All You Should Know About the Cat Island of Japan

Many of us only have a fantasy of living in a world that is surrounded by cats but in Japan, this is a reality. There is a specific island in Japan that is dedicated to cats. All the cat lovers wish to be there as they find it heaven. If you are a cat lover too, then plan your next trip to Japan and visit this beautiful place. 

The Ao Island Japan

Aoshima is an island near the territories of Japan which is abbreviated as Ao Island. Most people know it as the cat island and it is located in Ehime. The land has a specific species of cats called Felines. Earlier, it was thought that the feline population was 6 to 10 times more than that of humans on this island but now, this ratio has increased. The feline population is about 36 times more than the population of humans. 

Although combat rodents were provided to felines, these cats stayed at the island which led to a large increase in the number of population. It is approximately 1 mile long. The Ao Island has become a famous tourist destination with many hotelling facilities nearby. As of 2005, the Ao Island has officially become a part of Ozu although it was a part of Nagahama in Kita District earlier.


Why Are There so Many Cats on Ao Island?

A question that many have regarding the Ao Island is how come the cat population increased so much at the island whereas this did not happen in other areas of Japan. One of the main reasons for this is that earlier there were a lot of mice on the island which is why there was a need for cats. The high infestation of the mice caused problems for the fishermen on their boats as well as many fish that were caught by the fishermen were eaten by the mice. 

When felines were first brought to this island, there was a significant reduction in the number of mice. As a result, the fishermen had their problems resolved. However, the cats reproduce at a faster rate. Moreover, the reduction in the human population also meant that there was no one to keep a check on the cats. 

Why Has the Human Population at Ao Island Reduced?

Human Population at Ao Island has reduced for a number of years. Firstly, many people started to move to the main city because of better job prospects. Japan had better urbanization which is why inhabitants of this island decided to move to the city side. There were better infrastructure facilities and housing in the main city which became important reasons for people to shift. 

Secondly, most of the population on Ao Island is comprised of fishermen. Due to excessive fishing around the island, there were fewer sardines in the waters. As a result, fishermen did not earn much from it. Therefore, they also started to leave the island or retire. Lastly, inhabitants on the island died while the newborns were usually shifted to the cities. It is said that approximately 15 to 20 people might be living on the island with over 120 cats and the growth rate continues.

How to get to Ao Island?

If one plans to get to Ao Island, they need to be well prepared because there is a lack of proper facilities on the island. Due to the dwindling population, there are very basic care items available and you may have to carry extra stuff on your own. The only way to get to this island is through a ferry. Make sure that you get to the Nagahama port on time because the tickets are usually sold quickly. 

In addition to that, the tickets are not sold in advance and only available on the day you have to visit the island. Be advised that if you plan on feeding the cats, you should buy something from the port because there isn’t much available on the island. Keep in mind that there would be no restaurants on the island so you need to be full. Some also recommend eating light meals on the day you have to visit the island because there are no proper facilities for going to the washrooms. 

Take some chips or biscuits with you along with a bottle of water. For emergency purposes, we also say that you should carry some basic medicine such as paracetamol, filled-up inhalers, and calcium. Keep in mind that the majority of the people over there are elderly so be caring and respectful as you pass by. Take the wrappers of the items you ate back with you because there isn’t a proper place to dispose of garbage on the island.

Enjoy With Cats at the Ao Island

With all the effort of preparing a nice bag for your journey and waking up early to catch the ferry, now is going to be the time when you actually visit the island. The cats over here usually have tourists every day so they are quite friendly rather than being wild ones. You can feed these cats and take pictures with them. Spend a whole day holding the cats and taking care of many felines at one time. 

There is no restriction on feeding the cats but we recommend that you give them organic food only. This is because these cats do not find the manufactured cat food on the island so they are not used to them. The cats should be given organic food so that they do not develop any health issues. Be sure that you are not littering around or ruining the space for the cats or people living on the island. In case you see that a cat is not coming towards you or letting you pet itself, move away at a distance because this cat may have turned wild. 

Other Cat Islands in Japan

Fortunately, any cat lover traveling to Japan will be able to see multiple such islands around Japan each of which has many cats. Enoshima is among one of these which is closest to Tokyo. It has been modified and made to attract tourists. Other than cats, the area has good beaches as well as good enough for a whole day of entertainment. This island also has a shrine located inside a cave with a historic folk tale to it. 

Okishima is another island that is resting in the middle of Lake Biwa which is the largest reservoir of freshwater in Japan. This island also has a very low population with the majority of it relying on fishing for their living. This island also has a major feline cat population. The closest way to get to this island is by getting on a boat via the Horiki Port.

Located in the Inland Sea, one of the famous islands around Japan is Sanagishima which also has very few populations that is mainly dependent on fishing while the cats are also living here for a long time. To visit this land, you need to catch a boat from the Tadotsu Port. 

Muzukijima is among the rare islands in Japan which is home to a population dependent upon fishing but this island is a different one because it is known for having orange farms. It is said that this place has the best oranges in Japan. Other than that, of course, there are so many cats over here roaming around. Be friends with them and hang out. You will be having a pleasant experience. 

If we talk about one cat island that is farthest to the coast of Japan, it would be Manabeshima. Due to the island being too far, there is a very limited population and not many tourists visit it as well. Therefore, the land has become an icon for natural beauty with cats wandering around everywhere. Visit the Kasaoka Port to have the ticket for your boat and be ready for a long ride to the island. 

Genkaishima is one of the largest islands around Japan which is closest to the Hakata Port. Before Ao Island, this was the home to most cats on an island in Japan. However, due to an earthquake that occurred in 2005, a lot of felines died and for many years there wasn’t much reproduction. However, with things going stable after a while, the number of feline cats has been increasing on this island too. 

Learn more about the different types of Asian Cat Breeds here – Asian Cat Breeds.


Japan is definitely one great country for all the cat fans out there. With so many islands and many of them having different species of cats, you will surely be amazed at seeing so many cats together most of which are quite friendly to humans. Make sure that you are being a responsible citizen by not littering around and taking care of the cats as well as the population around. The Ao Island should be on the top of your list and if you have some time left, you can visit the other islands too which we mentioned above. We hope you have an amazing time.