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How cat tourism revived this town's economy

April 10, 2018—Houtong (猴硐), Taiwan is known as "Cat Village" (貓村). Once a major coal mining center, the economy here now centers on cat tourism. When mining stopped in early 1990s, Houtong’s population plummeted. But the cat-to-human ratio surged, as some relocated without their pets. Others who remained kept feeding the strays. After a visit to Houtong in 2007, Jian Peiling, aka “Mrs. Kitty,” now a pro cat photographer, organized a volunteer welfare campaign for the felines. There have been unhappy moments. People have stolen cats and abandoned them at Cat Village. Introduced animals raise disease risk. Houtong’s cats do receive vaccinations. And they're all fixed, so a stable cat population reflects an illicit influx. Estimates vary: 100 to 200 cats—equal to or double the human population. Two-legged guests are very welcome. In 2009, Houtong's train station had over a quarter million arrivals—already a tenfold increase over the previous decade. But last year, visits may have topped one million.Video: 28Lab / Kei Oumawatari via Caters NewsAdditional images: GoranQ; Nuttapol Puntavachirapan; Sanjin Wang via Getty Images, Xcatx CaiREAD: Look Inside Taiwan's 'Cat Village'
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