Tiny Taiwanese Town Turns To Kitties For Tourism

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A small cat village in Taiwan entices nearly a million visitors a year with the promise of plenty of purring and petting from the island’s hundreds of stray cats.

The small island of Hujing sits off the coast of Taiwan. It faces many of the problems several small island towns around do–aging populations and the decline of the entire village as a result.

The town currently has barely 200 people to call its own, and a lack of jobs has town officials concerned about the future. There are only six students at the only school in the community, but those six students have big plans for the island–they’re using the hundreds of stray cats that roam the village to entice visitors and boost tourism.

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Hujing Elementary school principal Lin Yan-Ling said that her students noted the popularity of other local ‘cat towns’ and thought they too could get in on the tourism dollars the kitties bring.

Lin Yan-Ling said that the success of some of the small cat islands of Japan showed them that they too had the possibility to be a tourist attraction that not only brought young people to the town but helped the community as well.

And it turns out that there are a ton of people who are interested in the cat towns, marveling at the kitty colonies that rule the roost and make visitors and their felines feel perfectly at home. Reviewers from all over the world share their tales of cat-ventures, and boost the idea that feline-tourism is a hot commodity.

In Hujing, the town is all in when it comes to this tourism. They gather to make cat-themed products to sell to the tourists who come to check things out, and they invite artists to join them on the island and create public art (cat-themed, of course) for and with them.

The Hujing students are in on the effort as well, using photos of local cool cats to print on bags and cards and all sorts of things they can sell to tourists looking for a piece of the cat affection. Principal Lin said that the students are creating cat island projects that will help tourism and also fund cat food and vet fees for the felines.

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Taiwan was the home of the first-ever cat cafe, so the villagers are hoping that cat curiosity spreads out to their little island. And considering neighboring town Houtong brings in about one million visitors a year and is considered one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions, the forecast is good for Hujing. Hujing is an hour-long flight and then boat-trip whereas Houtong is a quick train ride from Taiwan’s capital, but the town is hoping that there’s enough cattitude for tourists to find in both places.

Principal Lin holds realistic expectations, though, saying that even if they don’t become as big as some of the other cat towns, the children will learn valuable lessons in community and they’ll be taking care of the town’s furriest villagers as well.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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