The Dutch are known for being cat lovers. They’re the most frequently kept pet in the Netherlands. Around two million house cats live in the country, which means about a quarter of Dutch households are owned by cats.
Along the many scenic canals, you might see a floating cat shelter, De Poezenboot, which has saved cats for over half a century. Cats are frequent residents of houseboats but are also just about everywhere: on rooftops, in shops, or peering from windows.
Nearby the bustling city of Amsterdam is the charming North Sea trading port of Haarlem, where there are many wonderful sights. And among them is a parade of the prettiest felines walking on the cobblestones, peeking from gardens and alleyways, and even leaping from the rooftops. When the weather is fair, your chances of seeing them could go up. Otherwise, they are inside taking shelter in their homes.
“The view in Wijngaardtuin [park] is 😍, but I find that a cat always makes any view even better 😸”
Catspotting the Cats of Haarlem
An anonymous photographer started a “catspotting hobby,” sharing pictures of the cats of Haarlem since July 2021. They became self-described “cat paparazzi” of the felines who often consider whole neighborhoods their extended home.
Seeing the cats on walks always helps lift spirits for this photographer.
“A cat photo a day keeps sadness at bay,” their Instagram states.
“Beautiful cats, beautiful streets – that’s Haarlem,” they shared.
Gorgeous Meowdels are Everywhere
This cat paparazzi has no problems finding subjects, sometimes seeing as many as 13 cats on a short catspotting walk!
But they particularly love calicos, of which there are many world-class meowdels here.
“…My gorgeous calico friend ☺️ I only met her once in September, but I got a lot of photos of her. I have visited her street a few times since, but with no luck. I guess I’m a stalker at this point 🙈.”
How the Catspotting Hobby Started
The photographer shared that they once had a beloved calico cat named Sille, who sadly crossed the Rainbow Bridge right before the move to Haarlem in 2021. As they grieved, they found hope and healing by photographing felines as they explored the scenic streets.
One of the first Haarlem cat meowdels was a pretty tuxie dubbed Zorro, who appeared in the photographer’s garden. After that, taking pictures of the local cats became therapeutic.
“…when Zorro appeared in our garden that cold February, he brought with him healing and a reason to smile again. he reminded me so much of Sille, it was as if he had brought a piece of her back to me.”
Ginger Cats of Haarlem
Although calicos are a favorite, the photographer also has a soft spot for ginger cats, living with an 8-year-old ginger named Kusti.
“Is it just me, or do Dutch people have an especially soft spot for ginger cats? Given that orange is the national colour here…it just seems to me that I have many more photos of gingers than other cats. Or it just might be that I have a soft spot for gingers, and that is very true! 🧡” they shard.
There are also two beautiful adopted calicos at home: Elsi and Alma, born in a barn in 2022.
“Sneaky Elsi 🤎”
But the first cat to win their heart was the charismatic ginger, Kusti.
“My very first cat, the keeper of my heart! to many more years with you 🤍.”
Getting to Know Each Haarlem Cat
Over the years, the photographer has become familiar with where many of the meowdels live and even how far they tend to travel in their uniquely safe neighborhoods.
“Beautiful Pablo out on the town 🖤🤍. Sometimes, the cats surprise me with how far they roam. Most stay around their house or move around nearby streets, but some curious kitties seem to venture out much farther, and I spot them all over our neighborhood. 🐾”
Many of the cats are extremely friendly and come running, flopping on their belly for attention. Others aren’t so friendly. But they are still admired from afar nonetheless.
“Every time I walk in this neighborhood, I’m hoping I get to see this magnificent Maine coon. 😻 He doesn’t trust strangers (good for him!), so I can only admire from afar, but that’s good enough for me. What a gorgeous floof!”
Sometimes, the locals see the pictures of their cats on Instagram and report their names, like a character named Hector below. Others keep a lookout, hoping their cats could make an appearance on the wall of beauties one day.
It seems this catspotting hobby has become a hobby for much of Haarlem, and a wide world of feline admirers on Instagram. And such a lovely hobby could be healing for so many who have loved cats. But few could say their neighborhoods are as lovely as those in this cat lover’s purradise.
“I recently learned that this handsome fellow is called Hector! I love it when the locals find my photos and let me know the names of the cats. I used to call him Mr. Dot-nose 😂.”
You can see more at the Cats of Haarlem on Instagram at meowlem.
Video of the Cats of Haarlem over the last year via Instagram:
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