I decided to visit Houtong Cat Village in a cloudy afternoon and unexpectedly developed a huge “crush” on its plump cats. It was such a pleasant experience that sticks to my mind. If you are a fan of cats, Houtong Cat Village is a must-see destination for you when you visit Taiwan. So, is Houtong Cat Village worth visiting, how to visit Houtong Cat Village, what to do in Houtong Cat Village? Let’s check out our Houtong Cat Village blog with the fullest houtong village travel guide from how to get to Houtong Cat Village, best places to visit as well as top things to do in houtong taiwan to help you maximize your trip as follows!
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About Houtong Cat Village (# houtong cat village blog)
Houtong is a small village on the banks of Keelung River in Ruifang District, New Taipei City, about one hour drive from Taipei. Although Houtong Cat Village is a great place for a day trip in Taipei, not many tourists know about it.
Like Jiufen, Shifen, and Pingxi, Houtong was a crowded mining town once, but it became less and less lively when the coal industry went down.
Then it came a special point for Houtong in 2008 when a group of volunteer cat lovers posted pictures of the village’s adorable cats on social networks to seek help. Thanks to this, Houtong has become a top destination for cat fanciers. Visiting this town, you can see hundreds of cats sitting in the sun, eating, walking or napping everywhere.
Why the Name “Houtong” (# houtong village)
Despite being a cat village, the name Houtong has nothing related to cats. In fact, Houtong means a monkey cave. The village was given such name because there was a time when a lot of monkeys lived in the cave area near the village. No one knows about the fate of these monkeys now, but the special name “Houtong Cat Village” sticks in peoples’ mind.
How to get to Houtong cat village?
The easiest way to get to Houtong Cat Villiage is by train. From Taipei Main Station, you take Yilan Line and after about 1.5 hours you will arrive at Houtong Station. This is a direct train line to the cat village. A one-way ticket is usually from 50 NTD (about 1.6 USD) and there is a train every half hour. The last train back to Taipei City departs at 21:00, but all services in the village stop at 18:00. That’s why most visitors don’t spend the night there.
The village is usually crowded at weekends, so you should visit it on weekdays to enjoy its peacefulness and have more time to play with the cats.
What to do in Houtong Cat Village?
The best thing about the Cat Village is that it is a shelter for hundreds of adorable stray cats. You will see cute cat-related symbols everywhere from kittens to “mangosteen” cats on the walls, on the sides of walkways and stairs.
There is even a footbridge where the cat residents and visitors can safely cross the railway tracks.
A Walk to the Hill Top
In Houtong, you can leisurely walk around the village to watch the lovely cats or you can also find your way through small paths to the top of the hill for a panoramic view of the village and Keelung River.
You can enjoy cute wall drawings of cats on your way and don’t forget to capture these pleasant moments.
In the surrounding hills, there are also many walking routes leading to the former mining tunnels and bridges alongside the railway track.
Along the railway tracks, you can’t miss the scene of countless wishing bamboo sticks. This is a unique feature of almost every old train station in Taiwan. Each bamboo stick costs about 40 NTD (1.3 USD). You write a wish on the stick and hang it on the fence or on a tree by the track.
A visit to the village’s center
As you know, Houtong used to be a coal mining site in the 1970s that rapidly attracted more than thousands of miners to the area looking for work. The town was not only an important stop on the Yilan train line but also the largest coal mine in Taiwan. Then in the 1990s, everything changed when the coal mine began to run dry. The government’s more cost-effective ways such as reducing trains and workers made the place reduced in population. Finally, the mining business here came to an end.
However, the coal mining facility has been well preserved and turned into a museum to display photographs describing the life of miners and their daily life items such as handkerchiefs, soaps, and rubber shoes, etc.
Buying souvenirs at “Meow Shops”
The locals realized that more and more tourists were coming to the Cat Village and quickly took advantage of that by launching CAT products from souvenirs such as cat figurines, postcards, pants and T-shirts to adorable stationery and delicious cat-shaped pineapple cakes.
You can pop in any shop to have a look and buy gifts for your loved ones. Although a cat shaped pineapple cake is more expensive than a normal pineapple cake, the recipients of such a gift will be extremely excited.
Enjoying food at the Cat Village
In the Cat Village, there are several eating places offering typical Taiwanese food such as beef noodles and oden hot pot and they are quite tasty. On a rainy day, sitting in a place like this watching the flow of visitors is also a singular pleasure.
However, to enjoy better cakes and coffee, you should visit cute tea shops and cafes on the hill or around the train station. One special thing is that all restaurants and souvenir shops here have one to two cats or let them get in and out freely so that you can watch or pat them.
Patting the cute cats – the most important thing to do
Of course, coming to the Cat Village is to play with the cats. The population of cats here outnumbers its people, said to be 200 times that of the town’s current human population, and there are more than 100 breeds of cats living in the village with increasing numbers. They are visible everywhere – on the open spaces, at the corners, on top of the walls or on the trees.
Cats love bathing and playing in the sun, so you will see much fewer cats here on a rainy day. On these wet days, they hide quite well in their favorite warm places. Therefore, it is quite important to check the weather before you visit the Cat Village.
Another special thing about this place is that the cats here are never left to starve. They have wooden houses with curtains to shelter them from the rain and the sun. In winter, they have warm blankets and soft mats and are fed well by the villagers.
In fact, due to being taken care of so well, every cat here is a bit “overweight” with a fat and round body. Being used to the cameras, the “celeb” cats in the village are very bold and they do not avoid people.
Some Rules to Follow at Houtong Cat Village
- Do not feed the cats with your food as they can make them sick. You can buy cat food at most stores in Houtong.
- Don’t overfeed a cat – a few bites at a time are more than enough as the next person may continue to feed it.
- Help local people keep the village clean. You’ll see cat bowls all over the place. Please use them when feeding a cat and keep your own trash until you find a public trash bin.
- Do not tease a “cold” cat, instead please wait or find a “playful” cat ready to play with you.
- Do not bring any pets on your trip. They may carry infectious diseases or become injured in a fight.
- Do not use camera/phone flash when taking pictures of the cats as this can scare them off.
- Wash/disinfect your hands after feeding or playing with the cats to avoid illness.
Attractions near Houtong Cat Village
- Pingxi 平溪 | 29.6km from Houtong – Pingxi is most renowned for its sky lanterns and the annual International Sky Lantern Festival.
- Shifen 十分 | 26.4km from Houtong – Shifen Old Town is a great place to enjoy street food and release wish-fulfilling sky lanterns. You can also head to Shifen Waterfalls, 40m wide, the widest waterfall in Taiwan.
- Jiufen 九份 | 7.2km from Houtong – Jiufen is a picturesque town, famous for its narrow alleys and teahouses. It is also a popular international filming location and believed to be the model for the public bathroom in the popular anime series Spirited Away.
- Keelung 基隆 | 17.7km from Houtong – Keelung is the largest port city in northern Taiwan. It is well-known for its ancient fortresses, colorful temples and bustling night markets.
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Are you finding more top things to do in Taipei: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Taipei travel blog — The fullest Taipei city guide for a wonderful trip to Taipei for the first-timers.