The Cat Boat is one of Amsterdam’s most spectacular attractions. It is a sanctuary for rescued cats. The cats live there aboard a quaint little houseboat that bobs along the Herengracht canal.
Initially the cat boat wasn’t intended to be a tourist attraction, but it regularly receives about 4,500 visitors a year!
The idea was born in 1966, when a kind woman named Henriette van Weelde wanted to help a stray feline and her kittens and took them into her own home. Henriette soon became well known in the neighborhood for her kindness so people started to drop off cats at her doorstep and she wouldn’t hesitate to take them all in.
In about two years, Henriette simply didn’t have enough space to shelter more cats. She came up with the idea to put them all on an unused houseboat on the nearby Herengracht canal. The feline sanctuary was a ‘pirate’ ship for about two decades, as it was operating without the knowledge of the authorities. In 1987, the boat finally got a permit and was officially christened ‘de Poezenboot’ (the Cat Boat).
The boat served as a safe place for cats in Amsterdam for decades, with Henriette loving and caring them until she passed away in 2005. Today a small staff and a few local volunteers are running it.
Around 50 cats are lying around the world’s only floating cat sanctuary, of which at least 14 are permanent residents. The others are available for adoption.
Each new cat is quarantined in cages for a period of time, during which they are neutered and implanted with traceable microchips. This way they wish to minimize population of feral cats, and prevent any adopted cats from running away or being abandoned.
Later, the cats who are ‘adoptable’ can roam freely on the boat. It isn’t very easy to actually take one of them home. “We are very picky about adoptions,” Judith Gobets, a staff member on Cat Boat said. “I really have to have the feeling that the match is perfect. Otherwise the chance is too big that the re-homing will fail. Potential new owners and the staff have to sleep on it for a night before we finally say yes.”
“We are very strict with the placement of cats,” added volunteer Sandra, speaking to Vice Magazine. “We don’t want them to return to us, so we ask potential new owners a lot of questions about the home situation and their experience with cats. If someone things a cat is only fun and nice to cuddle and play with, we tell them it takes a lot more to take care of a cat.”
All those cats have plenty of reasons to live happy! “Some of our cats like to peer through the fence at the ducks, dreaming of ways to pounce,” Judith revealed. “Cats of course, like to hunt.”
Anyone can visit the Cat Boat for free, but most tourists do make generous donations when they find out that it does not receive government support. Cat lovers from all around the world also make online donations to help support the boat’s feline residents. “About 10 years ago we did apply for funding, but they turned us down,” Judith said. “From that moment on we’ve gone our own way. We are supported entirely by donations. And we do like the feeling of being independent. No strings attached.”
For more information about the cat boat please visit: depoezenboot.nl