AFTER SEX, cat stuff is the most popular thing on the interwebs. But what about traveling? As a cat person and future crazy cat lady, I always take notice of cats wherever I go and daydream about visiting a cat cafe in London or Japan. But there are plenty of destinations for cat lovers around the world, some in places you might not expect.
1. Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cats and cemeteries go well together. I mean aesthetically, of course. Think about it: Felines are laid-back creatures who enjoy silence. They’re also very skilled hunters, welcomed by caretakers for their ability to keep pests away. And, as every cat owner is aware, cats are individuals of exquisite taste — hence the cat population of this very classy cemetery in the Argentinean capital.
Just imagine, a place to relax and hang out with cats all day long while sipping coffee, reading a book, etc. In Tokyo there’s a law forbidding pets in rented apartments, which explains the phenomenon of the cat cafe, where cat lovers can get their neko fix anytime. The first cat cafe opened in 2004, and now there’s more than a hundred locations in Tokyo alone — here’s a cat cafe map to help you find the nearest one.
London just stole the idea, opening the first British cat cafe ever, in East London’s Bethnal Green area.
Their land, their rules: Tashirojima, subject of countless photographic safaris by cat lovers, is home to more cats than people. They first arrived as pest control, brought in by sailors. But they stayed for good, multiplied, and nowadays the island is a popular tourist destination, giving rise to all kinds of cat-related souvenirs and cat-inspired architecture.
There’s the Sphinx, of course. But also cat mummies, tomb paintings, and the cult of Bastet the cat-goddess. If a trip to this seat of ancient civilization isn’t possible for you right now, you can admire a bunch of cat mummies and a Bastet statue at the British Museum on your next trip to London, after you hit that new cat cafe.
5. Poezenboot and Kattenkabinet, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kattenkabinet holds paintings, sculptures, and all sorts of artwork depicting felines, in a building from 1667. The gift shop, of course, is a must. In Amsterdam, you’ll also find the extraordinary Cat Boat, a water-based sanctuary founded by a singular lady named Henriette van Weelde in 1966.
6. Hemingway home and Dominique show, Key West, Florida, USA
There are a bunch of cat lovers among fabled writers, Ernest Hemingway being possibly the most famous. His faithful Maine Coon, Snowball, was a polydactyl cat — a specimen with six fingers in one or more of its furry paws. Hemingway’s Florida home became a museum, and Snowball’s descendants (around 50!) enjoy the nice climate in this tranquil and lovely house, open for Papa fans all year round.
If an entire population of six-fingered felines isn’t weird enough, don’t miss Dominique and His Flying House Cats show. Not many people in the world are capable of making cats do anything at all — but this French expat somehow manages to make them jump around on stools and fly through flaming hoops. No, really.
The triannual Festival of the Cats has origins going back to the Middle Ages, when a person would throw live cats from a tower. The reason for this horrifying custom is explained on the Catsparella blog: The Cloth Hall stored wool in winter, so cats were used to control mice and rats. When springtime arrived, without further use for the felines, they were thrown out of the tower. Cat throwing was officially banned in 1817, and today Ypres hosts a cat-friendly parade, celebrating its history with all sorts of music, food, songs, and costumes. The next edition is scheduled for May 2015.
Kuching translates as “cat city,” and this spaceship-style building is home to a museum very serious about the mission of preserving feline history. For instance, here is where you’ll find the only stuffed specimen of a Felis Badia cat, “the rarest cat in the world.” And a thousand-year-old cat mummy. Along with hundreds of kitsch examples of cat art from around the world.
The Van Cat is known for its long white fur and odd (blue, green, amber) eyes. It has Armenian origins and is indigenous to the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey, where you’ll find the feline genetic conservation program Kedi Evi — or “cat house.” The old, spacious, tranquil place is also home to several stray and abandoned felines.