The Cat Paradise Where Felines Outnumber Humans. Fascinating Facts About Cat Island


Cat Island is located in the Bahamas and is part of the Out Islands. Known for its white and pink sand beaches, Cat Island has a small population of only around 1,500 people. The island’s name comes from Arthur Catt, an Englishman who leased the island in the late 1600s. While there are stray cats on the island today, the island did not get its name directly because of cats. However, there is an interesting fact related to cats that makes Cat Island unique. Keep reading to find out this fun and fascinating cat-related fact about Cat Island.


Cat Island was first discovered and settled in the 17th century by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. According to the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area, the earliest known inhabitants of Cat Island were the Native American tribes of the Choctaw, Pascagoula, Biloxi, and Mobile peoples.

The island was given its name in the 1700s due to the large population of raccoons that resembled wild cats. French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville made note of this in his expedition logs when he arrived on Cat Island in 1699. The island became an outpost for pirates in the early 18th century, and pirate Captain William Kidd was said to have buried treasure on the island that has never been found.



Cat Island is located in the central Bahamas, approximately 150 miles southeast of Florida (“Cat Island, Bahamas”, Wikipedia). It is part of the Out Islands of the Bahamas, situated between Eleuthera and Long Island. Cat Island is 48 miles long and 1.5 miles wide at its widest point (ibid).

The island features various physical landscapes, including wetlands, creeks, small lakes and savannahs. The terrain ranges from low, swampy marshlands to rolling hills covered in Caribbean pine forests (“Cat Island, Bahamas”, Wikipedia). The highest point on the island is Mount Alvernia, which rises 206 feet above sea level and offers panoramic views of the island and surrounding waters (ibid).


Cat Island is home to a diverse array of wildlife species. Some of the animals found on the island include:

  • Birds – Over 200 species of birds have been recorded on Cat Island, including herons, egrets, ducks, geese, hawks, and neotropical migrants.
  • Mammals – Species like white-tailed deer, raccoon, otter, mink, and swamp rabbit are present. The island also provides habitat for threatened Louisiana black bear.
  • Reptiles – Turtles, lizards, and snakes including the threatened gopher tortoise inhabit the island.
  • Amphibians – Frogs, toads, and salamanders rely on the wetland habitats.
  • Fish – Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and other species are found in the sloughs and ponds.

The diversity of the island’s habitats allows it to support an abundant array of wildlife species throughout the year. Many threatened and endangered animals depend on the refuge as important habitat for feeding, breeding, and shelter.



The main industries and commercial activities on Cat Island are tourism, fishing, and agriculture. Fishing and agriculture serve the local population, while tourism caters mainly to visitors.

Commercial fishing targets spiny lobster, conch, snapper and grouper. Many residents engage in subsistence fishing and farming as well. The main crops grown are corn, beans, tomatoes, onions, cassava, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables (

Tourism accounts for over 60% of the Bahamian GDP. Cat Island’s beaches, diving sites and fishing attract tourists for relaxation and adventure. Hawk’s Nest Resort and Fernandez Bay Village are popular tourist destinations (


Cat Island is considered the heart of Bahamian culture. Many iconic Bahamian storytellers, musicians, actors, and other cultural figures hail from the island. According to Culture – Visit Cat Island, Cat Island is known as the home of the Emancipation Movement, Sir Sidney Poitier, and Rake ‘n Scrape music.

Some of the local customs and traditions on Cat Island include storytelling, folk medicine, home remedies, bush medicine, folk songs, folk dances like the Fire Dance, and traditional crafts like straw weaving according to Bahamian Traditions of Cat Island. Generations of Bahamian women have maintained these cultural practices and passed them down over the years.

Cat Islanders also have unique dialects and accents, with some noticeable differences from Nassau’s dialect. Traditional dishes like boiled fish, peas ‘n’ rice, and Johnny cake are also staples of Cat Island’s food culture.


Cat Island is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and unique attractions. Some of the most popular activities for visitors include:

  • Relaxing on the pink sand beaches – The island is ringed with stunning beaches featuring soft, pink sand. Popular spots include Bennett’s Beach and Smith’s Beach.
  • Hiking up Mount Alvernia – At 206 feet, this is the highest point in The Bahamas. The hike offers incredible panoramic views. Many also visit the associated Hermitage monastery.
  • Fishing – The waters off Cat Island are renowned for deep sea fishing, bonefishing, and fly fishing. Charters and guides are available to take visitors out.
  • Visiting Da Pink Chicken Shack – This funky beach bar on Bennett’s Beach serves up chicken and drinks in a laidback, colorful setting.

In terms of places to visit, top spots include:

  • The Hermitage at Mount Alvernia – This monastery was hand-built in 1939 by Father Jerome and sits atop the island’s highest point.
  • Da Pink Chicken Beach Bar – As mentioned above, this is a popular hangout right on the beach serving casual fare and cocktails.
  • Cat Island Sea View Park – Situated on a high cliff, this park offers panoramic views over the ocean below.

With its slower pace and friendly locals, Cat Island offers a tranquil Bahamian getaway off the main tourist track. It’s the perfect place to unwind on the beach, hike, and connect with nature.

The Fun Fact

The most fascinating thing about Cat Island is that it was the first and only place in the Bahamas to have a railroad. In the late 1800s, there was significant agriculture production on Cat Island, mainly focused on pineapple farming. To help transport the pineapples and other goods, a narrow gauge railroad was built that ran from Port Howe to New Bight. The railroad operated from around 1892 to 1939. At its peak, the railroad had nearly 50 miles of track and employed over 100 workers. The old railroad bed can still be seen today, winding through the interior landscapes of Cat Island. It serves as a unique remnant of the island’s history and development. While locomotives no longer run on Cat Island, the legacy of the Bahamas’ sole railway lives on as an intriguing facet of the island’s heritage.


Why It Matters

Cat Island’s unique status as the “Cat Island” is significant and meaningful for several reasons. It provides insight into the island’s history, culture, and relationship with animals. The high population of cats first emerged centuries ago when islanders began keeping cats to help protect silkworm cocoons from rats during the peak of silk production on the island. This practical measure eventually evolved into a cultural reverence and care for the cat population. The cats hold a special place in the island’s identity and serve as a symbol of the residents’ ancestral values of showing compassion towards animals. Though the silk industry has declined, the Cat Islanders continue to feed and care for the 200-400 feral cats that still roam the island today. This fun fact highlights the deep connection between the island inhabitants, culture, and environment over generations. The cat population represents a specific chapter in the island’s long history and remains integral to its unique character.


In summary, the fun fact about Cat Island is that it has hundreds of wild cats roaming the island. These cats are believed to be descendants of cats brought over by European settlers centuries ago. The cats have proliferated and can be found all over the island today. Local residents have taken it upon themselves to care for and feed the stray cat population. The cats have become part of the island’s charm and a popular attraction for visitors. Getting to see and interact with the friendly feral cats is a memorable part of a trip to Cat Island. This unique feline phenomenon sets Cat Island apart and makes it an intriguing Bahamian destination.

Scroll to Top