9 Museums Around the World That Every Cat Lover Should Visit

Olga Maltseva, AFP/Getty Images
Olga Maltseva, AFP/Getty Images

Cats are put on a pedestal (sometimes literally) at a handful of feline-loving museums around the world. Here are nine institutions that showcase kitty artifacts, host feline-themed exhibitions, and even serve as homes to real-life cats.

1. THE CAT MUSEUM // KUCHING, MALAYSIA

People in Kuching, Malaysia, are kitty crazy: Even the city’s name means "cat" in Malay. Kuching is filled with large feline statues, the local radio station is called “Cats FM,” and guests at the 2017 ASEAN Film Festival and Awards, held in Kuching, helped set a Guinness record for the largest gathering of people dressed as cats. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Kuching is also home to an impressive cat museum.

Located in Kuching City North City Hall, the museum contains four galleries filled with thousands of feline artworks, cat relics, photos, and other objects (including an Egyptian mummified cat). They trace the history of cats and examine different cultural depictions of felines from around the world.

2. THE CAT MUSEUM // ŠIAULIAI, LITHUANIA

Šiauliai, Lithuania’s fourth-largest city, has its very own cat museum. Local animal lover Vanda Kavaliauskienė founded the attraction in 1990 after her collection of cat-themed memorabilia grew too large for her apartment. Visitors can view thousands of artifacts—including photos, artworks, and mini feline figurines from around the world—or cozy up with live cats strolling around the premises. (There’s also a mini-zoo with exotic animals if you experience cat overload.)

3. THE CAT MUSEUM // MINSK, BELARUS

In addition to viewing plenty of cat art, visitors at the Cat Museum in Minsk, Belarus can check out special exhibitions, enjoy cat-themed books and games, make cat art, and sip coffee or tea in a cat-themed café—all while petting members of the museum’s cat “staff.” These adoptable rescue kitties live on site and are presided over by Donut, the museum’s feline “director.”

4. KATTENKABINET // AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

Housed in a restored 15th-century home on Amsterdam’s Herengracht canal, the KattenKabinet (“Cat Cabinet”) art museum examines the role that cats play in art and culture. Museum founder/homeowner Bob Meijer launched the attraction in 1990 in honor of his beloved deceased tom, which he’d named John Pierpont Morgan after the famed U.S. banker.

In addition to a section devoted to John Pierpont Morgan, the KattenKabinet’s collections include original works by greats like Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rembrandt—all of which depict cats, and are guarded by a bevy of in-house felines.

5. THE SERPUKHOV MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ART // SERPUKHOV, RUSSIA

The Serpukhov Museum of History and Art is home to a valuable collection of Western European and Russian paintings and home furnishings. Most of these objects came from the collections of A. Maraeva, a successful merchant, and the museum itself is located in her former mansion.

In addition to providing visitors with a sense of local history, the Serpukhov Museum’s staff has been known to stage the occasional practical joke. In 2016, they decided to trick local media outlets by writing up a fake job application letter from an orange feline nicknamed Maray (for Maraeva) that hung around the mansion to greet visitors. Signed with a scribbled paw print, the note read: “As I am a direct relative of Maraeva, I ask you to give me a job in your museum. Maray the Cat.”

The museum sent the letter to the Russian media, along with a press release announcing that they’d taken the feline up on its offer. They ended up fielding so many questions about Maray that they decided to commit to the joke and hired him as a furry doorman. He now works a normal 9-to-5 shift, with his own special spot in the museum, and is compensated with food and shelter.

6. THE MANEKI NEKO MUSEUM // CINCINNATI, OHIO

The Lucky Cat Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio
Courtesy of The Maneki Neko, or Lucky Cat Museum

Fans of Asian culture and cats can visit the Maneki Neko, or Lucky Cat Museum, in Cincinnati for an extra dose of good fortune. Housed in the small art space are more than 1000 models of the Japanese maneki neko, the “beckoning cat” with a raised paw you’ll often see in Asian restaurants as a symbol of luck and prosperity.

Museum owner and operator Micha Robertson began collecting maneki neko of all shapes, sizes, and designs more than a decade ago. Eventually, she amassed so many that she decided to open a tiny museum dedicated to her feline finds. "For me," Robertson told local radio station WVXU in 2015, "it’s just taking a basic idea—[it's] not just a cat, but it’s a cat with its paw raised—and it’s interpreted so many ways. Each one is very different from another. Even the ones that are the same basic look are still very different. I love seeing how many different ways it can be interpreted. And the weirder they are, the more I love them."

Robertson isn’t alone in her fascination: Two similar homages to the maneki neko exist in Japan, including the Maneki Neko Art Museum in Okayama and the Maneki Neko Museum in Seto.

7. YUMEJI ART MUSEUM // OKAYAMA, JAPAN

Fans of Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934), an influential Japanese artist and poet of the Taishō period, can visit museums dedicated to his work in Okayama and in Setouchi, Japan. But only the Okayama location has Kuronosuke, a black-furred feline that serves as the establishment’s “manager” and mascot.

Museum officials rescued Kuronosuke in 2016 after a car nearly ran him over. Noting that the homeless kitty looked like a black cat from one of Takehisa’s illustrations, they decided to “hire” him to amuse visitors. Kuronosuke—all dressed up with a red ribbon around his neck—began regularly greeting museum patrons several times a week in December 2017. His attendance is “whimsical,” according to news reports, since he’s probably more interested in chasing mice than schmoozing with art lovers.

8. THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF THE HOUSE CAT // SYLVA, NORTH CAROLINA

 Artifacts at the American Museum of the House Cat
Courtesy of the American Museum of the House Cat

Harold Sims is a retired biology professor and a full-time collector of cat memorabilia. With his wife Kay, he’s spent more than 30 years building a vast assortment of feline art, crafts, and tchotchkes. In April 2017, Sims opened up his own roadside museum, the American Museum of the House Cat, inside a Sylva, North Carolina antique mall. Its two rooms are filled to the brim with as many as 10,000 artifacts. (Still more cat objects exist in Sims’s private collection.)

Curiosities at the American Museum of the House Cat range from vintage kitty toys (such as 19th-century automatons) to an Egyptian cat amulet dating back to 1000 BCE and a petrified cat discovered in a 16th-century English chimney. Admission fees go towards Catman2, a no-kill cat shelter in Cullowhee, North Carolina that Sims opened adjacent to his home in 2002. In addition to 60 to 80 rescues per year, Catman2 is also home to—surprise!—even more cat art.

9. THE STATE HERMITAGE MUSEUM // ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

A cat sits in front of Russia's Hermitage Museum
OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

The State Hermitage Museum houses more than 3 million works of art and artifacts, spread across a vast complex of historic buildings. Safeguarding these treasures are efficient security agents, many of whom have tails and whiskers.

The former Winter Palace, where Russia’s tsars once resided, is today the museum’s main building. It’s reportedly been home to cats for hundreds of years, beginning in 1745 when Empress Elisabeth issued a call for “the finest cats of Kazan” to help rid the building of mice. In later years, during the reign of Catherine the Great, these kitties were nicknamed the “Winter Palace cats.”

Today’s museum cats are a far cry from aristocratic mousers. Many (if not all) of them are former strays, some of which were found huddled near the museum’s underground heating system in the late 1990s. Their mere presence is said to deter mice, which are perhaps equally as dangerous to art as thieves or hands-y visitors.

The Hermitage cats are tended to by a team of full-time volunteers, managed by their own press secretary, and permitted to roam through staff offices (they’re banned from galleries and the museum director’s wing). They're also adoptable.

What's the Difference Between Pigeons and Doves?

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iStock

To the layman, the difference between pigeons and doves has something to with color, maybe. Or location. Or general appeal (doves usually get much better press than pigeons do). But what’s the actual, scientific difference between doves and pigeons?

As it turns out, there isn’t one. Paul Sweet, the collection manager for the department of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, says the difference is more linguistic than taxonomic.

“The word dove is a word that came into English from the more Nordic languages, whereas pigeon came into English from French,” Sweet tells Mental Floss.

Both dove and pigeon refer to the 308 species of birds from the Columbidae family, Sweet says. There’s no difference between a pigeon and a dove in scientific nomenclature, but colloquial English tends to categorize them by size. Something called a dove is generally smaller than something called a pigeon, but that’s not always the case. A common pigeon, for example, is called both a rock dove and a rock pigeon.

“People just have their own classification for what makes them different,” Sweet says. “So in the Pacific, for example, the big ones might get called pigeons and the smaller ones might be called doves, but they’re actually more closely related to each other than they are to other things in, say, South America, that are called pigeons and doves.”

The difference boils down to linguistic traditions, so feel free to tell people you’re releasing pigeons at your wedding or that you’re feeding doves in the park. Scientifically speaking, you’ll be correct either way.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

8 Hair-Raising Facts About Black Cats

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iStock

No member of catkind is more maligned than the black cat. At best, they're bemoaned as lackluster photography subjects; at worst, they're seen as harbingers of really bad luck. But there's a lot to love about these furballs, as evidenced by the holidays in their honor—the ASPCA celebrates Black Cat Appreciation Day annually on August 17 and, across the pond, October 27 is National Black Cat Day—and the facts below.

1. IN SOME CULTURES, BLACK CATS ARE GOOD LUCK.

A black kitten stretching
iStock

They may have a less-than-stellar reputation in some areas of the world, but there are plenty of places where black cats aren’t bad luck at all. If you’re a single woman in Japan, owning a black cat is said to increase your number of suitors; if you’re in Germany and one crosses your path from right to left, good things are on the horizon.

2. THEY'RE A SAILOR'S BEST FRIEND.

Not only were cats welcome aboard British vessels to hunt mice, but sailors generally thought a black cat in particular would bring good luck and ensure a safe return home. A few of these kitties have been enshrined in maritime history, like Tiddles, who traveled more than 30,000 miles during his time with the Royal Navy. (His favorite pastime was playing with the capstan’s bell-rope.)

3. THERE IS NO ONE BLACK CAT BREED.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) recognizes 22 different breeds that can have solid black coats—including the Norwegian Forest Cat, Japanese Bobtail, and Scottish Fold—but the Bombay breed is what most people picture: a copper-eyed, all-black shorthair. The resemblance to a "black panther" (more on those animals in a bit) is no coincidence. In the 1950s, a woman named Nikki Horner was so enamored with how panthers looked that she bred what we now refer to as the Bombay.

4. BLACK CATS ARE AS EASILY ADOPTED AS CATS OF OTHER COLORS.

Black cat facts.
iStock

It’s common to think that black cats in shelters are the last in line to find their forever homes, but a recent survey from the ASPCA suggests otherwise. Although euthanasia numbers for black cats were some of the highest, their total number of adoptions was the highest of any hue as well. The vet who conducted the study argues that there may just simply be more black cats than other colors.

5. THEIR COATS CAN "RUST."

A black cat’s color all boils down to a genetic quirk. There are three variants of the black fur gene (solid black, brown, and cinnamon), and the hue works in conjunction with the pattern. If a cat has a solid black hue, but also the dominant tabby stripe gene, heavy exposure to the sun can make the eumelanin pigment in its fur break down to reveal its once-invisible stripes (another potential cause: nutritional deficiency). What was once a black cat is now a rusty brown cat.

6. THE GENE THAT CAUSES BLACK FUR MIGHT MAKE THESE FELINES RESISTANT TO DISEASE.

Even though their coloring is what gives them a bad reputation, these felines may be getting the last laugh after all. The mutation that causes a cat’s fur to be black is in the same genetic family as genes known to give humans resistance to diseases like HIV. Some scientists think the color of these cats may have less to do with camouflage and more to do with disease resistance. They’re hoping that as more cat genomes are mapped, we may get a step closer to curing HIV.

7. YOU CAN VISIT A CAT CAFE DEVOTED TO BLACK CATS.

Step through the doors of Nekobiyaka in Himeji, Japan and get ready for your wildest cat lady dreams to come true. Black cats are the stars of this café and visitors are invited to pet (but not pick up) these lithe felines. Each of Nekobiyaka’s identical-looking black cats wears a different colored bandana to resolve any catastrophic mix-ups.

8. THEY'RE DIFFICULT TO PHOTOGRAPH—BUT IT CAN BE DONE.

A black cat is photographed against a blue-gray background
iStock

The modern-day conundrum black cat owners face isn’t bad luck, but bad lighting. In a world filled with people sharing photos of their pets on Instagram, black cats can end up looking like a dark blob in photos. One photographer’s advice? Minimalist backgrounds, so your subject can stand out, and angling them towards natural light sources (but keep them out of bright sunlight!). If you're snapping pics on your iPhone, tap on your cat's face, then use the sun icon to brighten up the photo.

BONUS: BLACK PANTHERS HAVE SPOTS.

Technically, there is no such thing as a black panther—it’s a term used for any big black cat. What we call black panthers are in fact jaguars or leopards and yes, they have spots, too. Their hair shafts produce too much melanin thanks to a mutation in their agouti genes, which are responsible for distributing pigment in an animal’s fur. Look carefully and you can see a panther’s spots as the sunlight hits them in just the right way.

This article originally ran in 2016.

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