American Museum of the House Cat – Sylva, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura

American Museum of the House Cat

This vast kitty-themed collection illustrates the history of human-cat interaction. 


Cats have a regal bearing that seems to have fascinated human beings throughout history. Bastet, a feline goddess, was an important deity in ancient Egypt, most commonly represented by a sitting cat staring straight ahead. A bronze statue of the worshipped feline dating back to 600 BC is one of the highlights of the American Museum of the House Cat, which has hundreds of exhibits dedicated to the beloved species.

Founded in April 2017 by the local “Catman” Harold Sims, the museum focuses specifically on the house cat, the domesticated pet. The museum features cat memorabilia collected by Sims over three decades: A petrified cat rescued from a 16th century English fireplace, a hand-carved kitty carousel, antique cat toys, and cat beer steins are all on display. 

The retired biology professor and his wife Kay set up a no-kill cat shelter in 2002 right next door to their home in Sylva, North Carolina. The museum was conceived as way to share their vast cat-themed collection with feline lovers, document the history of human-cat interaction, and raise money for the shelter. On most days, Sims is at the museum, adding to the unique experience with stories about the exhibits. 

Update as of August 2020: The museum is relocating to 5063 Hwy 441, South Sylva, NC 28779.

Know Before You Go

You can access the museum at the back of the Old School Antique Mall. You must buy your ticket at the antique mall. Enter the mall and turn left. Buy the ticket at the cash register then continue down the hallway to the cat museum entrance. Not open on Mondays.

In partnership with KAYAK

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