A Japanese civic group teamed up with a railway operator on a recent Sunday to let some 30 cats roam on a local train at an event, hoping it would raise awareness of the culling of stray cats.

Passengers on a local train in Ogaki, in central Japan, were greeted by meowing companions on a moving train, where some passengers mingled with the felines while others enjoyed lunch.

“I think it’s great that more people are aware about stray kittens through events like this,” said Mikiko Hayashi, a passenger from western Japan, who owns two cats that were strays. The event was hosted by Yoro Railway Co Ltd and a non-governmental organisation called Kitten Cafe Sanctuary.

The number of cats in Japan admitted to shelters has dropped by around 70% to 72,624 last year, from 237,246 in 2004.

That has reduced the number of cats culled from 238,929 in 2004 to 45,574 in 2016.

The cat population in Japan is around 9.8 million. – Reuters/Tetsushi Kajimoto