Sunday, June 9, 2013

Houtong Cat Village, Taiwan

Houtong is a small mining town located in Rueifang District of Taiwan, a district renowned for its rich, well-preserved railway culture with the old Yilan Line which was built during the Japanese colonial period for transporting resources out of northern Taiwan. Houtong was a train stop on the Yilan Line and one of Taiwan’s biggest coal-mining sites up until the 1970s. During its most prosperous years, Houtong’s mines produced some 220,000 tons of coal, the largest amount of coal yielded in a single area in Taiwan. This attracted many residents to migrate to Houtong, and the town grew to as many as 900 households and population of more than 6,000.

As the coal mining industry began to fall into decline in 1990, development in Houtong became progressively worse. Young residents started to move out of town to look for other opportunities, and only a few hundred residents remained. The once prosperous mining industry fell into ruins and was lying so for decades.

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Things took an unexpected turn sometime around 2008, when a cat lover organized a team of volunteers to give the neighborhood’s abandoned cats a better living environment. They posted the cats’ pictures on the web and received an overwhelming response from other cat lovers. Visitors' raves on local blogs drew more cat lovers to this place who came to photograph the cats or fondle and frolic with them. Soon Houtong became a hotbed for cat lovers and amateur photographers. Today, the dilapidated mining town and the 100-odd felines that roam the streets are drawing thousands of tourists during weekends.

Houtong residents are cashing in on the tourist influx by opening souvenir shops and selling cat-shaped pineapple pastries. Even the footbridge leading from the station’s exit across the tracks to the hillside cat village has recently been beautified and given a distinct “cat-look,” complete with ears at one end and a tail at the other. The bridge now even includes an elevated “catwalk,” allowing the cats to come down from the village and greet visitors who arrive by train.

The cats are looked after by the town’s residents. Chan Bi-yun, a 58-year-old retiree takes a lot of the credit for Houtong's feline-induced rebirth.

"I started raising five cats that belonged to a neighbor who passed away nine years ago and they gave birth to more and more kitties," she said. "Now I feed about half of Houtong's cat population."

Also see: Tashirojima - The Cat Island of Japan

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Houtong was originally called Hou Dong, that literally translates to “monkey cave”, because there was a cave inhabited by a group of wild monkeys in the area during the early days. This sign is located in Houtong’s railway station. The doodle of a cat, a miner, a monkey and a railway bridge indicates the four major attraction in Houtong. Photo credit

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Sources: CNN, Taiwan.net, Eturbonews, NTPC, Culture.tw

14 comments:

  1. It's beautiful however I'm sure there would be very few birds in this town - and of course, no mice!

    I hope they spay and neuter these cats so they don't quickly overpopulate and create an untenable situation.

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    1. Spay and neuter is really a must for a sustainable situation. Totally agree with you.

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    2. I also agree, but as a resident of Taiwan, I can unfortunately tell you that they don't. Animals are treated like dolls here and often abandoned promptly when they act like animals. So consequently, along with an exceptionally high number of both stray cats and dogs, the country has one of the largest animal shelters in the world just outside Taipei. I really can't understand how spaying and neutering aren't more important in Taiwan.

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  2. I love this village, I wish I could go and see it.

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  3. Thank you for this beautiful article! Care2 shared it with members. I hope many more people get to see and hear about this magnificent feline paradise where compassion and ingenuity collide to show the very best of humanity interacting with cats and enjoying each other as God intended.

    Regarding the "bird" comment above, whatever. The cats are being fed by humans. I'm sure the birds are fine.

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  4. cats like to play, especially when they are well fed. and playing often means hunting down smaller animals. the corpses are not eaten by the cat, but are brought home as presents. so, a cats´ village surely is a death zone for birds and mice.

    although i liked the photos very much, i also hope that they spay and neuter or the situation will soon be not idyllic anymore.

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  5. молодцы! вот так с помощью животных можно победить хандру.

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  6. Meawwww meawwww.

    No spay or neutering. The plan is to let them multiply. More cats = more moneys!

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  7. I don't think the cats, once fully tamed, would wander too far away from this particular village - thus, there is little danger to ecosystem outside it. They find food from people that feed them. After all, cats often tend to be fond of the particular place where they live.

    I never liked the idea of neutering or spay. That shit is fucked up :/

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  8. I've been to this village and I have to say that the cats here are very friendly. Interestingly enough they are very clean and healthy. The Taiwanese govt provide fundings for the village to take care of the cats which includes shots and food. The cats should be fixed as the village is literally overrun with them and there are signs warning against people leaving their cats there. Petting the cats is also not recommended as they have very potent pesticides which keeps away ticks and other parasites.

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  9. Wow. This place is amazing. It's so nice to see feline and human live in peace and harmony. I'd love to visit the village one day! :-)

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  10. I wish i can visit the village but im too far away!!

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