I’m in Singel, in Amsterdam, looking for a canal boat. Not just any canal boat, but the Poezenboot, a floating home for the city’s abandoned cats. I spot an adorable white cat sitting on a boat looking out onto the water. I’ve found it.
The smell of cats hits like a punch in the face, mixed with that clinical sterile smell of a vet’s waiting room.
The Poezenboot was started by a Dutch lady who collected abandoned cats and brought them back to her boat. Word got around town that there was a home on the water for cats – and before you knew it, stray cats from Amsterdam and nearby towns were delivered to the boat. Now, they're waiting to be re-homed.
The boat is run solely by part-time volunteers. They don’t receive government funding, but rely instead on donations from the visiting public to help keep the cats healthy with vet bills and food.
I say hello to two friendly Dutch ladies standing behind a small counter. Pictures of numerous cute-faced kittens adorn the walls and I peer in through the clear windows at the crowds of cats beginning to cluster, looking up curiously at the new visitor.
"The cat in the window there is 'Cow Cat’," says the darker-haired lady, pointing to a menacing-looking black and white cat with a piece of its ear missing. He glares at me, like a security guard.
"Don't touch him," she warns. "He scratches."
I make a conscious effort not to look at Cow Cat as I enter the room. I sit on a bench and am immediately surrounded by twenty Dutch cats, rubbing up against my boots, licking themselves and investigating my peculiar English scent. I hear a thud. Cow Cat has jumped off his perch and is prowling towards me. I don't reach out. I don’t try to stroke him. I stay still – doing what the volunteers had told me to do. He brushes his tattered head against my knee and then – believe it or not – he clambers onto my lap! He snuggles down and relaxes. I lift my hand to stroke his pudgy body.
"Please don't scratch, please don't scratch," I silently plead. He doesn't, and instead begins to purr.
"Oh he's sitting on you!" says the dark-haired Dutch lady in a surprised tone.
The moment is broken when she opens a cupboard door and all the cats – including my new friend – spring from their hiding places and congregate at her feet, hoping that it's time to be fed. It was a false alarm; she just needed an envelope. They disperse, bemused, and go back to what they were doing – except for Cow Cat who abandons my lap and returns to his perch to stand guard.
As I leave the Poezenboot , I donate a few Euros in return for a few postcards to help keep the cat nip coming in. And as a token of thanks to Cow Cat for being so nice to me. Check out the Poezenboot next time you're in Amsterdam!
I'm a English free spirited kinda girl who likes to write entertaining travel stories. I love my adventures and really seeing what this world and life has on offer. On my blog you can follow in my footsteps by reading my posts and photos, watching my video diaries on some of my latest and past unique travel adventures, meeting the REAL people in the REAL world.
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