Houtong is an old coal-mining town just east of Taipei in the Rueifang District of Taiwan. It’s accessible via the Yilan train line or an hour drive by car from downtown Taipei.
When Houtong’s mining industry started to decline in the 1990’s, the younger generation began to migrate into the larger cities leaving only a few hundred residents. As the mining industry disappeared, many stray cats appeared around Houtong train station. It wasn’t until in 2008 when a group of volunteers started posting pictures of the feral cats online that cat lovers from all over the world started to take interest.
Today, a park and living area have been established for the almost one hundred stray cats. The locals are capitalizing on the heavy domestic and international tourist traffic by selling cat themed souvenirs, artwork and food. The cats have benefited as well by their overwhelming popularity. They are cared for and fed by the local residents and doted upon by the tourists who enjoy playing with them, taking pictures, and feeding them.
If you venture toward Houtong, don’t miss the other nearby attractions such as Pingxi (home of the annual Pingxi Lantern Festival), Jinguashi (hiking in the Gold Ecological Park), Jiufen (traditional food and teahouses), and Shifen (Shifen waterfall). Bring a tripod to take advantage of the unique night scenes especially in Jiufen where the traditional architecture is built along slopping streets.
For more information:
Travel King: Jinguashi
Travel King: Jiufen
Guide to Taipei: Pingxi and Shifen