Visiting Amsterdam’s Cat Boat, an Animal Shelter on the Famous Canals

Colorful flowers on Amsterdam's canalsAmsterdam draws millions of tourists a year to the Netherlands to explore the city’s famous canals and to study the brilliance of Van Gogh and Rembrandt. And of course, to witness first hand the attic that was home to Anne Frank and her family for more than two years.

Those were among the reasons we were attracted to Amsterdam. Yet our first stop was de Poezenboot, otherwise known among cat lovers as The Cat Boat.



Amsterdam's Cat boat seen across the canal

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Amsterdam’s Cat Boat

Amsterdam's cat boatAmsterdam is dissected beautifully by about 31 miles of canals and, we were told, about 2500 house boats line these canals. It’s a coveted space to live these days, reflecting the nautical heritage of the Dutch people.

But in the 1960s, canal boats were not that trendy. Only poor people lived on a boat, so when a compassionate animal lover named Henrietta van Weelde needed a home for cats who had been abandoned, she purchased an old barge and converted it into an animal shelter.


Visiting Amsterdam’s Famous Cat Boat

Signs for Amsterdam's cat boatThese days, The Cat Boat is also a tourist attraction. It is open for tours a few hours mid-day each day except for Wednesdays and Sundays. We waited in line for about 30 minutes and had a pleasant chat with a young Hungarian woman who was raised in Paris but had just taken her first job in Amsterdam.

She told us that her cat is from Guadaloupe, a French territory in the Caribbean. Apparently the stray cat population is so large in Guadaloupe that they bring boat loads of cats to France to be adopted each year. The island has implemented a strong spay/neuter program, but it takes time and money to make all of those frisky cats less frisky.

Cats in the sunshine on the Cat Boat in Amsterdam

Only a few people at a time can fit on the Cat Boat, which on the inside looks like just about any other animal shelter. But there’s a large opening out onto a veranda that serves two purposes: It allows the cats to lounge about in the sunshine, which cats excel at. But equally important, it allows a lot of fresh air into the shelter. Anyone who has ever visited a cat shelter knows the strong aroma that accompanies so many cats in an enclosed space.

Amsterdam’s Cat Boat does not smell!

We were told some cats live here permanently, but most are up for adoption. I tried to ask questions about the adoption laws and requirements, but my words or their answers were lost in translation. That’s OK. We weren’t taking any feline souvenirs with us anyway. And these fur babies looked quite content right where they were.



Make a Donation to Amsterdam’s Cat Boat

Black cat looking at the water from Amsterdam's cat boatSo we scratched a few ears and rubbed a few bellies and then dropped a donation in the jar as we left. You can make a donation, too, right here.

It was not the highlight of our visit to Amsterdam. But it was one that made us smile and feel just a little closer to people around the world who love animals as much as we do.

Connecting with others – that’s what travel is all about.


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