Nekojima The Cat Islands of Japan

Feb. 23 Fri by Jennifer Things to See

Nekojimas of Japan

Japan is definitely a country that adores cute "kawaii" things. Well what is cuter than an island full of cats? Of course perhaps the idea of it is is more whimsical than the reality, but the cat islands, "nekojimas" of Japan continue to be a popular destination for animal lovers. 

Below is all the information you might want to know about the cat islands of Japan.

What are the cat islands of Japan?

Many are surprised to know that there are multiple islands that are known as "Cat Island" in Japan. Each island has its own unique story as to why these island have come to be so populated with these furry felines. However what is true about almost all of the cat islands is that they have come to become a big part of that island, and although many remain feral, many locals continue to care for the cats. There are reports that it is starting to get harder as the locals get older, and the cat population grows seemingly exponentially. The number of cats have continued to grow due to them having no predators on the islands, and often times, dogs are also banned on these islands as well. Often times there are more cats than there are people on the island, and it can be hard for locals to take care of them all. Still the cats adorable, furry faces make it hard to resist giving them treats and scratches behind their ears.

The History

As was mentioned, there are multiple reasons why certain islands came to be inhabited with cats, but the main reason tends to be to control a rodent population. There are reports of cats being released onto these islands to help capture the rodents on the island, as well as cats being released unintentionally from incoming fishing boats. The cat population on some of the islands is also said to be the result of people simply bringing cats onto the island, but the stories are more of a grey area and not clear. 

The Popularity

These cat islands are not only popular with foreigners and people visiting from outside the country, but are a ppular destination for locals of Japan as well. Japan seems to have always had a fascination with cute animals as exemplified by the many types of animal cafes throughout the country, and so there is no doubt a market for animal-themed destiantions. Part of the reason may be because there are many cities in Japan like Tokyo, that have strict regulations on pets and animals within a home. Many people can't enjoy pets in their home due to it being forbidden, so this adds to the allure of the cat islands. Of course, the sheer volume of cats on the island itself is a big point of interest for many. 

Some believe the cats bring fortune and luck, and when has that ever not been a lure for people? ;)

For many animal lovers, people are also highly interested in efforts to help the cats. People also want to go these islands to show the cats affection as well as provide food and resources. Some organizations also take trips to these islands to conduct survey research and observe the behavior of the cats.

The Reality

What has been observed isn't all fantasy and whimsical. Of course, there are many amazing things about these cat islands, and it is a very neat place to check out. But it's important to know there are some ongoing issues that people are trying to solve now. 

One of the main concerns is issues stemming from the high population density. There are issues regarding the health of the cats. Because there are so many cats, and they live in such close proximity with one another, cat illness is a common occurence. This is especially true with kittens and because there are so many cats giving birth to kittens, and the kittens are getting sick. As most of these islands are quite remote, there aren't any readily available vets. These cats are also living in more stressful conditions as they need to compete harder for food, including food that tourists provide. Turf wars occur between male cats. However, some islands have come up with ways to solve some of these issues. These islands have begun carrying out the capture-spay/neuter-release program in an effort to help with the population and therefore the issues that result from it.

Other Animal Islands

Because there are so many cat islands in Japan, we thought it would be interesting to make this a series and feature one or two of these cat islands every now and again in a separate post. I'll make sure to post a link to this blog each time I upload a new blog about a cat island so be sure to check back here if you're interested. 

In the meantime though, it may be of some interest to let you know that there are a couple other animal destinations in Japan. For example the island of Okunoshima is also known as the rabbit island due to the large population of rabbits that live in. There are many stories as to how the rabbits came to be, but the popular consensus is that rabbits were once used in labs, but were eventually released onto the island, and they reproduced to the volumes they are today. On the island the rabbit has no known predators so their populations have thrived.

There is also the famous fox village in which the city of Shiroishi in Miyagi Prefecture is also a place where foxes run rampant. Well they actually really just beg for food from visitors, but you get the idea. Their cute furry faces and beautiful, intelligent eyes that are up to no good make you feel like they are plotting ways to steal your food. It may seem like a petting zoo, but these foxes are actually free roaming. Therefore, you are not allowed to touch or feed the foxes. There are some opportunities to do so but there are strict rules on it so be forewarned. Places like these aren't always the same as your expectations so we always recommend doing prior research beforehand on the place that you want tor research!

If you're interested I will write another post going into more details on these two islands later, so let us know on our facebook page @DestinationJapanByHIS


As there are so many cat islands in Japan, there are many options in which to visit. Each island does have their own set of rules regarding interaction with the cats etc so it's important to be mindful of what the locals and rules state. There may also be ways to help the cats and the locals take care of the cats as to make your trip to these islands even more fulfilling. <3