Cat taxidermy in the cat museum (all photographs by the author)
All dogs go to heaven. But when some cats die, they are enshrined in a museum located in a town named in their honor.
Take a stroll through the humid city center of Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia, and you’ll spot a proud stone monument of purring cats amidst the dilapidated malls and febrile coffee shops. Legend has it that the city of Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia was flooded with felines along the river bank in the 1830s, hence the literal translation of the town’s name to “cats.”
Cat statues in Kuching
Entrance to the Cat Museum
Fittingly, the city also hosts one of the world’s most lavish tributes to these animals. Almost 2,000 different artifacts consisting of statues, figurines, paintings, framed pictures of ode-to-my-kitten tattoos, and even cellphone covers can be seen at the Cat Museum, curiously housed in a nondescript corner of a municipal council tower. A giant cat’s mouth engulfs the doorway and welcomes your entrance into cat nirvana.
The Night of a Thousand Cast movie poster in the museum
Inside, a handful of staff members — on this visit: three — take care of a venue that presents a strange, and very obsessive, walk-through of the history of cats. There are pictures of famous dignitaries with their pet cats, life-size replicas of Disney’s Aristocats that visiting children climb over in glee, and hundreds of cat statuettes displayed inside glass cases.
The museum starts from as early as 3500 BC, courtesy of a wooden casket housing a mummified Egyptian cat. Keeping in line with the afterlife, the museum has also erected a fake funeral site, complete with tombstone, foliage, and an epitaph paying tribute to a fat cat named “Dick.” More modern kitty paeans include coconut husks carved into the shape of a cat’s head, a collection of cat stamps from around the world, and over 50 local Malaysian quotes involving cats that include precious life tropes such as: “like a cat defecating in its hair” (which, apparently, adds emphasis to a situation where someone is anxious because of a sickness).
Coconut cat, carved by Mazelan the “coconut expert”
Fake cat funeral site
The truly hair-raising moments, however, are reserved for the exclusive stuffed samples of the most uncommon cats you’ll ever see. The museum keeps the world’s only mounted specimen of the rarest cat in the world: the Felix Badia, found only in the rainforest of Borneo. Other cats preserved by taxidermy include the Sarawakian leopard cat and the nocturnal flat-headed cat. However, they look, plainly put, horrified to be there.
But aside from providing fodder for nightmares involving vengeful cat specimens, an afternoon nestling up to this free exhibition is an apt way for you to get in touch with the city’s most revered creature.
Here are more photographs from the most cat-obsessed place in the world:
A taxidermy Russian blue
KUCHING CAT MUSEUM, Kuching, Malaysia