The Poezenboot, or Catboat, a floating shelter for stray and abandoned cats in the Amsterdam Singel, is getting ready to move into a new home. After almost 45 years in its current houseboat, this landmark charity institution has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the much-needed new ship: a custom-made ‘Ark’ for the 200 to 250 cats taken annually to care for, vaccinate, neuter, feed, and in most cases, direct to a new family.
Perhaps you have already seen it, visited or passed by it: a reddish wooden boat in the Singel canal, just a short walk away from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Other than some wire net on the sides and a few signs, it looks like any other ordinary houseboat in the landscape. However, this one ship has been a cat shelter since 1979; and throughout the years it has helped thousands of rescued cats find new homes and second chances. The Catboat institution goes back all the way to the 1960s, and the current one is the charity’s third ship. But after a long life, with many issues becoming more and more pressing, it is finally on its way to retirement, and in dire need of a replacement.
‘We are almost sinking,’ said Catboat manager Judith Gobets to newspaper Het Parool. Their current boat is basically suffering from, well, old age: the sewage system sometimes has water rising up through the drains; the insulation is not effective in guarding against outside temperatures anymore; peeled-off paint, broken wooden panels, cracks in the floor: all are visible symptoms of advanced wear and tear. But the most important issue is the decaying concrete box on which the boat is built, a problem in the foundation. While the organization initially wanted the boat fixed, the professional advice was that it was better to replace it. And, naturally, that comes with a hefty price.
That is why the Catboat has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the expenses. As an institution, it does not receive grants from the government, but is funded by donations and relies on volunteers. While enough money has been gathered to pay for a new boat structure, the rest in the interior still needs to be sponsored: cages, baskets, sliding doors, scratching boards, toys, and all the things you need to take care of cats.
In addition, better insulation is needed for comfortable temperatures all year long, and an energy efficient system is planned, which includes solar panels for a more sustainable consumption. While some things will remain from the old ship, which will also help the cats feel familiar in their new environment, as Gobets told Het Parool, the majority of the equipment needs to be built and bought anew. The campaign is open for donations until 31 May and has a dedicated website at denieuwepoezenboot.nl, where the ‘Nieuwe Ark’ can already be seen under construction.
The Poezenboot first started back in 1966, when Mrs. Henriette van Weelde found a mother cat and her kittens abandoned near her home in Amsterdam. An authentic cat lady, she took the family in and gave them care and shelter. Those were the firsts of many cats that she took into her house, until a couple of years later when it was so full that she could just not shelter any more of them. It was then when the first Catboat, an old Dutch sailing barge, was bought and adjusted for the cats. Around that time, the first volunteers came in and the institution started working. But just three years after, a second boat was already needed, which in turn lasted for eight years. The current ‘Ark’, the third boat, has been in service for almost 45 years.
Mrs. Van Weelde passed away in 2005 when she was 90 years old, but her foundation lives on, and is now getting ready to embark on a new chapter when the new boat arrives later this year. The Poezenboot has also become a tourist attraction in itself and is open to visitors in the afternoons on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Written by Juan Álvarez Umbarila