An army of cats ruling a remote island in Shikoku are licking their whiskers after a plea for food aid triggered a flood of donations from across the country.
More than 140 cats occupy the tiny island of Aoshima in Ehime Prefecture — outnumbering humans 8 to 1. But when the feral felines recently ran out of cat food, a cry for help led to an extraordinary response.
“Food began pouring in from all over Japan,” Kazuyuki Ono, 59, whose tweet raised the alarm, said Friday.
“There’s so much of it now we can’t store it,” he added.
“We’re asking people to stop sending donations. But the cats couldn’t be happier.”
Fittingly, hundreds of boxes of cat food arrived at Aoshima dock, a 30-minute boat ride from the mainland, in time for Feb. 22 — which is unofficially known as Cat Day.
“The food started arriving right at that time,” Ono said.
“In spring and summer, tourists bring food to feed the cats, but when it gets cold, the sea is rough and nobody comes,” he said. “Sometimes boats can’t cross in the rough seas. It’s a mysterious little island.”
Aoshima, dubbed Cat Island, was once home to 1,000 people but today claims only 16 residents, mostly pensioners.
The cats, originally brought to the island to kill the mice infesting fishermen’s boats, now rule the roost and draw curious visitors from across Asia and even Europe.
“It’s a cat paradise here,” said Ono, who took to Twitter at the request of Naoko Kamimoto, president of the Aoshima Cat Protection Society, after she found the cupboard bare.
“There are no crows, no dogs, no bikes, no cars,” Ono said.
“They love nothing more than to just lie about in the street sunning themselves all day. Now their bellies are full. They’re purring happily.”
The Japanese word ni means two and also sounds like the first part of nyan, the Japanese word for meow. This apparently inspired a group of cat lovers to designate Cat Day as 2/22.