The Mysterious Inhabitants of Cat Island


Cat Island, known as Aoshima in Japanese, is a small island located in Ehime Prefecture, Japan. This island has become famous for its large number of cats that roam freely, earning it the nickname “Cat Island”. Though the island is a popular tourist attraction, especially for cat lovers, there has been some debate around whether people actually live on Cat Island or if it is an uninhabited island solely occupied by cats.

In this article, we will explore the question: Do people live at Cat Island?

Location and Geography

Cat Island is located in the central Bahamas, approximately 225 miles southeast of Florida. It is part of the Bahamas’ District of Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador (source:,_Bahamas).

The island itself sits at the eastern edge of the Great Bahama Bank and measures approximately 48 miles long and averages 4 miles wide. It has a total land area of 150 square miles, making it the 4th largest island in the Bahamas archipelago (source:

Cat Island features various ecological zones including mangrove wetlands, tropical hardwood forests, salt ponds, beaches, blue holes and tidal creeks. The terrain consists of ridges, rolling hills and steep cliffs. The island’s highest point is Mount Alvernia at 206 feet above sea level (source:,_Bahamas).


Cat Island was first discovered by Europeans in the 16th century when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto landed there in 1540. The island was inhabited by the Lucayan people at that time. In 1783, Cat Island was granted by the British Crown to American Loyalists led by Colonel Andrew Deveaux for resettlement after the American Revolutionary War. Many of these early settlers came from New York and were of Dutch, French, and English descent.

During the early 19th century, several plantations grew cotton on Cat Island, relying on slave labor. After Britain abolished slavery in 1834, many of the freed slaves remained to work as paid laborers. The island’s economy transitioned to logging, sponging, and fishing.

According to the Wikipedia article “Cat Island (Mississippi)”, the island was briefly occupied by Union forces during the American Civil War in 1862. Pirates and bootleggers used the island as a hideout in the 1800s due to its remoteness.

The early 20th century saw Cat Island’s population grow with the construction of hotels, churches, and a school. However hurricane damage and economic changes led to an exodus of islanders, and the population declined sharply. Today only a few permanent residents live on Cat Island year-round.

Former Settlements

Cat Island once had some small settlements in the past, though they are no longer inhabited today. According to the book “Sketches, historical and topographical, of the Floridas,” there were former settlements on Cat Island that were abandoned “for want of provisions.”

Other former settlements on Cat Island included Port Boyd, Black Rock, and Gin Hill. As described in an article on Vacation Barefoot, these settlements “are now deserted and overgrown.” They likely failed to thrive due to the island’s remote location and lack of development.

Current Population

Cat Island was once home to thriving fishing villages and bustling ports, but today there are only a few permanent residents remaining on the island. According to the 2010 census, the population of Cat Island in the Bahamas was just 1,522 people (,_Bahamas). On Tashirojima, also known as Cat Island in Japan, the population has dwindled to less than 100 residents as of 2017, though the island once had over 1,000 permanent inhabitants in the 1950s (

The majority of homes and buildings on Cat Island are now vacant or abandoned. Most economic activity has shifted to other more populated islands nearby. Only a small number of fishing families and local residents remain. While Cat Island does still have some permanent residents toughing it out and keeping their communities going, the population is a fraction of what it once was in the island’s heyday.

Visitors and Tourism

Cat Island in the Bahamas is known as a quiet and serene getaway, attracting those looking to escape the crowds and experience the natural beauty of the island. According to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, around 5,000 people visited Cat Island in 2016.

The main visitors to Cat Island are tourists on vacation, who come for the gorgeous beaches, fishing, relaxation and to experience the culture. The island’s miles of pink and white sand beaches dotted with palm trees are a major draw. Popular beaches include Hawk’s Nest Resort and Villas beach, Orange Creek and Old Bight beach. Many visitors also make the trip to the top of 206-foot tall Mount Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas (

In addition to independent travelers, Cat Island attracts tourists arriving on cruise ships that dock at the Port of New Bight. Day trips allow cruisers to explore the island’s highlights. Bahamas ferry services also transport visitors from Nassau and other islands for overnight stays.

A large portion of visitors are recreational fishermen, who come to catch species like wahoo, dolphin fish, tuna and marlin. The island hosts fishing tournaments annually, like the Cat Island Rake and Scrape Festival. Eco-tourism, birdwatching, kayaking, and scuba diving are also popular activities.

While less developed than other Bahamian islands, Cat Island offers several inns, hotels, guest houses and restaurants for travelers. Hawk’s Nest Resort and Villas, Fernandez Bay Village, and Cathedral Cave Club Resort are some accommodation options ( Travelers should expect a quiet, laidback experience focused on nature.


Cat Island has limited infrastructure to support residents and visitors. The main airport is located in New Bight and has a paved runway that can accommodate small planes (Cat Island Chain, Green Bay). There are also airstrips located in Arthur’s Town and Port Howe that can accommodate private planes. Ferries provide transportation to and from Nassau a few times per week.

Electricity is provided by generators in most settlements, though service can be intermittent. Some areas have installed solar panels to generate electricity. Cell phone service and internet access is available but can also be unreliable in certain parts of the island.

Basic services like grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and lodging can be found in the main settlements but amenities are fairly limited compared to more populated islands. Unpaved roads connect the settlements but some areas are only accessible by boat.

In terms of tourism infrastructure, there are several small hotels and guest houses that cater to visitors. Some notable attractions include beaches, blue holes, a historic lighthouse, and areas for fishing, diving, and nature tours (Prime Minister Davis speaks of Infrastructure). However, tourism development is fairly minimal compared to busier islands in the Bahamas.

Economy and Industry

The economy of Cat Island is largely dependent on tourism and fishing. According to the ECONOMY AND FAMILY STRUCTURE, PORT HOWE, CAT ISLAND (BAHAMAS) study, the main economic activities on Cat Island are small-scale farming, animal husbandry and fishing. The island’s remote location and lack of development make it difficult to attract large-scale investment and industry. Most economic activity revolves around serving the tourism sector through accommodations, restaurants, tours and souvenir shops. Sport fishing is also a draw for visitors, as the island is known for excellent bonefishing, snorkeling and diving.

Outside of the main settlements, much of Cat Island’s population is engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing. Farming is done on a small scale, mainly to provide food for local consumption rather than commercial export. Common crops include corn, beans, tomatoes and other vegetables. Fishing occurs nearshore for species like conch, grouper and snapper, which are sold locally or exported to Nassau. Overall, the economy remains underdeveloped compared to other Bahamian islands, but retains a traditional way of life focused on fishing, farming and serving tourists looking to experience the natural beauty of Cat Island.

Environmental Factors

Cat Island’s environment presents some challenges for human settlement. As part of the Mississippi River Delta, the island is susceptible to flooding and erosion. Periodic floods from the Mississippi River can inundate the island, damaging structures and disrupting daily life. The island is also affected by subsidence, or sinking land, at an estimated rate of 0.4 inches per year.

Additionally, Cat Island has lost significant land area in recent decades due to erosion, going from over 5,000 acres in the 1970s to just over 1,100 acres today. This shoreline erosion threatens any permanent settlements on the island. Powerful storms like hurricanes can accelerate erosion and cause storm surge flooding.

The dynamic natural processes shaping Cat Island make it an inhospitable location for a sizable permanent human population. While people could potentially live there seasonally or temporarily, maintaining a stable community would be difficult. Any buildings or infrastructure would require ongoing maintenance and reinforcement to withstand flooding and erosion. Services like power, water, sewage, and transportation would also be challenging to provide reliably given the environmental conditions.

The refuge aims to restore some of the lost wetland habitat on Cat Island through projects depositing dredged sediment. While this may help counter erosion, it is being done primarily for ecological reasons. Overall, Cat Island’s shrinking size and susceptibility to flooding present environmental limitations for settlement.


In conclusion, the evidence suggests that there are currently no permanent residents living on Cat Island in the Bahamas. While the island was once home to small fishing and farming settlements, the population dwindled over the years as economic prospects faded. Today, the island remains uninhabited except for the occasional presence of visiting tourists, researchers, and government workers. With limited infrastructure and employment opportunities, the challenges of sustaining a community on Cat Island appear too great at this time. So while its beautiful beaches may attract travelers, this remote Bahamian island remains without a permanent population that calls it home.

In summary, while Cat Island has a long history of sporadic habitation and still draws visitors to its shores, there does not seem to be evidence that there is a current permanent settlement or population living on the island year-round. The available information conclusively points to Cat Island presently being uninhabited.

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