Sat, Mar 09, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Cats find sanctuary in Sanchong temple

SHELTER:Temple staff believe the cats were initially attracted to temple’s lanterns and stayed because its head teacher started feeding the stray animals

By Lai Hsiao-tung and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

A cat sits in the Yi Tian Temple in New Taipei City’s Sanchong District on Tuesday. Each cat in the temple has been given a name based on its characteristics and personality.

Photo: Lai Hsiao-tung, Taipei Times

A house of worship in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sanchong District (三重) has become known as the “cat temple” (貓廟) for the friendly cats that reside there, attracting public attention as well as coverage by international media.

At the Yi Tian Temple (義天宮), playful cats leap around the altar, lie on the worshiping cushions and congregate near the temple’s incense altar to warm themselves on a cold day.

According to temple staff, the cats appear to have attained the same spirituality and perceptiveness as the temple’s worshipers, and seem to be listening attentively during the temple’s regular chanting sessions of Taoist and Buddhist texts.

The cats also seem to act as hosts, welcoming worshipers by accompanying them through the ritual ceremonies and prayer sessions.

According to the temple’s staff, these 10 pious felines were once stray cats.

The temple is the center of religious worship in the area and it is dedicated to the goddess Matsu.

The front stairway leading to the temple is more than 20m long and several lanterns adorn the front gate. The cats were originally attracted to the temple by these lanterns, temple staff said.

A temple official said the cats stay in the temple due to the kindness of Wang Hsiuh-ying (王秀英), head teacher of the sutra chanting group, who was sympathetic to the plight of stray cats roaming the streets and started feeding them.

Over time, more cats settled in the temple and began treating it as their home, the temple official said.

The felines’ playful behavior has won many people’s hearts and the temple staff have given each of them a name based on their personality, the temple official added.

A worker at the temple said the cats are very tame and friendly, interact with strangers and often rub their body against worshipers’ legs.

He added that when money gets stuck in the slot of the temple’s donation box, the cats sometimes push down the bill with their paw “as if they were the temple’s guardians.”

The worker said that one of the felines was injured in a traffic accident, but after staff hung a protective Matsu amulet around its neck, it recovered from the injury quickly.

He added that a few years ago, a cat named “Niu Niu,” one of the temple’s first felines, went missing.

It was later discovered dead just a short distance from the temple.

Temple staff believe that in her old age, the cat knew she was nearing the end of her life, so she chose to leave the temple quietly for her final departure, a display of its spirituality, the staff added.

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