by

The other day, I wrote about “Cat Island, Mississippi” where the American army tried to train dogs to hunt Japanese people by smell. Today, I’m going to tell you about another cat island, except this one is in Japan, and it’s actually covered in cats, not dogs, and the cats only seem trained to find and eat fish, not certain Japanese people.

What Is It?

“Cat Island,” officially known as “Tashiro Island” (田代島), is an island near Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture… and yes, to answer your one burning question… it’s covered in cats. Check out this Google Maps satellite view of the island.

In all seriousness, though, it can be accessed via ferry. You can get from Ishinomaki (石巻) to Tashirojima (Cat Island). Here’s a big picture of Japan to see what area it’s in.

And if we zoom in, we can see Ishinomaki and Tashirojima and how close they are to each other.

When you go, you take an awesome little ferry, too. Sadly, not cat shaped in any way.

Apparently, cats on this island are way more populous than actual people on this island. There are approximately 100 residents on Cat Island, and most of them are over 70. One person is 37, and everybody else is over 60 years old. That’s a lot of old people, but luckily cats are here to save the day. According to Wikipedia:

In the past, the islanders raised silkworms for silk, and cats were kept in order to keep the mouse population down (because mice are a natural predator of silkworms). Fixed-net fishing was popular on the island after the Edo Period and fishermen from other areas would come and stay on the island overnight. The cats would go to the inns where the fishermen were staying and beg for scraps. Over time, the fishermen developed a fondness for the cats and would observe the cats closely, interpreting their actions as predictions of the weather and fish patterns. One day, when the fishermen were collecting rocks to use with the fixed-nets, a stray rock fell and killed one of the cats. The fishermen, feeling sorry for the loss of the cat, buried it and enshrined it at this location on the island.

The modern people of this island are hoping that they can use the cats (coupled with a decent amount of media attention they’ve been getting) to attract people to visit, then eventually live there. If they don’t, then I’m afraid the island will look like a scene from Jurasic Park 2: Lost World, minus the dinosaurs with a few thousand cats thrown in.

It’s only been a couple years, but I guess it’s kind of working – a lot more tourists make their way to Cat Island to take pictures of cats, feed cats, pet cats, and all kinds of other things you can do with cats.

Basically, if you like cats, this is going to be your little Cat Mecca. Besides the cats themselves, there are other cat themed things you can take part in. For example, there’s a cat shrine:

Also, there’s cat shaped buildings…

and other things as well… Thing is, you can walk this island in a day if you wanted. It’s only about 8 square miles. Don’t go into any dark alleyways, though, you never know what a mob of cats might do to you.

Oh, and of course, dogs are strictly prohibited.

Want to see more? You can watch a CCTV video on Cat Island, here. Also, here’s a map of fun things you can do (in Japanese) while visiting.

Update: Duh, YouTube has a ton of Cat Island videos. Warning. These videos contain cats.

Fisherman feeding the cats

Jack, the cat that made Cat Island Famous (he’s the one with the loppy ear)

Cat shrine


Our visit to Cat Island

P.S. If you’re worried about getting Zerg Rushed by cats, you should follow Tofugu on Twitter, Here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000353084723 Momen Adas

    Very interesting Koichi! *adds Cat Island to the list of places I wish to visit when I travel to Japan*

  • Anonymous

    lol this post post was a lot more joyful than the last.

  • Anonymous

    Cutest island ever! =^._.^=

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    haha, it is, indeed. Gotta mix it up!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I totally agree! I just wonder where all these cats are pooping, though, and that freaks me out.

  • Meimei

    That is totally amazing ^w^
    I would love to visit that island once, it seems absolutely interesting. :D

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Laura-King/619374231 Laura King

    that decides it! i’m going during my vacation this christmas! thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/SykoRyoko SykoRyoko

    I’d live there. In a heartbeat.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Well, they do need people under 60 to live there… go go go!

  • http://www.jamaipanese.com Jamaipanese

    that last bit about no dogs allowed totally killed the little devil on my shoulder…

  • http://twitter.com/mikotoneko Mikoto Neko

    I’m so going there!

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  • Flybynight512

    I’d love to go there. (Also, I hope they have a good spay/neuter plan in place.)

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  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    haha, I have a feeling they don’t have any kind of spay neuter plan… so many catttsssss

  • http://twitter.com/ImaginaryJapan Joe Munro

    Ugh, I bet that place smells like cat…oh, nevermind. Anyways, I think we’re safe. It’s an island right? So it’s surrounded by water. As long as the cats don’t know how to fly airplanes or drive boats, we’re fine. …they can’t fly airplanes or drive boats…can they? *nervous*

  • Lauragirl1969

    this is really different but i like it

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I dunno… they become smart in packs.

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  • http://amoderngirl.wordpress.com Kristi

    Fantastic post! What a bizarre place.

  • http://xoxobra.com/blog/ xoxobra

    I wonder how it compares to the rabbit island (Okunoshima) in terms of overpopulation of one species and overall depressing-ness.

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  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I have no idea, but now you have me intrigued! If it’s half as cool as cat
    island, a post will be coming soon for it, thanks! :)

  • http://www.friendstagger.com Tag My Friends

    “Hello Kitty” should be the Welcome Note for this Island. I think Catland would make better sense! :)

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  • http://www.AnimeMaki.net Todd Douglass

    Of course you realize when I show this video to my wife she’s going to mark this island on a map for a future vacation.

  • AyameAsakura

    Would you be allowed to take a cat home? Since I’m assuming most are strays? :D

  • http://www.artistaoscura.wordpress.com/ artista.oscura

    I see the makings of a killer horror flick!

  • http://www.artistaoscura.wordpress.com/ artista.oscura

    Hahahahaha, stay away from the playground!

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  • Anonymous

    I wonder how friendly they are? Is there information about that anywhere? I’m half and half on my opinion since, with the amount of tourists they may all get regular human attention, but then again, with only 100 residents the possibility of feral cats in abandoned areas seems likely. Also wondering if there are any concerns with cats being taken off the island, or any deseases going through the cat population? I think it is a wonderful place since I am a cat lover, but I’m sure curious about the daily trials the residents must face when living with so many cats! :P

  • Dan

    Welcome, welcome to mouse Hell.
    If that island has internet it’s my literal definition of Heaven.
    I don’t have anything against mice though.

  • Zero00430

    “Release . . . the KITTIES!!”

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  • http://twitter.com/sarahonline_ Sarah Irving

    As long as it’s better than the truly awful 1977 Brit cat horror movie The Uncanny, featuring some of the fakest stuffed cats you’ve ever seen managing to kill people, and a little old lady being eaten by her kitties… http://www.britishhorrorfilms….

  • Alchemist

    Oh wow!
    My Cairn Terrier would love that place :P

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yohanna-Moreno-Hurtado/766819514 Yohanna Moreno Hurtado

    amazing never seen something like this!

  • Vick_007

    not very nice, most cats i see are sick. the one with that ear Jack, his ear is like that from fighting.

  • zeno

    disgusting !!!!

  • Judie

    What a great place this must be to visit! I’d be in Cat Heaven!!

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  • ELYSECATSINC

    interesting. Hopefully one of the visitors will introduce the habit of TNR – AND A GOOD VETERINARIAN WILL DECIDE TO OPEN A CLINIC

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  • volkenbond

    Is “itchy pussy” Japanese?

  • Neda

    I would like to live there. :)))

  • Michael

    me too Momen.

  • http://twitter.com/PickMyBran PickMyBran

    I commented on the other Cat Island post, about how shitty the water really does taste there and how I’ve been to Ship Island.

    This post, however, is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen. I think I may take a trip there while I’m here in Japanland.

  • the*rose*knows

    OMG i wish i could go there it would be like a paradise i would love it! but maybe i would cry because i would want to take one home :'( but still i know i would have A LOT of fun!

  • Neonsweets

    um can someone answer, “what kind of weather do they have there?” please answer back! i need to know this for a report im doing on THE CAT ISLAND OF JAPAN

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Check the weather of Sendai, Japan – it’ll probably be similar enough.

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  • Kokoro

    Warning. These videos contain cats. Hahah… nice one, but i wonder why lot of cat live in there?

  • Crab

    this is a weird wesite… i love it!

  • Strungoutjunky

    There are numerous “cat islands” in Japan. O and the Japanese also trained dogs to hunt Americans.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    did it work?

  • Lutlobeau

    This where I want to spend the last years of my life !!!!!!

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  • Geddoe

    Wow, I have to visit this island when I go to Japan!

  • Gob

    I visited Tashiro Island a year ago. I hope the cats are OK after the tsunami. :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Yeah! :( They don’t seem to be in a very good location when it comes to the
    earthquake, though :(

  • Picocailin

    I just came here to ask about that actually :/

  • Smartwoman

    What happened to them when the Tsunami hit? I’m very worried!

  • leendadll

    It doesn’t look good – they’re closer to the epicenter that Sendai, which is the area that was shown in the live tsunami footage last night. I’m extremely worried for the people and kitties.

  • Sugar222

    Any updates on the status of the residents and or wildlife??

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  • http://www.themadcatlady.com Barbarella Buchner

    Does anybody know if the cats (and humans) are safe after the earthquake/tsunami? Please let us know any info, thanks.

  • Chezsongbird

    I so pray that all the cats and people did not loose their lives due to the tsunami caused by the horrendous earthquake of 8.4. Prayers I send for all.

  • Miauw

    I saw a picture of a cat drifting in water…on top of a small piece of wood in the area of the island….I’m hoping they are alright…I think about the people and the cats all the time…

  • Lcedis

    Thank you for this post on Cat Island. I hope that it’s inhabitants survived the catastrophic tsunami of March 11, 2011.

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  • Ra

    Are there any updates on how they were affected by the tsunami? I hope there was high ground the inhabitants and cats could get to. The whole tsunami/earthquake/nuclear reactor is such a tragedy. 2011 is becoming the year of disasters on a mega scale.

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  • Valendiakn

    I also want to know what happen to the island. If you happen to know something, please let me know. Thanks.

  • Anon

    Are all the cats dead now?! =(

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  • Tsmith

    This has been run through a translator because I do not speak Japanese, but I found this:
    “Friends of Japan’s push (twitter) revealed that the Asian company will take the aerial coast of Miyagi Prefecture as the center of the satellite photos, is expected to be able to see tonight, the case of Tashiro Island. Taipei time in 13 at about 14:20, the Friends made a push just to know the island’s third hand information, a live in Tokyo, said, “His parents live in the field on behalf of the island, came close to land subsidence about 30 cm, but the parents safe and sound, it is estimated the island’s cats should also be safe. “Although this message has not been confirmed, but there are so many cat fans a glimmer of hope, pray God Bless Japan.”

    原文網址: 日本「紙箱貓小圓」平安 貓叔、田代島暫無消息 | 國際新聞 | NOWnews 今日新聞網 http://www.nownews.com/2011/03/13/334-2696088.htm#ixzz1GUyLbVEP

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing . . . I read the island was underwater on Facebook, but could not verify that blog info on Google news, just saw other blogs repeating the same unverified info.

    Of course I wish them all the best, but when emotions are high we are more likely to jump to conclusions. Those posting must be more responsible and validate any info, because many people believe anything written is fact and that has never been true!

  • Sandy

    Wonderful ! I want to live there when I grow old !!!

  • Landon

    Greetings everyone. I found satellite images of the area around Ishinomaki, including Cat Island. It doesn’t look good, honestly. =( I’m assuming all the is mud, and not bad photo quality. Regardless, the docks look completely destroyed, which were (I’d assume) most of the humans and felines alike lived. If it didn’t make it to the top of the island–Google Earth suggest around 87m–I could hope that animals’ keen senses would alert everyone to get to high ground…. =( Hang in there, Japan.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=http:%2F%2Fmw1.google.com%2Fcrisisresponse%2F2011%2Fjapan_earthquake_2011%2Fearthquake%2Fdigitalglobe%2FSendai2_DG_2011-03-12%2FSendai2_DG_2011-03-12.kml&aq=&sll=51.493248,-0.137184&sspn=0.00863,0.026157&ie=UTF8&ll=38.348645,141.213745&spn=0.695748,1.674042&t=f&z=10&ecpose=38.34864467,141.21374488,129713.96,0,0,0

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Ishinomaki doesn’t look like it did well… Tashirojima, on the other hand,
    actually looks fairly good to me. I’m sure they got a beating, but it pretty
    much looks the same as it did before – I doubt all the brown is from mud
    washing over the island – it’s way too much of a big hill for that, (I
    hope!).

  • Hanesicha333

    My love and thought are with all the cats who lost their lives and the people who for so many years took care of them and loved them. May all rest in peace and know that they will never be forgotten.

  • 1207970546

    i want to help them but i don’t know what should i do.

  • Anonymous

    That picture was NOT from this particular event, but something taken to pull on our emotions by ANOTHER irresponsible poster, looking to get attention and more clicks.

  • Anonymous

    I suggest you wait for facts to be revealed, via valid and verified news sources, before you give any money to anyone! IF you really want to give now, then choose a well-known organization, who will go there and you will know it for sure, like the Red Cross or IFAW. It is ultimately up to you to find a group who will do what you think is best to suit your own beliefs and the choices are endless.

    As you can see from this blog and many others, the info posted has gone from one extreme to the other, with analyze over what is really just rumors. It is horribly irresponsible for people to post info they claim as ‘good news’ about Cat Island, when in fact it’s not known to be true, but he said/she said from a friend of a friend.

    There is nothing to be found online, from any reliable news source yet, and as much as we want people and animals to be alright, writing it doesn’t make it so! It has gotten so bad, I’m beginning to think bloggers are only looking to get more attention to their page, and clicks to get more money . . . Yes, it seems some have gotten just this low and it’s disgusting how many are repeating the same ‘news’ when it’s nothing at all, playing on people’s emotions.

  • Kaiti Kaiba

    How is it doing now?

  • Peek23

    kinkstar, way to dash some hopes, huh?

    This isn’t the only blog reporting, there are japanese blogs reporting as well, if you could bother to translate them, you’d see people are making progress and people in Japan are talking to each other, reporting to each other, seeing and finding each other. It’s crippling and slow going, but little bits here and there are better than spreading doom and gloom.

  • kinkstar

    Not about ‘dashing hopes’ but about being realistic. The bloggers – here, there and anywhere, aren’t doing anything but posting rumors and calling it news. Ah, but they’ll enjoy the benefit of more traffic to their page and the mo’money the extra clicks get them . . . So yes, I am opposed to anyone playing with people’s emotions to their benefit in times such as these.

  • Rhi

    Did they survive the earthquake/ tsunami? :'(

  • Indio156

    The cats would have known about the earthquake before it even happened, and if there was highground, they would have moved to it. I was never there, so I don’t know what it’s like. I hopefully the people would have observed the cats all moving, and would have followed, just as some people did when the elephants moved from the beach in the earlier Tsunami in Thailand.

  • Indio156

    I am just curious — In general, before the Tsunami…Was there a vet on Cat Island? How did the cats get medical care and vaccinations, etc? I saw one vid with a cat who appeared to have discharge from it’s right eye (which is what made me wonder about vet care).

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    The cats are wild, so I don’t think there’s a vet on the island.

  • Jk

    Update?

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  • Christopher

    Just came across this article – looks like the island and cats are hungry, but otherwise alright – http://news.discovery.com/animals/japans-cat-island-survived-quake-needs-supplies-110315.html

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1398060312 Lynda Brooks

    My Afican safari trip has gone by the way side I will now be visiting Cat Island instead my ultimate trip of a life time :)

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  • http://denki-kawaraban.blogspot.com/ Lukas Braun 77

    That was pretty cool. Thanks a lot for this contribution. Best regards from Berlin

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  • Danstemar

    Catnimal Planet showed a Documentary on these “Human Hoarding” sneaky Felines.

  • Danstemar

    Foolish furless bipeds! This is only the first step in our plan of Worldwide Domination!!! Know this, tailless ones! Only the subservient members of your pallid-skinned race will be allowed to serve us!! Even now, Un-whiskered ones, do we plan our final Pounce, in which we are concentrating on enslaving the slobbering canines for use as our feline foot-soldiers!!! Soon you two-legged ones will rightfully bow before those with Four!! BEWARE!!! WE COME!!!!!!!!!! MMRRRROOOOOOWWRRR!!!!

  • LynZ

    did cat island get washed away with the earthquack/typhone?

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  • Sunkisstown

    I love to go there and I’ll be there some day.

  • Sunkisstown

    Do you live in Cat Island?

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  • Phychotron420

    I want an update…. are those cats still there?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    pretty sure they are

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  • TheGhost_and_TheDarkness

    No its not, if it was from fighting it would be torn, not folded. Ears don’t “break” they’re cartilage. There are a lot of cats born with one ear folded and the other ear normal. And I don’t know what you were looking at, but most of the pictures I’ve seen from that place show fat, healthy (in terms other than their weight) cats.

  • Kate

    I was wondering, since the cats are on an island surrounded by water and they go on the fishing boats out into the middle of the water, do you know if any of the cats can swim? That would be handy, especially considering the recent tsunami.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gipphe Victor Nascimento Bakke

    How did this island fare after the earthquake? Does anyone know?

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  • Seto

    ew gross.  cats are nasty and disgusting.  maybe the japanese should start eating cats instead of overkilling the whales. 

  • Cass Mond

    But do they get spayed/neutered? fed? is there a vaccination program? 

  • Famousflowerofmanhattan

    Maybe you should fucking kill yourself.

  • Meowsers

    Hmm…Is that what that song “Cats run the city” is about?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aifZgL59Ki4

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  • FinalRest78

    I think I need to send my cats here for a foreign exchange trip…

  • Flowerpower016

    COOL! Now thats my kind of place, CATS EVERYWHERE! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/leopard92 Camilla Lindblom

    aww i love cats.. i hope they’re okay on that island ^__^  if i go there and see all those cats i’m gonna melt faster than ice-cream xD

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  • Ash_cowan

    I’m so going here one day!

  • Ash_cowan

    I’m so going here one day!

  • Pokemonfreak755

    the cats are cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Tori
    the cats are kawaii!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Sam

  • Jared

    Very sad news, the areas near the ocean in Ishinomaki were entirely destroyed by the violent earthquake.  Sadly but realistically, most of these cats went down with the city.

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  • Rev. Min T. Phresh

    hoopy.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Good thing I remembered this post.
    So, I want to visit Tashirojima during Golden Week. It’s so hard to find any information about the current state of the island, even in Japanese. I found out that the people and cats are ok and that you still can visit the island, but I couldn’t find any information about the buildings. I was wondering if the cat shaped buildings and the cat shrines are still standing, for example.

    Also, you guys said you got off at the wrong spot, so you had to walk for a while.
    From your experience would it have been better to get off at the other port?
    Did you have enough time? It seems like there’s only 3-4 hours or so until you have to catch the ferry back.

  • Amandasomers6

    Nice Post

  • Megan

    This post is kind of depressing.  It’s like “look at all these pictures of cute cats who are now dead because the tsunami happened.”

  • Robcook1991

    I heard that most of japan has a similar climate to that of england, so similar to england I guess..

  • Louisefontaine96@gmail.com

    Thank you for all the facinating information. Your the best! Love those cats. !

  • Dana

    Looks amazing, would love to visit!

  • Trumptrump1

    Hey this was fun!   Now you must come and film all the wild roller coasters at Cedar Point, at Sandusky, Ohio!   You may want to ride the nasty , Maverick if you dare!…
     

  • Filouu

    i am very touched with joy,wile watching this video…….,cats..(and of cause all animals..)..deserve a peacefull comfortable life…!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/doriana.lehmann Doriana Lehmann

    people who respect and love animals are blessed with special and great energy…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/doriana.lehmann Doriana Lehmann

    Die Groesse…( Liebe,Respect fuer Leben,Verstaendnis und Barmherzigkeit )..einer Nation und dessen moralischer Entwicklung kann beurteilt werden an der Art und Weise wie sie ihre Tiere behandeln…!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/starswithfeet aliah

    My kind of place! <3

  • Sherri Moore

    Cats are cleaner than dogs and a lot of people I know. I gather you have no real experience with felines at all.
    Idiot

  • Valerie

    I’d be interested to know how these cats fared after the earthquake and tsunami.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Ann-Scarborough/786259579 Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

    I really appreciate seeing Tashirojima since the earthquake. I’ve been concerned about how everything held up and how the cats and people are doing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/angelique.grijalva Angelique Grijalva

    loved the videos you did !!! ,<3 =^,^= <3

  • http://twitter.com/psychicjane psychicjane

    Do they glow in the dark? Maybe I could sell catnip to tourists…:)

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    I went to
    Cat Island this May (2012) – so after the tsunami and earthquake hit the region – and could confirm first-hand what was
    damaged and what not.
    I wrote a blog post about it with a lot of
    information and photos, so I suppose it might be interesting for people
    who want to visit Cat Island but are unsure if it’s safe to go or not:
    http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/tashirojima-cat-island/

  • ovi respati

    please.. please.. take me there, koichi..

  • http://twitter.com/WinstonCN Winston Smith

    I wanna go there

  • annoyinganja

    i will live here

  • http://www.facebook.com/kithugh Chris Hugh

    Take a ferry to Cat Island? I’ll take a catamaran or I won’t go at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.f.sommers Charles F. Sommers

    Don’t play in any local sandboxes!!

  • westley henscheid

    so would i

  • Lolita

    Hahaha, dogs are prohibited. LOL. I love cats. <3

  • Arief Rakhman Caropeboka

    They’re so cute :D
    Such i wanna take one of them :D

  • http://www.wtf.me.pn/ rewwssfgg

    This is where they make plans to take over the earth…That grey cat in part one looks a bit shady..I bet that is the leader…

  • Laura L Britton

    Cat island is awesome…

  • Katie

    I’d like to go there but I am wondering: Are the cats neutered/spayed at all? Are there a lot of territory wars? From what I know about cats, they populate really easily and then they become a pest (like my side of Orlando.) Plus, I know cats make some really god awful noises when they come together sometimes. Whether it be for mating or fighting, there is usually loud caterwauling involved.

  • Katie

    If I remember right, it was in the news after the tsunami that cat island was okay. http://lovemeow.com/2011/03/cat-island-status-unknown-after-japan-was-hit-by-tsunami/

  • Gayle Allen

    how do the people make a living here? is it only fishermen living here?

  • Crystal

    田代島… 凄い!!

  • Tea

    I luv this!!! Would luv to visit some day. I luv cats. This would be zen on earth. I’d almost think about leaving my family and living there.

  • DeadDreams.

    This Sucks all my dreams of getting millions off old crazy cat ladies, by creating Cat island is out the window! The worst
    part is i don’t get to drive a Lambo

  • liza araniego

    cool guys! more cat’s to live than human but its a lovely place funny are the lady in the store looks happy..

  • GuateCatLady

    hoping that due to their sacred standing that they are all receiving good medical care, spayed and neutered for population control … cats are beautiful creatures, but like any other group (people included) population control is critical to their success and well being.

  • jsussixfer

    <3333 that last video. That cat is a born chiller.