Umashima might not be as famous as Aoshima, the famous Cat Island located in Ehime Prefecture. Nevertheless, this small island in Fukushima Prefecture is also home to a large population of felines, 90, to be exact. However, that number has decreased at an alarming rate, and now the feline population totals 30.
Experts say that the rapid and staggering decrease is not natural. Residents have said that strange-looking food has been found, and in July 2019 a cut of fish was found with a blue substance that is thought to be of pharmaceutical nature.
The investigation was headed by Masami Takeshita from the Taisetsuna Nekotachi Project with help from a nonprofit agency from Fukuoka that aims to stop animal cruelty. Takeshita is planning to file a criminal complaint based on the evidence they collected.
In recent years, locals witnessed healthy cats suddenly collapsing and groups of moribund cats dying. The small island has about 30 residents, who were appalled after noticing what was happening to the cats.
Due to several problems the cats had caused, including the smell of their feces, agencies proposed sterilizing them, and in 2014, the Doubutukikin foundation neutering 79 of the 90 cats.
The population decrease and the cats’ appearance indicates that humans are the ones to blame, and it’s believed that someone has been poisoning the cats.
Umashima is located about 10 kilometers from Kytakyushu, and while is not as well-known as Aoshima, some tourists still like to head to this charming island to see and feed the cats. Due to the dramatic drop in feline population, tourists had also noticed that not as many cats were gathering to be fed.
Kytakyushu is not far from Fukuoka, taking about 1 hour by train. It’s for that reason that tourists visiting Fukuoka sometimes take the time to head to Kytakyushu and visit Umashima and its cats. The destination can be off the beaten track, but many consider the trip to be worth it because of the small island’s charm and its feline population.