The population of humans on the remote Japanese island of Umashima is 30 but the number of cats is considerably more. Hence, it has earned the distinction of being known as ‘Cat Island.’ It is an unusual travel destination but the sudden decline in the number of cats shocked the authorities. In 2014, the number was around 90 but is now just 30. Animal welfare groups expressed their concerns and suspected foul play. Their fears appear to be justified because the locals discovered suspicious substances in the open spaces. Those were slices of fish laced with some unknown material at several locations.

They also saw some stray cats in physical distress.

The Guardian reports that the locals mention of apparently healthy cats foaming at the mouth and collapsing. A couple of years back five of them were dead or dying near the island’s harbor. The feline population in Umashima has always been high but less than that of Aoshima, another nearby island. Obviously, there was some sort of foul play at work in Umashima. It seems the mystery will no longer remain a mystery.

Animal welfare groups worried

In 2014, the authorities took action to neuter a section of the population.

This was because residents complained about the increase in their numbers. However, the animal welfare group felt the cause of the sudden and drastic decline of the feline population lay elsewhere. That is the opinion of an official of the foundation that neutered the cats in Umashima. In his words - “It’s not a normal decrease.” He felt there was involvement of an external element.

The Guardian goes on to add that a Japanese TV network took up the challenge to solve the mystery. They identified an individual who admitted that he had used fish laced with some chemical to stop crows destroying his crop of potatoes.

He also said he never had any intention to hurt the cats. However, his argument is not convincing because there are not many crows in Umashima Island. Police were analyzing samples of the fish to check if it has traces of poison. A local nonprofit group is pursuing this as an instance of cruelty to animals. The welfare activists want to ensure the safety of the remaining felines.

The cats are a tourist draw

According to Telegraph UK, the sudden drop in the population of cats in the ‘Cat Island’ of Japan is a matter of concern. There are fears that these cats of Umashima Island might be victims of poisoning. It seems in October 2018 and in May 2019, suspicious stuff was noticed in several places.

They were pieces of fish coated with some unknown substance. There were also a few dead and nearly dead cats. Such a state of affairs was not desirable because the felines were a major tourist attraction. The authorities are determined to solve the mystery and take necessary actions to ensure safety of the animals.