Cats are not known for their love of water so the concept of a floating cat sanctuary seems a bit counter-intuitive. But such a facility does exist and it’s located in Amsterdam.
De Poezenboot, literally “The Cat Boat,” is the world’s first and only floating cat sanctuary. It was founded in 1968 by avid cat lover Henriette van Weelde and the Cat Boat has gained the reputation of being Amsterdam’s best hidden attraction.
Currently, the boat houses about 50 cats, 14 of them permanent residents.
“Most cats hate water. But ours learn to love living on it. After all, we have been keeping their feet dry since 1968,” reads the official website of De Poezenboot. Because of the coronavirus lockdown, the Cat Boat is currently closed to the public. However, those who intend to adopt a cat can still call the sanctuary and schedule a meeting.
The path to the Cat Boat started in 1966 when Henriette van Weelde, an animal lover, discovered a family of cats huddled under a tree next to her house. She decided to adopt them. As expected, another stray feline joined soon after. And another one. Then another.
Without intending to, Henriette became known as “the cat lady.” That meant people who could no longer care for their cats started bringing them to her. Soon enough, there were too many cats to fit into her home and that’s how the idea of a cat boat was born.
Henriette’s house faced a canal and in 1968, she bought a Dutch sailing barge and converted the interior into a feline-friendly environment.
After the cat boat’s first few residents started moving in, people chimed in offering to help care for the felines.
But the original barge was “bursting at the seams after just three years” so Henriette bought the second one in 1971.By this time, the cat boat had become a local attraction with people not just dropping off cats but adopting them, as well.
“Nobody back in 1966 could have dreamed that one mother cat and her kittens would begin what was now the world’s most famous cat sanctuary,” the official De Poezenboot website reads.
The Cat Boat became registered as an official charity on June 3, 1987, with a Stichting de Poezenboot (“Catboat Foundation”) established. Unfortunately, one of the boats had to be towed away in 2006 following a directive by city authorities. “Now we have to work with half the space,” volunteers wrote on the website. “That is very regrettable but of course we will go on.”
While the boat is open to visitors, they may only do so for a few hours per day. The primary focus of the sanctuary is to care for cats while finding loving homes for them and that has never changed since the first day.
But take note that the sanctuary has a rigorous adoption process. This is to make sure that the adopted felines will be loved and properly taken care of.
The cat boat has closed its doors to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak, potentially opening for visitors on June 1 at the earliest. But if you’re serious about adopting a cat, the sanctuary advises prospective owners to call so that a 1-on-1 meeting with a cat can be scheduled.
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