Cross the 'cat bridge' out of the train station to hang out with Houtong's feline divas, who are well used to being doted on by tourists. Similar to Japan's cat islands, there are schmaltzy cat-themed souvenir shops and cafes arranged all over the hillside. Although the cats receive vaccinations, petting is discouraged, and there are disinfectant stations to wash your hands.
Houtong's cats have been central to this former coal-mining village's efforts to revive itself. Villagers here traditionally kept cats because houses were built on the hillside where rats were rampant. After the closure of the coal mines in the 1990s, locals moved out en masse and the area went into decline. Later, cat lovers organised efforts to take care of the strays, which attracted the attention of the media, and outsiders began dropping off unwanted felines here. Now there are estimated to be around 200 cats in the village.