2.86 seals per inhabitant – this is the statistics of Hutong, a small town in northern Taiwan. Rather, even villages, because the local population, alas, does not exceed hundreds of people. But the number of baleen-striped, constantly residing in the territory of Hutong, is constantly growing and very soon will reach three hundred. There are 286 of them, according to one of the “cat censuses,” but we understand that this is always a very unstable indicator when it comes to cats …
Some 30 years ago, Hutong was a quite comfortable and prosperous place, a large technological center for coal mining. More than 6,000 people lived here. But in 1990, the city-forming enterprise – the mine – was closed, and people began to leave. Like many such settlements, Hutong could even disappear from the face of the Earth. But the cats saved him!
The current population of Hutong is the descendants of domestic cats that lived with the locals in better times. When the owners parted, many purrs remained “at home.” They “privatized” the homes that people abandoned, ate what they had to, and of course, multiplied. There were more and more cats.
In 2008, the endangered town was visited by photographer, blogger and big cat lover Peggy Chien. She also began to publish numerous feline photo portraits on her blog, which attracted the attention of the whole world to Hutong. Now everything is dedicated to cats.
Many tourists seek to come to Hutong. They come here all year round from different parts of the world to see with their own eyes the real village of seals. Today, this place is considered one of the attractions of Taiwan, which is visited by up to a million people a year. Naturally, they bring a considerable income to the local treasury.
I must say that the Hutong authorities orientated surprisingly quickly. Realizing how attractive the “cat village” is for tourists, they opened a museum of the miners’ past in the town, built a funny cat tunnel, opened hotels, an information center, cat cafés, and souvenir shops.
We also made sure that in Hutong it was convenient not only for people visiting but also for the cats themselves. For them, they created a whole infrastructure with habitats, treatment, education, and feeding. Both locals and numerous volunteers take care of the animals.
Seals are everywhere. On the streets and in souvenir shops – lively and … souvenir.
Residents of the town say that not only cat lovers come to them “to visit”, but also unconscious citizens who want to get rid of unwanted pets. In other words, the cats are simply thrown here: in recent years, the “livestock” has grown by 50 furry dogs. Well, at least they will be taken care of here for sure…