People have abandoned hundreds of cats on a deserted Brazilian island. Officials aren’t sure how to save them.

The number of cats on the island has risen during the pandemic, resulting in animal suffering and ecological problems. (Alexa Juliana Ard, Terrence McCoy, Patricia Monteiro/The Washington Post)

Eduardo Mayhe Ferreira has heard the stories for years. There was an island off Brazil’s southeastern coastline that looked deserted but wasn’t. Hidden within the dense tree cover were hundreds of abandoned animals.

Officially named Ilha Furtada, it was known to almost everyone as Ilha dos Gatos: Island of the Cats.

It was rumored to be dangerous to visit. The cats had grown to the size of dogs and gone feral, people said. They would attack outsiders. One Brazilian reporter, writing of the “mysterious” island, claimed 750 “wild” cats roamed its jungle; others said more. The number seemed to climb with every telling.

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