Here’s this week’s Media Mix about an Environmental Ministry scheme to cull cats on Amami Oshima in order to gain UNESCO certification of the island as a natural World Heritage Site. As explained in the column, the ministry has essentially created its own designation for the stray cats it wants to cull, saying they are feral cats that prey on various species unique to Amami Oshima. However, critics say that there is no need for a cull since the population of indigenous rabbits, for instance, is actually increasing. A related point that was not mentioned in the column is the status of stray cats on Amami Oshima. According to one blog post I read about the issue, many homes on the island keep cats as pets but allow them to roam outside for the purpose of pest control; in this case, the pests are not rodents but rather snakes, which are numerous on the island. Many are poisonous. The cats do not catch and eat the snakes, but the snakes like rodents and often go into homes in order to hunt them. If the home has a cat that hangs around it will naturally scare away mice, which means snakes will have less of a reason to enter the house.
What this suggests is that many of the cats that may be considered strays are, in fact, house cats that are allowed to roam outside. And since animal welfare groups have a problem with the ministry’s vague distinction between strays (which are protected by the law) and feral cats, it’s altogether possible that roaming pets are also being scooped up in the cull, though, as far as I know no cat owner on the island has yet reported their pet missing as a result. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.