m. ET

Source: istock

If you're obsessed with cats, then you've probably heard of the 'Cat Islands' in Japan.

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There are 11 of these euphoric islands in the country, and they're filled with free-roaming felines that thrive happily, as there are no natural predators to threaten them. 

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Obviously, once people caught wind of the Cat Islands, like Ainoshima, they began visiting the hell out of them.

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The cats were originally brought to the islands by fishermen who were trying to regulate the rodent populations that were messing with whatever they stored on the island. Plus, no one wants to have a boat filled with mice and rats.

And although the place sounds like paradise for cat lovers, there's a big problem on islands like Ainoshima.

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Animal photographer Andrew Marttila visited the islands to snap photos of the cats, but ended up bringing awareness to the bevy of health problems the little kitties are experiencing in their secluded getaway spots. 

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"For us cat lovers, there’s something pretty special about an area littered with dozens of cats. What you’re not seeing, however, are all the cats and kittens suffering from very treatable illnesses," Marttila told The Huffington Post.

Without veterinarians or a way of caring for the cats, overpopulation is becoming a real problem. 

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Hannah Shaw wrote about the myriad problems the kitties face on the islands. Young cats are being plagued with respiratory infections, and overpopulation caused by abundant food sources provided by human tourists have resulted in brutal fights between males fighting for territory. Some argue that "nature" should just run its course, but human intervention is what caused such a boon in cat populations in the first place.

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Some cat islands, like Tokonoshima, for example, are implementing "trap-neuter-return" programs.

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The cats are humanely captured, neutered or spayed, and then given necessary vet care and returned back to their home lives. The program has also helped to keep the local endangered rabbit species from going extinct in the region, as well.

You can check out more of Marttila's photographs of his trip to cat island on his Instagram and website.

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