Cats and water aren't the most conventional pair, as the owners of the Poezenboot (Dutch for "Cat Boat") are the first to admit. But take one step aboard this houseboat in the western Canal District, and you will find several dozen content cats, oblivious to the water that surrounds them.
Animal shelters don't usually make for tourist attractions; not only is it a hassle to take pets overseas, but most sizable cities have shelters of their own, many of which have a similar, institutional feel.
The Poezenboot, however, has become a favorite destination for Amsterdam visitors thanks to its uniquely Dutch execution. Moored on the closest canal west of Amsterdam Central Station, the Singel, the Poezenboot is a cat shelter located in a houseboat; it's another curious Dutch institution which visitors from canal-less cities love to explore. The Poezenboot lets visitors meet a crew of adorable cats as well as satiate their curiosity about houseboats, all for the price of a voluntary donation.
A Water-Borne Cat Shelter on a Historic Canal
The Poezenboot was founded in 1966 when a cat lover who had filled her canal-side home with one stray after another realized that she needed more room to accommodate her feline family. The first two cat boats were converted sailboats, but when these were decommissioned, the current boat—the "Ark", as it's called—was purpose-built to serve the cats' needs, complete with an enclosed terrace on the east side, where the cats can roam outside without fear of the water.
Inside the boat, visitors will find a reception desk staffed with helpful and informative volunteers, a table full of pamphlets and other literature as well as Poezenboot merchandise. Just past the reception desk is the cats' lair, a spacious room filled with beds, bowls, cat boxes and, in one corner, a veritable cat complex with spots to scratch, sleep, and survey the shelter.
Visitors of all nationalities come in to see the cats; some have heard about the shelter from enthusiastic reviews or articles such as this, while others are lured inside by the tell-tale cat cut-out on the roof of the boat, but all leave charmed by the water-borne cats and their dedicated caretakers.
Note that the Poezenboot is only open for a few hours per day (hours listed below), so do take this into account when you plan your visit to this uniquely Dutch cat shelter. Visitors can combine their trip with an exploration of the food- and fashion-filled Haarlemmerstraat, just northwest of the Poezenboot; on the Singel itself, don't miss house number 7 (on the east side of the canal), which is often claimed to be the narrowest house in Amsterdam.
Mon - Tues and Thurs - Sat, 1 - 3 p.m.
From the south exit of Amsterdam Central Station, cross Stationsplein to Prins Hendrikkade and head west; cross the Singel (canal), and turn left to continue down the west side of the canal. The Poezenboot will be on the lefthand side.