TAKAMATSU -- Over 200 stray cats on Ogijima island, Kagawa Prefecture, will be neutered after local islanders and tourists complained that the rapidly growing population of felines has become a serious problem.
The island, one of the small islets in the Seto Inland Sea, with a human population of about 180, became known as one of Japan's cat islands on the internet after the number of feline residents gradually started growing over a decade ago. After the island was introduced in a book by a popular photographer published about three years ago, the number of cat lovers visiting the island also increased.
There have been complaints by islanders and visitors about cat feces and other feline-related problems, such as cats causing damage to crops and ripping up fishing nets. The cats continued to multiply as tourists gave them food, and the damage caused by the felines worsened. As a result of the rapid population growth, some cats are malnourished and some suffer from illnesses.
A local community association consulted a nonprofit animal welfare organization based in Takamatsu in April and decided unanimously to neuter and spay all the stray cats on the island. "Dobutsu Kikin" (Animal foundation) in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, which provides neuter surgeries, is financially assisting the project. Three vets will visit the island from June 1 to give health checkups to the island cats and remove ticks and fleas from them.
Kenichi Kiba, head of the Ogijima island community association, said, "The cats are not to be blamed. Responsibility lies with us humans who allowed the feline population to grow." He added, "We want to protect the lives and health of the cats that are already here."