After the decline of the coal mining industry in 1990, the village of Houtong, Taiwan, was in dire straits: its population declined from a peak of 6,000 to mere hundreds. The once prosperous village fell into ruins until it was rescued by ... cats!
Hundreds and hundreds of cats:
Things took an unexpected turn sometime around 2008, when a cat lover organized a team of volunteers to give the neighborhood’s abandoned cats a better living environment. They posted the cats’ pictures on the web and received an overwhelming response from other cat lovers. Visitors' raves on local blogs drew more cat lovers to this place who came to photograph the cats or fondle and frolic with them. Soon Houtong became a hotbed for cat lovers and amateur photographers. Today, the dilapidated mining town and the 100-odd felines that roam the streets are drawing thousands of tourists during weekends. [...]
The cats are looked after by the town’s residents. Chan Bi-yun, a 58-year-old retiree takes a lot of the credit for Houtong's feline-induced rebirth.
"I started raising five cats that belonged to a neighbor who passed away nine years ago and they gave birth to more and more kitties," she said. "Now I feed about half of Houtong's cat population."