Nestled amongst the central Singel canal in Amsterdam is De Poezenboot, the country's only floating cat shelter.
It all began in 1966 when Amsterdam native Henriette van Weelde found a mother cat and her kittens that had taken shelter under a tree across from her home on the famous Herengracht. Knowing that she couldn't leave the cats to fend for themselves, she brought them into her home to care for them. Shortly after this, another stray joined Henriette and then another, and another, until she became known as "the cat lady."
Henriette became the go-to person when people found a homeless cat or had one they could no longer care for. Running out of room in her house, she looked to the houseboats that lined the canal for inspiration. She figured, if people can live in houseboats why couldn't cats?
The first cat boat, an old, Dutch sailing barge, was acquired in 1968 and refinished to make its living quarters feline-friendly. Cats of all shapes and sizes began to arrive at the new floating shelter, followed by visitors who wanted to volunteer their time to help or add a new addition to their family.
In just three years, the cats had outgrown the first houseboat, so a second one was purchased in 1971. For the next 30 or so years, these two houseboats continued to be a refuge for Amsterdam's homeless cats.
Today, in addition to taking in stray cats, De Poezenboot is home to 10 full-time feline residents. While not available for traditional adoption, these cats can be financially adopted to help cover their ongoing care costs. But there are a lot of cats on the boats that need homes, too!
When my boyfriend and I decided to add a feline to our little family, we knew that De Poezenboot would be the first place we checked. Making the short cycle up to the Singel, where the cat boat is still located, we were excited to see if the shelter lived up to expectations - and boy, were we impressed.
The area inside the spacious houseboat is a cat's dream home, complete with a seemingly endless number of climbing structures, toys, beds, and even a screened-in, canal-side "catio" where they can enjoy the fresh air.
The cats that live there full-time have free reign of the boat, exploring the different areas at their leisure. Similar to a traditional shelter, the cats up for adoption are housed in large cages on one side of the boat.
When looking at the different cats that were available, the shelter volunteers are unbelievably helpful, sharing everything they've learned about the cats and their personalities since arriving at the boat.
We were lucky since the first cat we looked at ended up being the one we took home. As soon as we saw this tubby brown tabby named Woezel, we knew that he was the one.
The staff gave us the space and time we needed to get to know him and make sure that he was the right cat for us. Unfortunately, the individual in charge of adoptions wasn't available that day so we had to wait two more days to bring our cat home, but the volunteers assured us they would take good care of him until we came back.
Once we did finally bring Woezel, who we renamed Dozer, home, our relationship with De Poezenboot didn't end. In the first few months after the adoption, we received letters from the shelter checking in and providing us with more information on pet insurance, amongst other things.
We even received an email from the volunteer who was with us the day we met Dozer, telling us that she had seen the photos we had been tweeting of him and how happy she was that we had found each other.
Based on our experience, it's no surprise that visitors from around the world, as well as locally, visit De Poezenboot. The unique environment combined with the attentive volunteers makes for a one-of-a-kind experience. Plus, they helped us find the world's best cat!
Have you ever visited De Poezenboot? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos via Tori Holmes and De Pozenboot/Facebook
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