Hosts living on islands carry few parasite species, and the prevalence and intensity of directly transmitted parasites are often higher in insular than in mainland populations. However, it is unclear whether density or other features of insular populations can be responsible for the pattern observed. We compared the parasite richness, prevalence and intensity of parasites between 2 feral populations of cats living either at low density on an island (Kerguelen) or at high density on the mainland (Lyon). Parasite richness was higher in Lyon than in Kerguelen, where only Toxocara cati was found. T. cati egg prevalence was higher in Kerguelen (71·1%) than in Lyon (58·0%). Because cat density cannot explain this pattern, we propose that the low number of parasite species, the diet and/or immunity of cats act to increase prevalence in Kerguelen. Moreover, prevalence, intensity and variance-to-mean ratio increased with age and body mass in Kerguelen whereas, in Lyon, prevalence decreased with age and body mass. We hypothesize that the pattern of exposure differs between populations, and that density-dependent parasite mortality is lower in Kerguelen than in Lyon. We discuss the consequences concerning the influence of parasites on insular host populations.