Back in 1966 Henriette van Weelde found a family of cats opposite her house on the Herengracht canal. She took them in before adopting another. And another. Until ‘the cat lady’ as she became known was eventually inundated. As people dropped off more and more strays a solution was needed, and so came the idea to purchase a boat in which to house them. What started with a sailing barge was eventually upgraded to a house boat, and so this famous cat sanctuary was born.
If you think cats and water don’t mix, think again. The cat boat, a beloved Amsterdam landmark, is going from strength to strength and they have recently purchased an entirely new boat funded exclusively by donations.
The best part of all is that its open to visitors and completely free although needless to say donations (or purchases from the shop) and hugely appreciated.
The cat boat takes in up to 250 abandoned cats a year. On board they are vaccinated, chipped and neutered and any illnesses or injuries are treated. Most don’t stay for long. Cats available for adoption are shown on the website and the wonderful news is that they are rehomed incredibly quickly. As with any responsible animal sanctuary the volunteers discuss what potential adopters are looking for, and more importantly what they can offer. There is then a mutual introduction and the re-homer is required to go away and ‘sleep on it’. If both sides still think its the right match then the cat can be adopted although the cat boat will always step in if things aren’t working out.
But as well as the adoptive cats on board, there are a good number of resident moggies who are always up for a play.
Visiting hours are between 1.00 and 3.00 Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Numbers are extremely limited for obvious reasons and booking ahead is essential. You can do so here.
We visited on a Thursday which we were told is one of the best times as it is typically quiet. We even managed to make it for feeding time when the cats were alert and playful.
The new cat boat is lovely. The boat is sustainable, energy efficient, equipped with good insulation and generates its own energy by means of solar panels. The is more space and light than they had previously, the ‘outdoor catio’ is fabulous – the cats clearly love spending time there and the cats are clearly extremely happy.
We were welcomed enthusiastically and were able to spend time with the cats, stroking those that were up for it and playing with the more lively ones.
Zac was in kitty heaven and needless to say we had a job to convince him that we weren’t looking to add another cat to our own household!
So if you are a cat lover then do make an appointment to check out this incredibly special experience. And if that doesn’t scratch your kitty itch or you are left wanting more, then check out this post with all our other Amsterdam feline attractions.