The island of Aoshima, part of Japan’s Ehime Prefecture, is commonly considered a feline paradise. While it’s not Japan’s only cat island, it’s the most famous, attracting visitors both domestic and international who come to see the 130 kitties that roam free along the streets of the island community.
Walking around Aoshima, you’ll see sights like this…
As a matter of fact, Aoshima’s residents feel they’ve finally reached the point of having too many cats. While the animals can wander about wherever they please, they’re largely taken care of by the Aoshima Cat Protection Society, which has recommended that all of the cats on the island be spayed or neutered in order to gradually reduce their population.
In contrast to the 130 cats that live on the island, there are only 13 human residents, with an average age of over 75 years old. Those demographics are up about 30 cats and down two humans since four years ago, and a lack of people, as well as infrastructure, has the society thinking it can’t reasonably sustain any larger number of felines than Aoshima currently has. In 2016, the organization even had to solicit donations of cat food to keep the animals fed.
The Aoshima Cat Protection Society recommended a spaying/neutering initiative last July, and the city has now earmarked funds for such a program in its preliminary budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Working with Hyogo-based animal welfare organization Dobutsu Kikin, the plan would have veterinarians travel to Aoshima and remain on the island while the procedures are carried out, which would require roughly 400,000 yen in travel and lodging expenses.
While Aoshima’s cat island cachet has made it a popular tourism destination, the almost complete lack of commerce on the island (it doesn’t have even a single vending machine, a shocking status for a Japanese town) means that the influx of visitors isn’t accompanied by an influx of revenue, so it’s unlikely there’s enough money in the city’s coffers to simply expand the services/facilities of the Aoshima Cat Protection Society. Plus, while the cats are provided food by the society, their ability to go where they please throughout the island means that in many ways they’re like a pack of strays, and allowing their number to go completely unchecked could lead to hygienic or other issues.
A timetable for the proposed program is yet to be set, but the Japanese fiscal year begins in the spring, so if the initiative is ultimately approved, operations would likely begin soon after.
Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Ehime Shimbun Online via Jin
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