Hou­tong Cat Vil­lage: the purrfect spot for fans of furry fe­line friends

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY KEONI EVER­ING­TON

Hou­tong Cat Vil­lage ( ), is a gritty lit­tle min­ing town that has in re­cent years be­come fa­mous online for its bur­geon­ing cat pop­u­la­tion.

The vil­lage’s orig­i­nal name was Hou Dong ( ), or mon­key cave, re­fer­ring to a cave that was once in­hab­ited by mon­keys in the town’s early days. Although simian sight­ings may be less com­mon in the streets of Hou­tong now, there are plenty of fe­line friends.

Start­ing un­der Ja­panese rule, Hou­tong’s gold and coal mines flour­ished and drew in at least 6,000 res­i­dents. Af­ter the 1990s, Hou­tong’s min­ing in­dus­try de­clined and res­i­dents started leav­ing in search of new op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In 2008, a vil­lager de­cided to make liv­ing con­di­tions more com­fort­able for its stray cat pop­u­la­tion and posted pho­to­graphs online dis­play­ing these ef­forts.

Blog­gers who vis­ited the town re­sponded with rave re­views draw­ing suc­ces­sive waves of cat en­thu­si­asts, and Hou­tong’s econ­omy was once again re­vived. Over time, the vil­lage took on a cat-lover theme in the form of cutesy signs, sou­venirs, post­cards and cat-shaped food.

Soon, the pop­u­la­tion of cats reached around 200, ri­val­ing the rem­nant hu­man pop­u­la­tion. Af­ter fe­line pan­leukope­nia virus (FPV) hit the vil­lage two sum­mers ago, more ef­forts have been made to keep the cats healthy. Last month, about 50 of the vil­lage’s 200 cats were vac­ci­nated.

The small town of Hou­tong is cen­tered around its train sta­tion and is sep­a­rated into two parts. One side of the sta­tion leads to the old mine and the town’s history mu­seum, which ex­plains the town’s old min­ing in­dus­try, while the other side is reached via a cov­ered bridge that vaguely re­sem­bles a cat’s body. On the road next to the mu­seum, there are shops selling noo­dles and cat-shaped pineap­ple cakes, while across the street there are stores of­fer­ing a plethora of fe­line- cen­tric sou­venirs, such as cat T- shirts, wal­lets, post­cards and stick­ers.

Across the bridge to the cat vil­lage’s main sec­tion, a small statue, sign and cat houses greet visi­tors. The sign’s trans­la­tion is “I am Xiao Hua ( Lit­tle Flower), please love and pro­tect me.”

As a “cat vil­lage” Hou­tong has fully em­braced the theme, and cute and ec­cen­tric signs are lo­cated through­out the town. Most build­ings will have the like­ness of at least one cat painted on them.

Cat cafes, for the ul­ti­mate cat lover, are lo­cated at the top of the vil­lage, where you can buy drinks, mugs and post­cards and where you can spend time with the cafe’s cats in­side. How­ever, there are more cats out­side of the cafe than in­side.

Cats can be seen ev­ery­where, even on the rooftops and bal­conies of the town’s houses.

If you are a cat lover in­ter­ested in old mines and in­dus­trial ar­chi­tec­ture and are headed to the Ji­ufen/Jin­guashi area, a trip to Hou­tong may be worth a visit. The town is lo­cated just out­side of Ruifang, ac­ces­si­ble by the #788 bus from Keelung, and is reach­able by Ruifang’s train sta­tion by the Pingxi Rail­way Line. The train ride from Ruifang to Hou­tong takes less than ten min­utes. Lo­cal trains are also avail­able from Taipei to both Ruifang and Hou­tong.

Cap­tured from the In­ter­net

A cat re­laxes at an eatery in Hou­tong Cat Vil­lage in New Taipei City in this Sept. 5, 2010 photo posted by pho­tog­ra­pher Dou onto his flickr page (www.flickr.com/peo­ple/enixii/).

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