I’m sitting on a train in my best cat print dress jigging about like a three-year-old needing the bathroom. I’m overly excited because I’m on my way to Houtong Cat Village near Taipei, a magical place a short train ride from the main city where hundreds of felines are just waiting for you to come see them.
Houtong Cat Village was one of the main reasons I went to Taipei.
A big birthday was looming and I wanted to go someone fun – India beckoned, but I couldn’t get into the planning (which is unusual for me) – then one night I decided to go back to Taiwan.
Within five minutes I was running around the house shouting words like ‘cat village’, ‘UFO Houses‘, ‘Rainbow Grandpa’ – and now, a few months later, here I am, in my best cat dress on my way to meet the kitties.
Why is There a Village of Cats just Outside Taipei?
Houtong wasn’t always a village full of cats, it was originally a coal-mining town and even today the village is pretty much divided into cat land and coal land by the river that runs through the middle.
The coal mining side of Houtong thrived until the 1990s but then, when it died, so did the village. The population shrank and if it hadn’t been for a local woman posting pictures of the town’s stray cats on the internet, who knows whether we’d ever be talking about it today.
As it was though the cats went viral, the town become a tourist sight – and, now, it’s thriving.
While its furry residents were my main reason for visiting Houtong, the old coal sites have a cool dystopian vibe and you should definitely check them out. In fact, when we first got there we crossed straight over the old railway bridge to the south side and got all Hunger Games by the coal mines.
As you walk toward the museum you’ll start to see the ruins of the old colliery buildings (frequented by cats, natch), walk across an old railway bridge (more cats) and you’ll come to the coal museum which lets you see how the miners who worked the pits here lived.
Wander further along to the right and you’ll come across some cool old sites like these old dodgem cars slowly being overtaken by nature.
There are houses and small temple as you walk further, but we didn’t see any other people as we wandered around here – just got barked at by a stray dog who looked most surprised to see us!
After about 30 minutes of wandering, we’d explored this side of the bridge and it was time to do what I’d come for – see all the kitties.
The Cats of Houtong
It’s estimated that there are around 200 cats in Houtong Cat Village. They are mostly strays, but looked after by volunteers in the village.
I think I photographed all of them!!
I’d heard that the best place to see the cats was the north side of the village, which you reach by going across the rail tracks via the Cat Bridge. Here the village’s winding roads snake up into the hillside and there’s walls, roofs, plant pots and all manner of places for the cats to hang out – but, to be honest, as soon as you cross over the bridge from coaltown, they really are everywhere.
The village has wholeheartedly embraced their furry overloads and you’ll find cat statues and cat murals around every corner.
You shouldn’t feed the cats, but there’s bowls of food and cat snacking stations everywhere so they don’t go hungry.
You’ll also notice little rows of cats houses dropped around town where they go if they get hot, cold, wet or just a bit fed up of all the attention.
If you ever need to buy a present for a cat-loving friend. This is where you come. You’ll find shops selling a whole heap of cat-themed goodies like cakes, biscuits, cat stationary, cat socks, cat ornaments, stuffed cats – and even cat beer.
If this sounds like your idea of retail heaven the main shops are found just outside the station on the south side but don’t miss 317 in the village itself. If you want your cats more local in styling, have a look at Miaogift (both are clearly marked on google maps) who specialise in trinkets based around the Lucky Cat shape.
The main village is pretty small, just 2-3 streets that wend their way slowly up to a line of cafes – today, it’s hard to believe that at one point over 6000 people lived in across the two sides of the town.
And everywhere you look – there are cats. Can you say most purrfect town ever! You should definitely paws for a while here – it’ll leave you feline happy (I’ll stop now).
How Long Should you Spend in Houtong Cat Village?
We spent about two hours wandering around the coal side and the cat side. We would have spent longer if the cafe we had wanted to visit for lunch was open, but they had a closed sign up.
If you want to wander in and out of the shops, go into the coal museum and get some food I’d allow 3-4 hours for your visit.
While there’s no official ‘Houtong Cat Village opening hours’ – the streets and cats are open 24-7, it’s not an evening place so you will need to come here before most of the shops and cafes shut around 6pm.
If you can I’d avoid weekends – the streets are pretty small and could get crowded if there were a lot of people in town. We were there about 11am on a December weekday and it was pretty empty.
Getting from Taipei to Houtong Cat Village.
The village is easy to reach by train from Taipei Main Station. You can get on a direct train which takes just over an hour.
This is the best way to get to Houtong Cat Village if you’re only interested in stopping there and not seeing any other nearby sites.
The other option is to get on a train at the Main Station (again, check the times of these on the link above) to Ruifang and then, take what’s known as the Pingxi line which stops at Houtong and a couple of other touristy spots.
You will have to buy a separate ticket for this line – it’s not covered by the train ticket from Taipei. But there are machines on the platform at Ruifang, and staff to help you use them, so it’s pretty easy.
If you’re planning on doing some sightseeing, buy the day pass. It lets you get on and off at as many stops as you like throughout the day.
You can check the time for the Pingxi line timetable here – and do as they don’t run that frequently.
What Else is Near Houtong Cat Village?
We started our day at Shifen which is famous for the rail tracks running through town – and the ability to let giant lanterns loose from them. It also has a pretty waterfall.
We went here first as there are more trains back to Taipei from Houtong than there are from Shifen and we had more kitty related excitement planned for the day so wanted to get back to town fast, but you can do it the other way around.
There are a few other stops offs along the Pinxi line to do walks or see waterfalls and this is a great article highlighting them all so if you do want to make a day of it on the line, check that out.
Can you Stay in Houtong Cat Village?
There aren’t any hotels in the village and while there are a couple of properties listed on Airbnb, the hostel, at least looks to be in Ruifang, not Houtong, so I think not.
Other Must-See Sights for Cat Lovers in Taipei
The Taipei Pub for Cat Lovers
If you love the idea of Houtong Cat Village, you’ll also love Beer Cat near Zhongshan MRT, central Taipei.
This craft beer bar is also home to two cats who love to wind their way around the feet of willing patrons – and around the bar taps!
You’ll find Beer Cat at No. 9號, Lane 1, Section 2, Chengde Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103 .
Check out Taipei’s Cat Cafes
Taipei is also home to a number of cat cafes – we choose to visit the one that claims to be the original – Kitten Coffee Garden.
It’s super cute with at least 20 cats ruling the joint – and two confused looking dogs in the middle (one of whom doesn’t play well with people so don’t come here if you’re looking for dog playtime).
Kitten Coffee Garden is at No. 129, Fuhua Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111.
Visiting a cat cafe is one of the great things to do in Taipei solo – click here if you want a few more quirky ideas for solo travellers in Taipeii.
Try a Cat-Shaped Cake
Just before I went to Taiwan, there was a huge craze for mousse cakes shaped like puppies – the original shop was in the town of Tainan, a short train ride from Taipei, but then, one evening I was wandering around the Da’an district in Taipei itself and I found shop selling, not only the puppy cakes, but cat-shaped ones as well!
I didn’t catch the shops name (and google maps was shot before it opened) but it’s on the corner of Lane 147 and Lane 169 – and it has big glowing puppies outside it!
Warning – I did eat the puppy cake, it’s very traumatic and all your friends on Facebook will yell as you when you post the video – I’m imagining the cat one will provoke a similar reaction.
The Cat Temple
Gah, I only found out about this after I left Taipei, but apparently, The Yi Tian Temple in New Taipei City is known as ‘cat temple’ as a number of stray cats have set up home here.
You’ll find them snoozing around the altar and some of them are up for pats.
Yi Tian is in the Sanchong District of Taipei – it’s a bit tricky to find on the map as it’s actually marked itiengong (no me either).
This is the address though and will get you there No. 150號, Chelutou Street, Sanchong District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 24156. It’s a four-minute walk from Sanhe Junior High Station.
Image: Achiraya Juntakoson/Depositphotos.com
Have a Cat Ice Cream
The Maokong Gondola in Taipei is a 30-minute cable car ride from New Taipei City to the tea-making village of Maokong in the mountains above the city.
But almost as famous as the views from the cable car is the green tea flavoured soft-serve ice cream from the Maokong Teahouse that comes with a cat-shaped cookie on the top.
Why is there a cat cookie? Because Maokong translates to Cat Sky and you’ll find a few other cat-shaped statues around too.
You catch the gondola from the Taipei Zoo. It runs Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 9pm – slightly longer hours on weekends. Tickets are $120NTD and you can pay with your Easycard.
Some of the cabins on the gondola have a glass floor – these are called Crystal Cabins and there’s a separate entrance for these at the gondola station so, make sure you’re in the right queue if you want to travel in one of these (or, if you’re like me and would freak out within four seconds – don’t get in that queue!).
To check the exact operating hours and other details on the Maokong Gondola, click here
So there you have it – all you need to know about Houtong Cat Village, Taipei – and the other feline-friendly places to check out in the city. Did we miss any?
Let us know in the comments if there are any other cat-focused places you recommend – particularly any more good cat cafes.
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If you liked this post on Taipei’s Cat Village, please share it on social media so other people can go visit the kitties too. If you’re looking for some more fun things to do in Taipei, we’ve got a guide to that too.