The Bahamas may have Pig Beach, but in Japan, there are eleven entire islands ruled by cats! Sounds like a kitty paradise, right? Well, not exactly, because as it stands, resident islanders don’t properly care for these felines, preferring instead to let nature run its course, and that is affecting both the cats’ well-being and the state of the local environment.
These free-roaming cats were originally introduced to the islands by sailors and island residents who wanted to control problem rodent populations to protect their silkworm farms from mice. But in the years that followed, these feral cats took over, to the point that they now outnumber the human population six-to-one, and since then it has become a bit of a free-for-all for these whiskered cuties, who continue to go at it like rabbits.
Cats can produce up to two litters a year with an average of four to six kittens per litter, and as their numbers continue to increase and their feral colonies subsequently grow, there are more and more conflicts over territory, resulting in brutal fights between males. And while the locals believe that feeding the cats brings wealth and good fortune, they generally don’t do a thing to assist those who become injured.
Newborn kittens aren’t well cared for, either, and so many succumb to upper respiratory infections that similarly go untreated.
In addition, because no one has taken the time to vaccinate these cats, diseases like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, rabies, and common parasites run rampant in these colonies. These illnesses, and especially the internal parasites they carry, are passed along through the feces of an infected animal.
Native wildlife becomes equally threatened when the infected cats’ mounting fecal matter contaminates local food and water sources. However, the greatest danger to the islands’ birds and other area wildlife is primarily the cats themselves, who are, of course, natural born hunters. As such, they’ve become a bit of an invasive species.
As posited by a petition on Care2, the solution to most of these issues lies in a responsible TNR program, which stands for “Trap, Neuter, Release.” This involves humanely trapping the area’s feral cats, spaying or neutering them, then vaccinating them against rabies and other diseases before returning them to the same sites where they were originally captured (i.e., near their colonies and homes).
This type of program would have myriad benefits for Japan’s cat islands. Feline populations would become more manageable, and as a result, they would impose much less upon the local environment and area wildlife. In addition, the cats’ lives would be improved as fewer diseases would be spread and the fighting associated with mating behavior and territorial claim would subside. The cats would generally encounter fewer environmental threats, as well, because they’d become less prone to roaming large distances, crossing roads and coming into contact with motorized vehicles. In addition, island life would become more peaceful for its human residents as the lack of mating would prompt fewer cat fights, fewer cats crying out in heat, and less spraying.
Sounds like a win-win-win, wouldn’t you say? That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to sign this petition on Care2 urging the Japanese government to mandate responsible and humane TNR programs on all cat islands.
Image soure: GuareSak/Shutterstock