Welcome to Houtong!

Houtong: Welcome to Taiwan’s Cat Village

“Look! (It’s) Over there!”, I heard an excited voice behind me. It was a boy and he kept pointing her finger to a nearby bush. A few seconds later, a black-white shape leaped out. Its yellow eyes seemed to notice us but showed no interest to interact. After a while, the figure gently walked away, swinging its tail back and forth. That was my first encounter with the citizen of Houtong, a place that is often dubbed the Cat Village.

Tucked in the forested mountains of Ruifang District (35 kilometers from Taipei City), Houtong ( 猴硐) is a former coal-mining village. After the mining pits closed down in the 1990s, the place was largely abandoned, with only a dozen households left behind. But things started to change in 2008 when local cat lover Jian Peilling posted photos of the villager’s efforts to take care of stray cats on social media. Her pictures went viral and the village received a lot of support from cat lovers from all over Taiwan.

Within years, the ghost town of Houtong has reinvented itself as a lively cat village. Visitors from far and wide flock here to see a quirky village where nearly everything is cat-related, from feline theme souvenirs and kitty-shaped desserts to a cat-inspired gallery. Even the bridge leading to the village is also cat-friendly, fully equipped with climbing steps and perch platforms. Though these facilities sound like tourist traps, they bring much-needed money to the villagers and the cat population.

Houtong Village
A cafe in Houtong

Cat! Cat! A lot of cats!

The star attraction, however, is still our four-legged friends. It’s estimated that Houtong is now home to more than 200 cats; roughly double that of the human population. From black, white, and ginger to tortoiseshell, there are cats of every kind. Some are pretty shy, while others are friendly and don’t mind if you pet them. The cats can be found roaming all over the village: hiding in the bushes, jumping off roofs, sleeping over the banisters, or idling by the riverside. They get fed by villagers, and often, by the public. But visitors are encouraged not to do so because overfeeding will have negative impacts on the cat’s health. Additionally, a small team of veterinarians voluntarily look after the cats by administering vaccinations and sterilization.

But this sanctuary for stray cats also has a downside. As its popularity grows, Houtong now has to face a new threat posed by many irresponsible pet owners. These people come here to discard cats that they no longer want. Some of these castoffs are even ill and can infect the whole cat population. Although there is a fine of up to 150,000 NT$ (5000$), it hardly has a deterrent effect. In my opinion, Houtong should be a place where visitors learn to value animals, not a place to abandon them.

Tips for visiting the Cat Village

  • Houtong Cat Village is easily accessible by local trains from Taipei Main Station. Just take Line 801 towards Su’ao (Yilan) and get off at Houtong. The trip takes less than one hour. Please note that some journeys require a brief transfer at Ruifang Station.
  • As of 2019, you can pay for the entire trip with the EasyCard – an add-valued smartcard that can be used in most of Taiwan’s public transportation system.
  • Ruifang Station is the gateway to the famous mountain town of Jiufen. That’s why many people (including myself) combine these two destinations on a day trip.


15 thoughts on “Houtong: Welcome to Taiwan’s Cat Village”

  1. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    Ohhh I’ll be in a feline heaven if I go here! I love cats, although in recent years I begin to love dogs as well. But if I had to choose I’d definitely pick cats. It’s nice that those cats in this village are being taken care of by the locals and some veterinarians. Although you also mentioned about the downside of having the latter. If you love cats that much, you will enjoy Istanbul (and probably Turkey in general). The cats are fluffy and well-fed there. I also heard that Greece is also a good place to be a cat.

    1. Thanks for the tips, Bama! I will surely have a close look, when I visit these two countries 🙂 I love cats, because they are unpredictable. They do a lot of weird stuff :3

  2. I’m a real cat lady…just love them, but hubby is allergic so unfortunately we can’t keep one as a pet. It’s so great that these cats are taken care of but a shame that some people act so irresponsibly. My sister just got back from Morocco and she sent me tons of lovely cat photos and mentioned that most looked healthy.

    1. Cool! It looks like people around the Mediterranean Sea really loves cat :3 In the previous comment, Bama – a fellow blogger just mentioned that Turkey and Greece are also destinations for cat lovers. Thinking about that, I rarely see cats in other parts of Europe. Perhaps, they are kept indoor due to the weather 🙂 How about Canada?

      1. We have some cats wandering around in the neighbourhood but most tend to be indoor cats. The weather is a factor but even a bigger one is the coyotes.

  3. bánh ú nhỏ – Tôi thích được chia sẻ suy nghĩ. Âu cũng là số phận khi tôi không giỏi nói chuyện với mọi người. Những con đường qua, nào ai biết tới. Tôi cứ đi như vầng trăng phiêu bạt. Bởi "You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one" - John Lennon Rồi ta sẽ gặp nhau.
    bánh ú nhỏ says:

    Thank you for your photos. I will definitely visit there next time. Love it so much.

    1. You will want to cuddle them at first sight 😛 Though most of these cats are strays, they behaved quite well. No aggressive actions toward humans. Much better than the deer in Japan or the monkeys in Malaysia haha.

      1. Hahah the deer in Japan… that was wet scary to me. They are all my maps and papers too 😂 did you have a similar experience?

      2. Worse 🙂 I was chased around. One of them kept hitting me with the horns because I ran out of cookies. Fortunately, its horns are not sharp. Lesson learned: Never feed wild animals 😛

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