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Feral felines run amok on Japan's 'Cat Island'

Pictures taken by visitors to Aoshima have drawn tourists to the "Cat Island" despite its only draw being the large feline population.

By Ben Hooper

AOSHIMA, Japan, March 3 (UPI) -- A Japanese island with only 22 human residents is drawing tourists interested in its other population -- an estimated 120 cats.

The island of Aoshima, Ehime Prefecture, which has gradually seen its population decline from about 900 to 22 during the past 70 years, has been dubbed "Cat Island" in recent years as the cats originally brought in to keep mice from damaging fishing boats have bred to outnumber the humans by a significant margin.

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Locals said only about 10 of the island's estimated 120 cats have been neutered, leading the population to continue to grow.

Ferry boat captain Nobuyuki Ninomiya said the island's popularity online, owing to pictures taken by visitors, has led to a huge spike in tourism.

"I seldom carried tourists before, bot now I carry tourists every week, even though the only thing we have to offer is cats," he told the Japan Daily Press.

Aoshima is not the only feline-dominated island in Japan -- the "Cat Heaven Island" of Tashirojima boasts a population of about 86 people and 100 cats.

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