Houtong Cat Village: Taiwan’s Cat-Themed Coal Mining Village

A calico cat sitting on a cement ledge looking out over a scene with a white train zipping through a station

Houtong Cat Village (猴洞貓村) is one of the quirkiest attractions in Taiwan. This formerly prosperous coal mining village is now home to hundreds of cats.

History geeks may enjoy exploring the relics in the coal mining park, but for most visitors to Houtong these days, it’s all about the felines. I’m a cat lover (check out my favorite cat cafes in Taipei!), so I’ve been to Houtong more times than I care to admit, including several visits with my kids.

As the first stop on the Pingxi Railway Line after Ruifang, where most people get on the train, Houtong is easily combined with Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Old Street, and Shifen Waterfall as a day trip from Taipei.

A couple hours in Houtong is enough to take a peak at the coal plant ruins, shop for some cat souvenirs, have a cat foam latte, and make several new kitty friends.

Houtong Introduction

An orange cat sleeping on a cat Japanese style shrine with a hanging rope and large cat statue with waving arm
Cat shrine in Houtong

Despite the cat theme today, Houtong (猴洞, pronounced Houdong) means “Monkey Cave”, as there used to be a cave with monkeys nearby.

Like several other stops on the Pingxi Line in Pingxi district of New Taipei City, Houtong grew rapidly as a coal mining town in the 1920s, during the Japanese colonial period.

At its peak, more than 6000 people lived there. After the coal mining industry declined in the 1990s most left, and only a few hundred people still live there today.

Nick Kembel and his sister Leanne sitting on a bench with a cute statue of a cat in a dress sitting between them
My sister and I in Houtong

The Houtong cat phenomenon started in 2008, and when a local resident and cat lover started encouraging locals to take in stray cats. The idea really took off, putting Houtong back on the map as Taiwan’s premier cat village.

A Taiwanese man sitting at a table in a small restaurant patio and petting a cat that's sitting on the table
Cats on the table in a local restaurant in Houtong

The 200+ cats who live in Houtong today are mostly strays that have been sterilized and vaccinated – note the ones with clipped ear (see picture below). Although most of them live outside, they are VERY well taken care of.

The cats mostly seem to co-exist, with each claiming its own territory and snoozing spots within the three-lane village built on a hill looking over the train station.

Looking straight on at tabby cat with paws curled in front of it and eyes closed, sleeping on concrete, with right side ear clipped.
Sterilized/vaccinated cat with clipped ear

When you arrive on the train from Taipei, the old coal mining buildings and Keelung River will be on your left, while the actual village is across the tracks on the right.

A pedestrian overpass shaped like a cat goes from the station to the village.

There are tons of cats on either side – if you go to the village first, you’ll meet your first ones inside the overpass. Stopping to pet each cat along the way is mandatory (I swear!)

Best Time to Visit

A white car sleeping curled up on its side on a red and white colored cloth on a table in front of a house
Lazy cat on a hot day

If you visit on cooler days, the cats will be friskier. In summer, expect to find a lot of lazy/sleeping cats. Don’t write off rainy days – you’ll still be able to see lots of cats in the tunnel, inside shops and cafes, and under the many covered patios of local residences.

Houtong doesn’t get the same heavy tourist crowds as nearby Jiufen Old Street and Shifen Old Street, so you don’t need to worry so much about what time of day to visit.

Two kids looking through the window of a shop with many cat-themed products on display and a real live cat sleeping in the display
My kids looking at this cat who was taking advantage of the AC inside a shop

In my personal experience, it’s best to visit Jiufen and/or Shifen first, before they get too crowded, then save Houtong for the afternoon. Most cafes and shops in Houtong don’t open until 10 or 11 AM.

Alternatively, do Shifen Old Street and Waterfall first, Houtong in the afternoon, then visit Jiufen in the early evening, when the crowds mostly disappear and the red lanterns are lit.

Also don’t forget about the several other more off-the-beaten-track stops on the Pingxi Line.

Getting to Houtong

A yellow and red Pingxi train parking at a station platform
The Pingxi Railway Line

Houtong is on both the Pingxi Railway Line and the main Taipei to Yilan/Hualien train line, just one stop before the two lines split at Sandiaoling station.

This means you can take a direct train from Taipei to Houtong (45 to 60 min). Only the “Fast Local” train stops at Houtong. These trains have free seating and cannot be booked. Just swipe your EasyCard to ride.

A cute circular sign with the word Houtong on it, some cats, and Houtong train station, with railway tracks leading off either side of it
Second stop on the Pingxi Line

If you’re planning to make other stops on the same day, it would make sense to visit Jiufen Old Street first, before it gets too busy (visiting Jiufen from 10 AM to 12 PM is ideal).

Find out how to get to Jiufen here. After visiting Jiufen, take the bus to Ruifang (10 minutes) and catch the next train to Houtong (one stop, 5-6 minutes).

There are no buses to Houtong, but you could catch a taxi or Uber from Jiufen or Ruifang to Houtong.

A cat walking on a railway line under a train car
Cat on the tracks at Houtong Station

After Houtong, continue on to Sandiaoling (off-the-beaten-track waterfall hike) or Shifen Old Street and Waterfall on the Pingxi Line (note: Shifen is also the location of the famous Pingxi sky lantern festival).

Search all your train times here and learn more about riding trains in Taiwan here.

Houtong Tours

Two young Taiwanese women leaning down, one of them petting a cat that's lying on the ground
My Taiwanese wife and sister in law

Only a few of the popular Jiufen/Shifen day tours from Taipei include Houtong on their itinerary.

If you want to see it all in one day, this full-day tour includes Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen, Houtong, and Shifen.

This half-day tour only does Houtong and tea tasting in Jiufen. There’s a minimum of two people to run the tour.

Last but not least, you’ll get your own driver with this private tour to Yehliu, Houtong, and Jiufen.

How to Visit Houtong

If you’re limited on time, skip the coal mining side and take the overpass directly to the cat village.

Houtong Station

Some people buying tickets from train station machines, with a map of Houtong Village above the machines with several cats on it.
A map in the station showing the coal mining side (left) and cat village side (right)

As soon as you arrive at Houtong Station, there will be signs that you are in cat-land. Watch for cute cat decorations on the platform and stairs. You may even spot a cat or two around the tracks.

A young Taiwanese woman leaning over on a train station bench posing beside a wooden black cat on the bench
My wife Emily in Houtong Station
Two images side by side of the same young woman. On the left side, she's sitting on a train station bench with a cat statue. On the left, she's posing with her face showing in a cat sign with cat train worker
My sister Leanne also in the station

You’ll arrive at the second floor of the station. From there, you can go down to the ground floor if you want to access the local restaurants and coal mining area just outside (see next section).

A picnic table with some tourists sitting at it writing on postcards and one orange cat lying on the table
Some tourists writing cat postcards in Houtong Station

The ground floor used to have a shop called Cat Life (貓行館) where you could buy and mail cat postcards. However, this was closed the last time I visited.

If you want to go directly to the cat village, swipe out of the train station, turn right, and take the stairs up to the 3rd floor.

There you can access the cat-shaped overpass for crossing the train tracks to the village on the other side.

Houtong Cat Bridge

Looking down the outside of a covered pedestrian walkway over a train station, with geometric designs, and shaped like a long cat
Cat-shaped pedestrian bridge

Your introduction to Houtong Cat Village will likely be while walking through Houtong Cat Bridge (猴硐貓橋).

Built in 2012, the covered bridge has a geometric design and pays tribute to the old mining tunnels in the area.

Because it is covered, it is a respite for cats, especially when it rains. You will most likely meet at least a few cats snoozing in the tunnel on any given day.

Looking down the inside of the same cat-shaped bridge, with one cat sleeping on a bench on the side and red lanterns lining the ceiling
Inside the cat bridge

The cat shape isn’t obvious until you view the whole thing from the walking paths on the village side. Looking up the cat’s long body from behind, you’ll note the turning head with two ears at the end.   

The tunnel also has some cat-themed photographs, artworks, and platforms for the cats to sleep on.

A young woman with pink hair feeding a handful of cat food to a cat at the end of a cat shaped tunnel, but the cat is looking away from her hand
My sister is the world’s most devout cat lover

Houtong Village

A cat sleeping in a flower bed with tourists walking behind at Houtong Cat Village
The bridge leads to the village’s main path here

Once you cross the overpass, you’ll find most of the village to the left.

The main walking street here is the best spot to take the classic Houtong Cat Village photograph of cats lazing on the stone wall (on in the plants – see above photo) with the train station and coal mining area in the background.

A cat themed souvenir store shot from the outside, with bright yellow walls and cat designs and statues all over it
Branch 1 of Three Cat Shop

Follow the path past some houses to bright yellow 3 Cat Shop (三貓小舖猴硐一店), the first of several cat souvenir stores in town.

Further down, Meow Meow (喵喵) is a bright, relaxing, modern café. There are cat-foam lattes and cat decorations, but no actual cats inside.

Looking out a cafe window, with four tall stools at a counter, and each stool has a cat stuffy sitting on it looking out the window at the greenery outside
Inside Meow Meow Cafe
Close up of a small spoon shaped like a cat paw and a latte with burned brown sugar behind it
My drink at Meow Meow Cafe

From there, you can keep walking past several local houses and eventually it will curve up to the second walking street. Alternatively, you can go back towards the overpass and take the stairs up to the second street.

An orange cat sleeping on a bamboo sheet beside a cat statue
Cat shrine in front of Jinshi Workshop

The second street has the highest concentration of shops and cafés in Houtong. The best shop in town is Jinshi Workshop (金石工坊猴硐招財貓本舖). You can’t miss the cat shrine in front of it, which sometimes even has a cat sleeping right on it.

While most shops in town sell cheap souvenirs like postcards, wallets, and fridge magnets, this shop specializes at higher quality (and higher price) cat souvenirs, especially maneki-neko (beckoning arm cats).

A porcelain waving arm cat statue with smaller cat statues inside its mouth
Beckoning arm cat in Jinshi Workshop

Often incorrectly called “waving” arm cats, these are often put in shops in Japan and China not to wave at you but to beckon you (and your cash) into the shop.

A ways past Jinshi and past the staircase to the third road, there’s a lovely little cat café called Niao A Ben Zhai (鳥ㄚ本宅). Besides coffees, teas, and some simple vegetarian meals, it has a few very cuddle cats inside.

A young woman standing beside a white cat statue at the bottom of a cement staircase with the wall behind her painted like colorful houses
My sis and the stairs up to the third street

Take the stairs with white cat statue up to the third road, which is the highest point you’ll get in town.

Up there you’ll find half a dozen more small cafés in a row, with names like Lai 231 Cat Café, Hide & Seek Café (the pick of the bunch), and Catwalk 219. These cafes are a good place to try the local cat beer.   

A young woman with pink hair holding a cat while sitting on a bench in front of a cafe and some cat head statues beside her
Hide & Seek Cafe

Returning to Houtong Cat Bridge, if you are in no major rush, you can also explore the right side of town. The views of the train station are good from this section of the path.

Two young female tourists, one is smiling and feeding a cat while the other is watching and laughing
A tourist feeding one of the cats (you can buy cat food in many shops) at the right end of town

Shortly after the Cat Bridge, watch for a small walking path to the left, which goes up and over to a few more very small cat souvenir shops here and (surprise, surprise) more cats.

A white and black cat lying on a glass table, with a hand petting it, and two Taiwan beers sitting on the table in front of it.
This cat is about ready to knock back a few cold ones.

You can also keep following the main path to the northern end of the town. There aren’t any more shops or cafes at that end of town, but there are a few cute houses (see pic below) and more CATS!

A Japanese looking wooden house porch with some red hanging banners on the wall and a wooden bench with a black cat sleeping on it
Cute house and cat at the far right end of town

Houtong Coal Mining Park

Some ruins of an old coal mining building, with a bridge behind it and tourists walking across the bridge
Houtong Gold Mining Ecological Park (I shot this years ago, before the building was renovated so tourists can enter it)

To visit the coal mining area at Houtong (official name: Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park / 猴硐煤礦博物園區), cross Cat Bridge back to the station and take the stairs down to the ground floor.

Cross the road and go past the collection of small cat souvenir shops and eateries (see the “Where to Eat in Houtong” section below).

Across the square, a Japanese-era building (1932) which once served as the coal mining office and storage warehouse now houses a small Info Center (left side) and free museum called Vision Hall (right). The museum has a cool 1/40-scale model of what the original coal warehouse looked like.

A small scale model of a coal mining plant in a museum
Model of the original coal processing facility

To the right, you can’t miss the large, original Ruisan Coal Dressing Plant. Even if you don’t care about coal mining history, the plant is worth a quick look for its spooky interior. The plant ruins are free to enter and have been carefully renovated in recent years with a protective ceiling (see imagine below).

The highlight is the two large coal dressing machines on the top floor, which had the capacity to dress 500 tons of coal per day.

Two large, antique coal dressing machines inside a former coal plant
Coal dressing machines

Between the Info Center and Coal Dressing Plant, a small path leads to a river viewing platform where the are several cat houses donated by a local organization.

This is also where you’ll find a staircase which leads up to the iron Ruisan Coal Transportation Bridge crossing the river. Note that you can’t access the bridge from the top floor of the plant – you’ll have to go all the way down the stairs inside then back up the stairs outside.

A cement bridge over a forested river valley leading to a black former coal mine building
Ruian Bridge and Coal Plant

Across the bridge on the other side of the river, the Houtong Pit Mining Leisure Park (猴硐礦坑休閒園區) has more mining industry ruins, but I only really recommend crossing if you’re very interested in this. Otherwise, I say don’t bother. Save your valuable time for visiting other cool stops on the Pingxi Line!

If it interests you, you can explore the ruins on this side by riding the small (and very slow) Houtong Mining Railway (TWD 150 per adult, 120 per kid). It leaves whenever full enough. I didn’t bother.

Some tourist riding on a small mining train car that's just about to go through a narrow arch tunnel
Houtong Mining Railway

If you feel like going for 15-minute quiet stroll from here, you can walk to Houtong Shrine Relics (猴硐神社), which is the site of a former Japanese Shinto shrine in the forest.

However, besides the entrance gate and staircase (see pic below), there’s nothing really left of the original shrine. So again, this is not a must-see.

A stone staircase leading up through the forest, framed by an ancient Japanese gate
Remains of a shinto shrine in Houtong

What to Eat in Houtong

The sign of a Taiwanese noodle shop, which says it's name in Mandarin and 80+ years old, with some people's heads visible at the bottom and pictures
The most famous local lunch spot in Houtong, A-Sia Noodle Shop

If you want a proper meal, the best food options are just outside the train station (left side when arriving from Taipei).

Most locals go directly to A-Sia Noodle Shop (阿蝦古早味麵店). The shop has been running for over 80 years and has a menu of simple but classic noodle dishes, pig’s blood, and chicken thighs. Watch for the English menu on the wall. The owner is very friendly.

In the same collection of shops, you can also find chicken rolls, shaved ice, and a bakery with cat-shaped pastries.

A collage of three pictures of cat-shaped snacks, including cat-shaped jars of bubble tea, cat-shaped pineapple cakes, and cat paw shaped cookies
Cat bubble tea, pineapple cakes, and cat paw cookies

On the cat village side, there are at least a dozen cafés, most of which serve cat foam lattes and pastries shaped like paws or cat faces.

Niao A Ben Zhai has simple vegetarian meals, while Hide & Seek Café has some of the cutest cat desserts. Also watch out for the locally made cat beers at the cafes on the third (highest) lane in town!

A collage of three vertical images, each one showing a brown beer bottle with cats on the label
Different cat beers I’ve spotted on various trips to Houtong

Since I have SO MANY cat pictures from Houtong, I’m just going to finish this article by doing a cat photo dump. Enjoy!

Profile shot of a white cat with black mustache
A young woman standing at the till inside a shop with a large poofy gray cat sitting on the counter and some other people around her
A chubby orange and white cat with its tongue sticking out like its panting and a cute yellow pouch on its back, with someone's leg beside it
A cat licking its own but, with one leg up in the air and paw stretched out, with faded blue wall behind it
Nick Kembel wearing purple t-shirt, bent over and cuddling a kitten on a bench
Looking straight down at a calico cat on a glass table with a container of chopsticks beside it
A young woman with pink hair squatting and petting a black and white cat that's lying on a cement rail, with a young boy watching while he rests his head on her arm
A poofy cat with a red ribbon around its neck and bottom of red plastic stools behind it
Nick Kembel's young son kneeling on the ground in front of a box with a cat in it and another black cat lying on the ground beside him
An orange cat stretched out sleeping on a cement fence with green bushes behind it
A cat sleeping on a table of cat-themed souvenirs
A gray and white cat on the ground with some shops behind it
A table of plates with cats on them for sale in a souvenir shop
A cat sleeping upside down and stretched out in a souvenir shop window
A cat sitting under a chair and licking its lips
A sign with a list of rules for visiting Houtong Cat Village, with some poorly translated, funny English
A cat lying under a sign that says "No Flash" and has a cat on it

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