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Japan's Tashirojima Island Is A Cat Lover's Paradise

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If you prefer pets to people, you might want to check this out: Tashirojima Island, off the coast of Japan, is home to hundreds and hundred of cats. How it came to be is almost as interesting as the fact it exists. But don't forget: no dogs allowed.

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Come One, Come All Cats

Centuries ago, humans brought cats to the island on purpose: residents of the island during the mid 1700s and 1800s raised silkworms to create fabric. Mice love to eat silkworms, so having cats around made sure the prized insects weren't made into meals. When they weren't hunting mice, the island cats wandered to the shores to beg for scraps from the local fishermen. As will happen in legends like this, the fishermen began to consider the cats good luck, and built a shrine to them in the middle of the island.

As the cat population grew and grew, the human population diminished. Over the past five decades, it's shrunk from a respectable 1,000 to less than 100. A majority of those residents are over the age of 65, so there's a hope that young people will move to the island as tourism picks up. The cats are still considered lucky these days, and it's even considered a bit gauche to keep them constrained indoors. As a result, they roam free while the few residents left leave food, milk, and water for them to enjoy outside whenever they want it.

"Meow" Is Cat For "Ugh, Tourists"

To address the elephant in the room: yes, you can visit Cat Island. It's small enough to bike around, and you'll find plenty of quirky buildings—including hotels!—designed to look like cats. There's also the aforementioned shrine, called Neko-jinja, which invites visitors to leave offerings in the forms of cat drawings and other feline-themed items. And of course, there are the cats, most of whom are happy to accept pets from friendly strangers.

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A Visit To Japan's Cat Island

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