While cities across the U.S. attempt to reduce and or limit their feral cat populations through spay and neuter initiatives, an island off Japan has embraced its strays and reportedly encourages them to multiply to such an extent that there are now more feline occupants than humans.
Known as "cat island," the small Japanese island of Tashiro-jima hosts a fishing community of approximately 100 individuals who feed, care for and build shrines to the local stray cats.
The island's permanent residents, most of whom are 65 years or older, have embraced the four-legged companions, which they believe can predict weather and fish patterns through their actions.
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The cats were traditionally companions to the island's fishing community
, who established a relationship with the strays over the years by inviting them into their inns and feeding them, according to the Mother Nature Network (MNN).
Some fishermen, believing the cats would bring them wealth and fortune, have even built monuments to honor their feline companions.
There are at least 51 cat-shaped monuments on the island, MNN reports.
Additionally, residents have also shaped their roofs to resemble cat heads with ear-tipped corners.
In addition to the monuments and cat-like rooftops, there are also at least 10 cat shrines constructed in honor of particularly beloved felines that have passed on.
According to local tales, the tradition to memorialize deceased cats with shrines on 'cat island' originated with a fisherman who accidentally dropped a stone on a cat and killed it. The fisherman then buried the cat and created a shrine in its honor.
Accessible by ferry only, Tashiro-jima is often visited by cat lovers.
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Stray cats on the island are known for being remarkably friendly according to MMN, often approaching tourists to have their head scratched or receive a treat.
According to a 2009 article from Sankei News, dogs are not permitted on the island.
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