Categories: community cats

Where is Japan’s Cat Island?

As there isn’t a single cat island but eleven in total it’s impossible to show you where Japan’s Cat Island (in the singular) is. They are all off the coast of Japan as expected! Aoshima Island is one of them where, it is said, there are ten cats for every human (a 10:1 ratio). There are only 13 people on the island with over 150 cats. Another of Japan’s cat Islands is Tashirojima which has 300 human inhabitants and the same number of cats. The map on this page shows the location of Aoshima Island.

Japan’s Cat Island. Super photo which is now in the public domain.


The interesting aspect of the cats on Japan’s cat islands is that it is very clear that all the cats on each island are the offspring of only a handful of parents. It may be the case that a single couple have created all the cats on one island. You can tell this because they all look as if they have the same genes governing the type of coat that they have. For example, there are many cats on one island with ginger tabby-and-white coats and ginger tabby coats. You will also see brown tabby-and-white coats. The third type of very commonplace coat is the calico i.e. the tortoiseshell-and-white. The point I’m making is that the types of coat are quite limited. We are not seeing the broad spectrum of random bred coat that we normally see.

Of course, it doesn’t surprise me that this has happened. After all, these cats live on an island where they are confined. If you import two unsterilized cats, one female and one male, to a smallish island they will breed and their offspring will breed and so on until quite quickly there will be a large number of cats of a very extended family. And of course they will all have a similar coat or range of coats. This is how the Manx cat evolved. As you know, the Manx cat comes from the Isle of Man, an island of similar size to Japan’s cat Islands. It’s called the founder effect where a very few founding cats (original cats) create, in effect, an informal cat breed. They are purebred cats without being recognised as such by the cat associations.

I’d expect that there are very few small mammals on these islands! The cats are technically feral but better described as community cats because they will be semi-domesticated and some will be wholly domesticated. This is because of the regular interactions with tourists and inhabitants. Not everyone likes the cats as there was a story about them being mysteriously being poisoned on one island I recall.

The full list of Japan’s cat Islands is below:

  1. Okishima (Shiga prefecture)
  2. Sanagishima (Kagawa prefecture)
  3. Aoshima (Ehime prefecture)
  4. Muzukijima (Ehime prefecture)
  5. Manabeshima (Okayama prefecture)
  6. Iwaishima (Yamaguchi prefecture)
  7. Aijima (Fukuoka prefecture)
  8. Aishima (Fukuoka prefecture)
  9. Genkaishima (Fukuoka prefecture)
  10. Kadarashima (Saga prefecture)
  11. Tashiro-jima (Miyagi prefecture)
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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