Houtong is a small mining town located in Rueifang District of Taiwan, a district renowned for its rich, well-preserved railway culture with the old Yilan Line which was built during the Japanese colonial period for transporting resources out of northern Taiwan. Houtong was a train stop on the Yilan Line and one of Taiwan’s biggest coal-mining sites up until the 1970s. During its most prosperous years, Houtong’s mines produced some 220,000 tons of coal, the largest amount of coal yielded in a single area in Taiwan. This attracted many residents to migrate to Houtong, and the town grew to as many as 900 households and population of more than 6,000.
Things took an unexpected turn sometime around 2008, when a cat lover organized a team of volunteers to give the neighborhood’s abandoned cats a better living environment. They posted the cats’ pictures on the web and received an overwhelming response from other cat lovers. Visitors' raves on local blogs drew more cat lovers to this place who came to photograph the cats or fondle and frolic with them. Soon Houtong became a hotbed for cat lovers and amateur photographers. Today, the dilapidated mining town and the 100-odd felines that roam the streets are drawing thousands of tourists during weekends.
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