by Xinhua Writer Yao Yuan

TAIPEI Wholesale Hornets Jerseys , April 3 (Xinhua) -- As the train approaches Houtong, west of Taipei, a steward yells, "Kitty lovers, please get ready to get off," and the crowded carriage is suddenly empty.

Houtong in northern Taiwan was once a mining center and the railway which was built to ship coal now brings mainly tourists Cheap Charlotte Hornets Jerseys , but they have not come for the Coal Museum. They are here for the cats.

The village which fell into decline with the closure of the mine has risen again as a kitty paradise. Over 120 feral cats dwell in the old community beside the station. In packs or individually, the furry residents are seen roaming or relaxing everywhere in the hilly neighborhood, usually followed by a bedazzled ailurophile, camera in hand.

After the mine, which was the lifeblood of the village, ceased production in the 1990s Cheap Hornets Jerseys , most young people left to seek jobs in the cities, leaving behind only a few elders, accompanied by a colony of unwanted cats. A number of cat lovers arrived in 2008 and the desolate hamlet became "Cat Village".

The locals believe their kind treatment of the feral felines has brought them good luck and, indeed, visitors flood into the village now in search of the cute kitties which drive the local economy.

This is not a matter of the occasional timid stray sneaking up beside you, but legions of them Wholesale Frank Kaminsky Jersey , constituting the majority of the village population.

Visitors are not just amazed by their numbers. Here, you see cats leaping onto dining tables demanding food, lounging on the lap of any tourist who dares to stop and sit for a while, and accosting anyone who pauses on a roadside bench or stoops to tie a shoelace. In cold weather, a warm lap is often taken over by two or three uninvited temporary residents.

This intimacy is a story of how trans-species love was rewarded. Cat photographer Chien Pei-ling was so grateful for the elders' caring for the kittens, that she launched a campaign in 2009 and called for cat lovers everywhere to help renovate the community into a more inhabitable place (for humans).

The influx of cat lovers was the beginning of the rise of "Cat Village". They tidied up the trash Wholesale Cody Zeller Jersey , vaccinated the moggies, put up signs saying "No dogs" and more importantly, taught locals and visitors how to take better care of cats.

"The local cats used to avoid strangers, but after years of interaction with cat lovers, they began to trust people," Chien said. "Now Wholesale Kemba Walker Jersey , when the cats see humans, they think 'food, fondling and a walking stove'."


By 2010, Houtong was a tourist boomtown, where residents made their living as tour guides or by running snack stalls, cafes and souvenir shops.

Here Wholesale Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Jersey , everything is cat-related. You can buy cat food to please the furry celebrities and, after a day of happy cat snapping, unstring your purse for a myriad of souvenirs from postcards to cat-shaped pastries.

The blessed cats are now beloved mascots, revered like saints, housed in shrine-like huts and fed on canned fish. A footbridge was built last year to facilitate the passage of cats across the busy rail track.

In 2010, when star cat Blacknose died Wholesale Dwight Howard Jersey , even Taiwan's railway authority expressed its condolences. They funded a 1.8 meter statue and presented a conductor's cap as a tribute. The beckoning conductor still stands at the train station, greeting passengers and watching over his home village.

In the eyes of Chien, now head of a Taiwan association for cat lovers, the true wonder of Houtong is not how it has changed the fate of so many cats, but how it has educated even more humans.

"Tourists begin to love cats after playing with Houtong cats. I hope such interactions inspire them to treat all animals kindly and not to abandon their pets," she said.

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