Visiting Houtong Cat Village in Taiwan

posted by Daphne July 31, 2016
Houtong cat village wall | Daily Delicious Eats

Before going to Taiwan, I’d heard about some of the things had to do. Browsing the night markets, going to Taipei 101 and eating as many soup dumplings as I could at Din Tai Fung. But then I saw something that got me excited like a little kid: Taiwan has a cat village. Not just a cat cafe… A cat village. Well that’s it, Taiwan, here I come!

Houtong cat village

There are lots of little shops and cafes right outside the train station

Houtong Cat Village hasn’t always been a cat village. It used to be a thriving mining town until the coal mining industry started to dwindle in the 90’s. The younger inhabitants moved out of the village to look for a better future until only a few hundred villagers remained. In 2008, a local cat lover started organising volunteers to take care of the abandoned cats that were roaming around in the village. Now, there are supposedly over 100 cats strutting around and the village is booming once again – this time as the cuddliest tourist destination in Taiwan.

Arriving at the village

When you arrive at Houtong train station, you’ll know you’ve reached the right village: cat things are everywhere. Cat wall decorations. Cat figurines. Cat postcards. Cat balls. Wait, what?

On one side of the station, you’ll find a bunch of small shops and cafes, selling all the cat-related stuff you could want. It’s also the side that leads to the old mine, where you can take a tour and learn about the village’s mining history. To go to the actual village, you have to walk over a small, covered bridge that was designed to give the cats a safe way to cross the railway. I was hoping to see some real cats, but no such luck on the bridge. Well, at least there were a lot of cat balls!

Houtong cat noodles

You can have cat noodles for lunch

Houtong cat village monkeys

Houtong village used to have a cave inhabited by monkeys. I’m 80% sure they wore mining caps

Because it was a Saturday, I was afraid there would be a huge crowd, but it wasn’t too bad. It was a sunny, incredibly hot July day, and here’s an important tip if you want to see the cats: go when it’s colder. Not only is it uncomfortable to stay outside in the heat for so long, there won’t be as many cats roaming around in the heat. Judging from other people’s experiences, you’ll see a lot more furballs on cooler days!

Houtong village cat

First cat spotted!

However, if you happen to be in Taiwan during the summer, it’s still worth a visit just for the views. The village is surrounded by green mountains and a lovely, winding river.

The village streets are built on the side of a mountain. Walking past all the houses, it felt a little strange sometimes. It’s a residential area after all, with locals sitting in front of their homes with their laundry hanging outside. But a lot of locals have embraced the tourism, opening their own shops to cater to us cat lovers.

Houtong cat village shop

More cat stuff! There were even a couple of real cats sleeping through the heat

Houtong cat village street

Cats or no cats, ordinary life continues

We did see at least 10 cats, so the cat village lived up to its name. But I can’t wait to go back during winter or spring some day to see more cats running around!

Cat village rules

Keep in mind that there are some rules when you visit the town. Don’t feed the cats human food, and if you’re going to feed them cat food, put it in a bowl first. Keep the streets clean! Leave the cats alone when they’re resting. Don’t chase them. Also, the town has had issues with people abandoning their own cats there. These cats can get hurt and spread diseases. Don’t do this, guys.

Houtong black cat

Managed to get seven cats in one picture

 How to get there

Houtong Cat Village is about an hour by train from Taipei. From Taipei Main Station, take the train to Ruifang. The tickets are NTD 56,- each way, and make sure you get a seat when you buy the ticket. It’s a long ride if you have to stand in the hallway. From Ruifang, you can take a local train to Houtong Station. If you have an EasyCard, you can use that to pay for the 10 minute train ride. It can be a little confusing if you can’t read Chinese, but the staff at Ruifang will happily help you out if you tell them you want to go to Houtong. Say meow to the cats for me!

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