JAPAN – Every cat lover has heard of Japan’s amazing cat islands.
They’re entire pieces of land completely overrun with kittens and cats – where even the buildings are cat shaped.
And people have been flocking over from all mainlands to these feline paradises for years, in order to be surrounded by the blessed creatures.
Cats were originally brought over to the 11 islands by fishermen as a way of controlling the rodent populations, and today, dogs are actually strictly forbidden.
However, it turns out that life on the islands isn’t all catnip and light.
The reality of it is that many of the cats are suffering from health problems that could be easily treated – if the resources were readily available.
Cat photographer Andrew Marttila went out there with his partner Hannah Shaw, who is the founder of a cat rescue group called Kitten Lady, to find out what was going on.
‘For us cat lovers, there’s something pretty special about an area littered with dozens of cats,’ Marttila explained The Huffington Post.
‘What you’re not seeing, however, are all the cats and kittens suffering from very treatable illnesses.’
So what exactly is the problem?
Basically, there are just way too many cats.
As the islands’ populations grow without any veterinarians on hand, the animals are stuck in a cycle of giving birth and dying early.
‘Roughly one-third of the cats were young kittens struggling with untreated upper respiratory infections,’ stated Hannah.
‘Eyes and noses crusted, the kittens huddled together on the warm pavement.’
People on the islands (there are very few) are apparently resistant to intervene at all because they believe that nature should just run its course – despite the plain fact that the cats are there because of human intervention in the first place.
Not only are the cats suffering from health problems but tourists are also bringing a lot of food to feed them and that’s resulted in brutal turf warfare between males.
Some of the islands, however, are finally stepping in and doing something about the problem.
Tokonoshima Island is currently home to around 3,000 felines and the government has implemented a ‘trap-neuter-return’ program.
Cats are trapped, neutered or spayed and in addition, given the necessary veterinary treatment before being returned to the wild.
By doing that, officials are not only dealing with the overpopulation issue head on but they are also helping to curb the stressful behavior. Cats are less likely to scrap if they’re neutered.
Let’s just hope and pray the other islands follow suit.