Village Saved by Cats

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Houtong Village, which is located in northern Taiwan, is home of one of the most adorable animals who have begun to save the city. As soon as you walk into the town it is obvious who these little lifesavers are. Cats. According to CNN, “there’s a cat-shaped bridge, pet food bowls on the side of the walkways, street signs with cat motifs, cat-themed cafes and, of course, furry feline friends roaming freely everywhere.”

Houtong is a former mining village that recently has been “sleeping.” In early 1900s, Houtong was among the biggest and most technologically advanced coal-mining sites in Taiwan. The town was fastly growing with a population of 6,000 residents and workers. But the mine fell into disuse in 1990 and that is when things started going downhill for Houtong. Most of the younger residents moved away to find better opportunities. Now the town only has around 100 residents. But stray cats that have appeared in the village have helped revive it.

In 2010, Houtong’s fame skyrocketed after a cat lover and photographer started blogging about the village’s growing stray cat population. Houtong was transformed into a cat-lover tourist spot while also providing a source of income for local villagers. Most of the stray cats have been given nicknames and are being taken care of by local villagers, as well as a troop of volunteers.

Along with the village’s many cute kitty-themed shops and cafes, the Houtong government has also seized the opportunity to revamp Houtong and shed light on its long history. They built an award-winning pedestrian cat bridge. There are metal plates with tiny paw designs embedded into streets. They also built an information and education center opened in 2014, featuring elevated cat walkways on the façade of the building. A museum park dedicated to the town’s former mining life opened in 2010, later hosting a cat lantern festival in 2012. It all appears to be paying off. The town now draws an estimated one million visitors every year.