Photos of the playful sleepy life on Japan’s ‘Cat Island,’ where cats outnumber humans 8 to 1

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Just off the coast of Japan there is an island called Aoshima, which is also known as “Cat Island.” The tiny fishing village is home to more than 140 cats, which roam around napping, playing, and snagging snacks from residents and tourists. They outnumber humans 8 to 1.

The cats were originally brought to the island to kill mice that hung around fishing boats. But as the human population dwindled from over 1,000 to 16, the cats stayed on and multiplied, as they continued to be fed by the remaining locals.

The island has become a bit of a tourist destination, though the residents don’t seem to mind, as long as it remains peaceful. And people donate cat food from all over Japan.

“If people coming to the island find the cats healing, then I think it’s a good thing,” 65-year-old fisherman Hidenori Kamimoto told Reuters last year. “I just hope that it’s done in a way that doesn’t become a burden on the people who live here.”

This is what life on Cat Island is like:


Aoshima is a 30-minute ferry ride from the coast, and only has a handful of residents now.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

There are, however, over 140 cats, which outnumber humans by more than 8 to 1, according to AFP.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Tourists have also begun to come to the island to gawk at the cats.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

Some of the cats are quite majestic.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Others are intense.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

But many are just incredibly cute.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Aoshima is a fishing village, so they inspect the nets.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

And chomp down on fish.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They exercise.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

And play music.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

They guard coolers.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Or sometimes try to steal human things.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They play hide-and-seek.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

They rub against things.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

And clean themselves.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They make friends.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

And rub noses.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They jump around.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

They snuggle with other cats.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

And snuggle with humans as well.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Sometimes the residents of Aoshima play with them.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

But other times they need them to just get out of the way.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

But the primary activity for cats on Aoshima is taking naps.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Sometimes they nap with friends.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Or in the foliage.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Or even rolled up in tires.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They can sleep wherever.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Even in places that might look very uncomfortable.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

“Who’s there?”

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

“Okay, maybe I’ll get up.”

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

“You found my napping spot.”

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

When they aren’t napping, the cats roam around the island.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They explore over rocks.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Even in precarious places.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They walk around the docks.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

And check out the boats.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Sometimes they stare off pensively into the distance.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

“What is the meaning of life?”

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

“But really, what is the meaning of life?”

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

They often congregate in packs.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Especially when it’s time for a meal.

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Reuters/Thomas Peter

And when they’re gone, they leave behind little footprints.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama

Goodbye, for now.

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Flickr/Sayoko Shimoyama