NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
By ALMA J. BUELVA
NO self-respecting cat lover should pass a chance to visit a cat village even when a typhoon is about to hit it. Taiwan has one up north in Houtong reputed to have at least 200 free-roaming cats. The day I came for a visit, typhoon Maria had the same plan.
It was a gloomy afternoon when I reached Houtong by train along with other tourists, just as typhoon Maria started to hit the northern parts of Taiwan. But though the skies looked dark and pregnant with rain, Maria thankfully didn't rain on my parade until I finished a quick tour of the cat village.
Maybe it was the impending rain and blustering winds that caused most of Houtong's cats to hide away that afternoon. It was unfortunate that only a handful of them were around to amuse travel-weary guests.
The Houtong train station wastes no time and space in shepherding tourists to the tiny cat village. A stairway immediately connects the station to a bridge – almost like a short tunnel adorned with cat items that opens to the cat village. There we were greeted by our first two Houtong cat residents, a black-and-white kitty and a grey tabby that walked a short distance with us.
Despite the poor attendance of actual cats that day, the place will still excite cat lovers given the number of cat objects around the village. From street signs and memo boards to flower pots and stepping stones, just about anything that can follow the cat theme has been done so.
The Houtong Cat Village is a very tiny community, which is all that is left from what used to be a busy mining town. From the bridge, guests can walk up the Cat Corridor where cat-inspired shops and cafes are located. Here we found a few more feline wanderers who, like us, were peering into the glass doors and windows of shops that closed early due to typhoon Maria.
It must be delightful to shop and dine right at the Cat Corridor, if only the weather was less unforgiving the day we came.
Below the Cat Corridor is a narrow lane where people actually live, which means more cats to see. Although people there are used to tourists walking up and down their streets, it still felt like we were trespassing so I veered away from the area.
At the ground floor of the train station is another street with gift shops. Here I found a bakeshop selling pineapple cakes in cat forms. Pineapple-filled cakes are one of Taiwan's popular souvenirs. I wasn't convinced that I want some until I found them in the shape of cats!
Most of the cats, if not all, in Houtong Cat Village are strays but residents and volunteers attend to their basic needs. I've spotted cats with one of their ears clipped which means they have been spayed or neutered already, and I've also accidentally walked in on pairs while they are mating.
As in any big cat colonies, the Houtong Cat Village has cats that look sickly or with skin ulcers. As for behavior, the prevailing cat attitude the day I visited was indifference. Sure, there were sweet cats who followed tourists with cat food to give, but many were aloof and stubbornly refused eye contact. In fact, meowing at them or saying “Here, kitty, kitty...” would get you nowhere. But we can't blame the cats for not being accommodating. You would be a sour-puss, too, if you had to put up daily with cellphone-toting tourists who take your photos all the time. To get the cats' attention, one must be creative so I barked.
Seeing that the cats were not in the mood to play good hosts that day, we went back to the station to wait for our train to Taipei. It was then that typhoon Maria brought cat visibility down to zero, for the time being.
Overall, Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village is quaint and charming but is starting to look tired and lonely, too. But I'm sure you can overlook what qualifies as eyesores here and there if you are truly fond of cats. After all, with allegedly over 200 cats, Houtong is like no other purridise.
** Text and photos are all original properties of MetroPets Magazine and protected by copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly not allowed.
THE Taipei Pets Show, billed as the biggest one in Asia, was the perfect venue to find new innovative pet products. After four days of combing the show floor, we narrowed our top product picks to 10 items that should make life better for pets and people.
Mind you out hot picks are not all made in Taiwan and most are not available in the Philippines yet. But there's always Amazon and brand-specific e-commerce sites where you can order the following mouth-watering and snazzy goods for your pets.
OPPO DOG MUZZLE QUACK
Nothing says danger than a dog wearing a leather muzzle. If you must put a muzzle on your dog when walking or grooming time, go for a softer look by using the Quack. The duck bill shaped muzzle is a big hit in Japan and in other countries where dog owners appreciate the combined utility and humor of this product.
It sells for US$38 and was showcased at the Taipei Pets Show alongside another quirky design meant for dogs and cats with short snout. The Quack muzzles are available in three different sizes and colors to match any kind of dog you have.
PET EMOTIONAL MACHINE
You read it right, this product is called the Pet Emotional Machine. But what is it exactly? From Taiwan-based firm Smypet, the Pet Emotional Machine is a device that releases a certain frequency detectable only by pets.
When cats and dogs sense the frequency, it supposedly would help them feel calmer and relaxed. Clingy pets, pets that experience panic or anxiety attacks or have troubles being left alone might benefit from this device. There are different settings to suit different pets' sizes. It retails for NT$12,800 and comes in blue or beige colors.
EVERCLEAN PAW CLEANER & COMB MASSAGER
From PetKit, the Everclean Paw Cleaner and Comb massager gives your dog an instant foot bath and spa right at your home. Inside the canister are round-headed silicone brushes that gently but meticulously cleans the dog's paws. Simply insert your dog's individual paws inside the container to clean them after walking or playing outside. The cover's slotted design conforms with the physiological structure of the paw so dog's won't get hurt using it.
The parts can be dismantled for easy cleaning, especially the Everclean Massage Comb inside which can also be ideal for brushing your cat's fur. The comb can be used on wet fur, too, during bath time. It not only massages and removes loose fur, it also promotes blood circulation on pets.
CHEW ME TURTLE MEAT
This cat treat takes exotic food to a whole new level as it is made of soft-shell turtle meat or eggs. In gel form and green in color, Chew Me is a product of Brimoon Pet Care, the leading Taiwan company that pioneers the use of turtle, from soft shell to meat and bones, for pet food.
The soft-shell turtle is said to be rich in amino acid, omega 3 and other minerals that are effective in promoting good skin and fur in cats. Aside from soft-shell turtle parts, Chew Me is also loaded with broccoli. Chew Me made its product debut at the Taipei Pets Show. A pack of six 12g pouches of Chew Me costs NT$100 as a special introductory price during the show.
PETALS PET COLLAR
A Taiwanese proprietress exhibited her own line of pet e-collar in the shape of petals. Stuffed with pure cotton, the petals are sewn together to form an opening in the middle where the pet's head goes.
It's a bit pricey though with the smallest collar sold for NT$950. The cloth is made from silky soft materials so it doesn't absorb water and get stained easily. Ideal for both cats and dogs of different sizes.
International Cats House Corp., the manufacturer of the No. 1 local brand of cat litter in Taiwan, has a clever packaging concept for its cat litter. Called BoxCat, the litter are contained in a beautifully designed carton box that turns into a cat house or cat sleeping quarter. The Boxcat also comes with free scratch pad that fits perfectly inside the box!
Instead of using the typical bag or sack for its litter, the use of specially designed cardboard box caught cat lovers' fancy who, company officials said, sometimes buy BoxCat first for the box, then the litter.
Would you like to have a drink with your cat and dog? Paw Wine is a non-alcoholic drink for pets based on extracts from peppermint, chamomile, beets and catnip. The peppermint and chamomile flavors are for dogs and are supposed to freshen their breath.
The beets and catnip with silvervine are the cat's “wine” to perk them up during dreary days, perhaps. The Paw Wine can be refrigerate and ideally consumed within three days after opening. A large bottle of Paw Wine costs NT$399 while the small bottles cost NT$299 (for dogs) and NT$199 (for cats).
A wide range of eco-friendly products made from paper were on display at the Taipei Pets Show and one of the companies that brought forward its cardboard-made products is Carton Meow.
From scratch pads to beds, Carton Meow designed them in fun shapes to make them great conversation pieces, too. The cat-shaped scratchpad, for example, looks elegant enough to be left standing in the corner of the living room. It costs only NT$360 while the bed costs NT$760.
YAK CHEESE TREAT
T.N.A., a Taiwan-based pet food company, creates cheesy dog treats using milk from Yaks. The cheese are handmade in Nepal and finished for commercial production in Taiwan.
The finished product is a super hard stick of cheese that can help clean dog's teeth as they gnaw on it. A large stick can cost up to NT$430 while the smallest stick could cost arount NT$280.
ECO PET DISH
Made by Petique, this eco pet dish is a 2-in-1 dog or cat bowl you can take anywhere! It snaps together for easy travel and it doesn't absorb odors. The best part of this Eco-Friendly Pet Dish is it's BPA free, non-toxic and made out of starch based material, which makes it completely biodegradable. It retails for US$28 online.
* Laika and Felicette, pioneer pet astronauts