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'Cat island' Aoshima, Japan becomes tourist destination for cat lovers

A satellite image shows the island of Aoshima

A satellite image shows the island of Aoshima off the southern coast of Japan. The island is known as "cat island" for its growing population of cats. Photo Credit: Google, ZENRIN 2015

The island of Aoshima in southern Japan is unique for one very cute reason: It’s inhabited by more cats than people.

More than 120 cats share the remote island with 15 human residents, according to the Japan Daily Press, which has led to an influx of cat-loving tourists eager to see the furry creatures.

"I carry tourists every week, even though the only thing we have to offer is cats," said ferry captain Nobuyuki Ninomiya to Japan Daily Press.  

"There is a ton of cats here, then there was this sort of cat witch who came out to feed the cats which was quite fun," tourist Makiko Yamasaki told Reuters. "I'd want to come again."

The felines were originally brought to the island to help with a mouse problem, but have since multiplied as the human population has shrunk.

Aoshima was home to 900 people in 1945, but the majority of the population left to find work in Japan's cities. Since then, the large number of abandoned houses in the village are inhabited by the cats.

With no predators on the island, the cat population has continued to grow.  At least 10 cats have been neutered by local residents to try to keep the population in check, according to Reuters.  

"If people coming to the island find the cats healing, then I think it's a good thing," resident Hidenori Kamimoto told Reuters. "I just hope that it's done in a way that doesn't become a burden on the people who live here."

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