Cat Island in Japan is appropriately named since cats outnumber residents at least 4 to 1 — and the 100 or so residents love it that way. I imagine the cats are equally happy with the arrangement, especially since these particular islanders believe that feeding a cat will bring wealth and good fortune.
The tiny island, which is officially called Tashiro-jima, was a haven for Japanese fishermen in the 1800s who were looking for an overnight resting place closer to prime fishing grounds. The island had a thriving silk worm trade and the cats were kept to ward off mice who loved to dine on the precious worms.
The island-bound cats however were quick to figure out that fishermen always come with fish, so they would faithfully trail any sailor fresh from sea, almost like an official island welcoming committee. The fishermen became fond of the cats and would save their furry friends tasty morsels from their nets. Over time, the fisherman began interpreting the cats’ behavior as predictors of weather and fish patterns. For example, if a fisherman noticed many cats washing their faces over their ear it was a sign that the weather would be clear.
Not surprisingly, Cat Island also has its share of cat lore. One tale tells the story of a fisherman who was collecting rocks to use with his nets when a large rock fell and crushed a cat. The fisherman was devastated and built a shrine for his unlucky kitty companion. Today, there are over ten similar shrines across the island which when combined with fifty-plus cat-shaped monuments make it abundantly clear that these islanders love their cats.
In addition to the cat shrines and monuments, visitors are usually humored to also see numerous cat-shaped buildings.
Cat Island is accessible by ferry and a small tourism industry is popping up on the island – and just in time. Most of the islanders are over 65 (apparently there is one 30-something year old), and if the island and its cats are to thrive in the future new income revenues and residents must make their way to the island. Dogs however are forbidden.
Click here to see a wonderful array of photos from Cat Island compliments of Amusing Planet.