It all began a very long time ago with a mother and her kittens. And a lady who took pity on them.
Her name: Henriette van Weelde, and back in 1966 she found the feline family sheltering under a tree opposite her house on Amsterdam's Herengracht canal. Henriette decided to take them in and take care of them. Another stray soon joined them, then another and another... Henriette quickly became known as "the cat lady". People would bring her cats they were no longer able to look after themselves.
Eventually they filled her home. Then her garden and her roof terrace. Soon there would be no space left. But the cats kept coming. What could she do with them all?
The solution turned out to be right outside Henriette's front door. If people could live on the houseboats which lined the canals, why not cats? And so came the idea to buy one for them.
The first vessel, an old Dutch sailing barge, was acquired in 1968. The interior was stripped and converted into feline-friendly accommodation. And soon the first residents started moving in: all strays, sick animals or ones their owners could no longer take care of. Fortunately for Henriette, who now had a boat as well as a house full of cats, they were followed by people who wanted to help love and care for them: our first volunteers.
A second boat!
The barge was bursting at the seams after just three years. So a second boat was purchased and fitted out in 1971. By now more people were visiting, too. Not just to bring cats, but also to find a new pet of their own - or simply to take a look. After all, a floating cat's home was something totally unique. The original barge performed sterling service for more than a decade, but eventually had to be retired in 1979. Its replacement was a Dutch houseboat, of a type appropriately known as an "ark". This was specially fitted out to house cats by a shipyard, so it met all our requirements. The two boats remain moored at their original location on the Singel canal.
Nobody back in 1966 could have dreamed that one mother cat and her kittens would begin what was now the world's most famous cat sanctuary. The time had come to make things official.
In consultation with the city authorities, it was decided to register as a charity. That status was achieved on 3 June 1987 with the creation of Stichting de Poezenboot - the "Cat Boat Foundation".
2001 and beyond
Maintenance. On a big scale! Much more than just a trip to the shipyard to check the hull. No, in 2001 we sent one of our boats for a complete overhaul so that it would meet all the legal requirements for a modern animal sanctuary.
The renovation work was completed in early 2002, after which we could begin fitting out the new interior.
Everything was ready by the end of March, and we did not have to wait long after that for our first resident. Bloemetje - "Little Flower" - arrived on 3 April. Which, coincidentally, is the birthday of our founder, Henriette van Weelde