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