Nestled off the Eastern shores amidst the peaceful waters of the Pacific Ocean sits Cat Island in Japan, home to over 100 feline furkids who are loved by both locals and visitors alike.
Known formally as Tashirojima, this small island is located 17 kilometers southeast of Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture and is home to a small number of human residents who live harmoniously alongside an ever-growing clowder of cats.
It wasn’t always this way though. During the Edo period that ran from 1603 to 1867, the then-thriving island population of around 1,000 inhabitants raised silkworms, which they used to make fabric.
As the silkworms came under attack from the rampant population of mice, cats were introduced to get the rodents under control. Coupled with the islands thriving fishing industry, which remains today, these feline furkids soon realized they’d landed on their paws, and the rest, as they say, is history!
These days, only around 80 people remain living on Cat Island, but the feline population continues to flourish, and they’re cherished by the local fishermen who see them as good luck.
In Japanese folklore, feeding a cat is said to bless the one doing the feeding, so the fishermen give thanks to their feline friends on a daily basis by feeding them scraps of fish.
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Perhaps the most sacred of all the spots on Cat Island is the Neko Jinja shrine, which legend says was built to honor a feline that was killed by a falling rock. Adorned with beckoning cat figures, it’s a regular snooze spot for many of the island’s kitty residents and a place of pure delight for all those who love them.
With around 150 cats residing on the island, their health is taken care of by a vet who travels to the island every two months to check in on their wellbeing. If you ever fancy joining the thousands of tourists who flock to Tashirojima each year, you’re in luck - while you can easily travel there and back in a day, there are also five cabins available for rent, so you can spend some time soaking up the peace and tranquility alongside your new feline friends.
Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.
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