Cat Rehab Weans Feral Felines Off Endangered Birds

It may be a long way from the forests of Japan's Ogasawara Islands to the high-rise apartments of Tokyo, but a special cat rehab is helping feral felines find their way by putting to rest their wild side. For the last 15 years or so, the islands have been virtually overrun by an ever growing feral cat population that has a problematic appetite. Turns out, the felines have developed a habit of dining on the islands' wild birds, threatening several endangered species. Now, in an attempt to intervene, officials have begun collecting the cats hoping they'll put down the feather and get back on the can.According to the Daily Yomiuri, officials from the Tokyo Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) have been teaming up with locals in their cat collecting efforts in hopes of preserving the island chain's unique ecosystem. It's so worth saving, in fact, that the Ogasawara Islands were selected as candidates to receive a World Heritage Site designation, which has only added impetus to solving the cat crisis.

Several bird species are under attack from the feral cats, like the endangered Japanese wood pigeon. The islands' Bonin flying foxes are threatened as well.

Once the cats have been rounded up, they're then sent to Japan's main island, Honshu, where they undergo rehabilitation aimed at making them suitable pets. Getting the wild, bird-eating cats accustomed to domestic life again, however, is no easy task. A spokesperson from the TVMA explains the rehab process to The Telegraph:

It is unusual to turn wild cats into domestic pets. The process involves firstly putting the cat in a cage and then placing the cage in a place where people often pass by. The cat is touched every day and after about a month, can normally be held. The whole process can take up to three months.

Once the cats have finished rehab, they can then be adopted. So far, more than 100 newly tamed cats have found new homes -- and they don't seem to miss their old ways. "Maybe because they missed people, the captured cats show affection once they're tamed," said Yasushi Komatsu, vice chairmen of the TVMA.

Considering the far less humane options thought of by other nations to deal with invasive species, Japan's cat rehab seems to offer a real win-win solution. It just goes to show that with a bit of extra effort given to preserving the lives of endangered species, the lives of those endangering them can be spared too. And who knows, maybe this cat rehab can teach us all a valuable lesson.

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Tags: Birds | Endangered Species | Japan | Pets