Why write about cat tourism? The answer is simple: felines are front and center at hotels, museums, theme parks, coastal resorts, cat café’s, temples, islands, train-stations, cat shows, and more. People flock to these places to get their cat fix (big dose of cat) when they are on vacation, because they are intrigued by these fascinating creatures that are dominating the Internet.
Get your cat fix on vacation
Did you know there are hundreds of places that feature cats around the globe? While we haven’t found any cat-related places in Antarctica or the Arctic, there is cat-related tourism, just about everywhere else from the US to Russia to Japan to South America. It’s a drawing card for Japan’s Cat Islands Tashirojima and the lesser-known Aoshima, both well off the beaten path. There, cats outnumber residents by at least six to one.
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The number of cat café’s where people can meet other cat people is growing by the day. These places are not just good for the cats up for adoption, they are good for the patrons who use them as a way to meet fellow cat people, developing life-long relationships with these newfound friends.
Writing about where to get your cat fix while on vacation is not new to Paws for Reflection. BJ Bangs, did a five-page spread on ‘50 Places to Get Your Cat Fix While on Vacation’ for the January 2015 issue of the national magazine ‘Cat Fancy’, which later morphed into ‘Catster’.
Cat Tourism and events exploding
As this topic has remained near and dear to us, our research finds the number of cat tourism locations and events is exploding, and we are jazzed to be your one-stop shop for your cat tourism info.
Cat tourism and events are good for the cats and their humans. Beneath the fun and pizzazz, there’s an element of advocacy. Many people are as eager to talk about their furballs back home as they are about the welfare of cats living on the streets. As interest in pet cats continues to grow, so does concern for their homeless counterparts, and an insatiable desire to be surrounded by cats. They’ve taken over the Internet, and now they are extending well beyond our phones and into our vacation plans.
Among perhaps the most well-known cat themed location is the United States in the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Florida’s Key West, home to approximately 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats. The cats are doing fine after Hurricane Irma threatened their home in the Fall of 2017. Both the home and the cats were unscathed.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum’s, popular cat tourism spot
Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes. About half of the cats at the museum have the physical polydactyl trait, and they all carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA, which means that the ones that have four and five toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens. Most cats have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes even on their back feet. Sometimes it looks as if they are wearing mittens because they appear to have a thumb on their paw.
Read more about polydactyl cats at Paws’ post:
Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s sea captain named Stanley Dexter. Sailors favored polydactyl cats, believing they were good luck. Many of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of the original Snow White. As Key West is a small island, it is very possible that many of the cats on the island are related. The polydactyl cats are not limited to any a particular breed. The trait can appear in any breed or type of cat including: Calicos, Tabbies, Tortoise Shell. White, Black, etc. They vary in shapes, sizes, colors and personalities.
Lucky Maneki-Nekos bring good luck
Ohio’s Lucky Cat Museum in Cincinnati, open only by appointment, hosts a collection of over 700 Japanese waving cats. The Maneki-Neko is a common Japanese figurine (lucky charm, talisman), often believed to bring good luck to the owner. Today, they are typically made of ceramic or plastic. The figurine depicts a cat (traditionally a calico Japanese Bobtail) beckoning visitors to come inside. Sometimes it is incorrectly referred to as the ‘Chinese lucky cat’ because of its popularity among Chinese merchants. Paws made this mistake when looking to find a Maneki-Neko while visiting Hawaii. A trip to Honolulu’s Chinatown proved unquestionably fruitless. However, a visit to a Japanese mall proved successful.
The Cat Museum in Kuching, Sarawak, East Malaysia, is almost all cat, with an Egyptian mummified cat and an extraordinary number of cat figurines. De Katten-kabinet (The Cat Cabinet) in Amsterdam is devoted to art related to cats.
The Cat Boat is the world’s only floating animal sanctuary
If you are in Amsterdam, you must check out The Cat Boat (De Poezenboot), the world’s only floating animal sanctuary. It hosts around 50 stray and abandoned cats, 17 of which are permanent residents that have lived on the boat for several years.
It all started in 1966 when Mrs. Henriette v. Weelde, found an abandoned feline family under a tree opposite her house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht canal. She decided to take them in and take care of them. Another stray soon joined them, then another and another… Henriette quickly became known as ‘the cat lady’. People continued to bring her cats, so many that she needed more space for them. She pondered: If people can live on the houseboats lining the canals, why can’t cats? In 1968, she purchased an old Dutch sailing barge, and renovated into a feline-friendly boat. The rest is history as volunteers and visitors followed. The barge has been modified and replaced; and it continues to be a popular destination for tourists.
Cat Museums, one form of cat tourism worldwide
In Spain, The Cat House, is located in the picturesque coastal town of Lloret de Mar, 60 kilometers from Barcelona. This private collection of Vera Novosyolova and Alexander Gvozdev occupies a whole room next to the sea. The exhibit showcases more than 3000 objects from different countries related to this mysterious and enigmatic animal – the cat. Paintings, ceramic figures, wood, glass, porcelain, stone cats, bronze, silver, jewelry, toys and household items are on display.
Among the museum’s fascinating displays are a special collection featuring the Maneki Neko, commonly called the Japanese Welcoming Cat, and a Frank Lloyd Wright ‘Cat House’. The four-foot square ‘Cat House’ was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954 for the Gerald B. Tonken’s family of Cincinnati. The design rendering by Thomas Olsen, the site supervisor, was created under the direction of Frank Lloyd Wright who had described his vision of the design during a phone call with Olsen. Today, Wright (1867-1959) is recognized as the greatest American architect of all time, and the cat house is considered as one of his more unique designs.
A bronze of a silver tabby Persian — Your Pets Pixie of Playwickey — is waiting to greet visitors. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may experience a cat agility competition first-hand, or visit some of the resident felines.
Chicago’s Field Museum displays an Egyptian tomb including a shrine to the Egyptian goddess Bastet. Even the revered Louvre in Paris has a sculpture of a goddess in animal form. The Brooklyn Museum has an ongoing touring display, Divine Felines of Ancient Egypt, exploring cats in Egyptian mythology, kingship and everyday life. At the British Museum in London, the sculptured Gayer-Anderson cat, is considered to be a sacred representation of the Egyptian goddess Bastet. The Moscow Cat Museum has everything connected to the theme Cat in Arts and Life. There’s also a permanent display of art inspired by felines.
Feline hotel residents are a real draw in cat tourism
Guests at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel are greeted by the infamous cat Hamlet, who is a real hit, hosting his own birthday party and the popular feline fashion show every August. Across the pond, famous feline resident, Fa-Raon watches over the famous Hotel Le Bristol in Paris, signifying the French art de vivre. Their Burmese cat can usually be found on the concierge’s desk, the lobby chairs or among the garden paths. Fa-Raon majestically embodies the spirit of the palace where he has his own private apartment decorated by the graffiti artist Renk.
At The Savoy in London, the hotel’s most famous resident Kaspart the Cat, a three-foot-high wood sculpture of a real feline, dines with guests at the hotel’s Savoy Grill. The Savoy’s famous black cat, Kaspar, was carved in 1927 by the designer Basil Ionides, from one single block of plane. His intended function was to act as the 14th guest in the private dining rooms when 13 guests were present, and his creation was directly related to the unfortunate demise of a Savoy client over quarter of a century earlier.
Japan, a popular cat tourism destination
Japan, one of the most cat friendly nations ever, is home to Sario Puro-land and Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise at Tama, New Town, Tokyo. Here you can meet up with lots of famous characters including none other than Miss Kitty.
The temple walk of Onomichi in Hiroshima holds an alley converted to cat. The historic temple walk linking 25 temples throughout the city also hosts the Neko no Hosomichi or Cat Alley. In 1997 Shunji Sonoyama, a French artist, found inspiration in a few abandoned sloping streets winding their way through Onomichi. The area, known as Ihatov, is filled with quirky art galleries, garden cafes, sake bars and ‘fukuishi neko’ (lucky stone cats). Shunji Sonoyama hand-painted 108 of these stone cats, each one having a different expression. Visitors can find these feline statues on fences, in trees, on roofs, and within the cafes. It is believed you will receive good fortune if you stroke their heads three times.
Feral cat populations draw curiosity from tourists around the world, at Japan’s two cat islands. Thousands flock to Tashirojima Cat Island and the lesser-known Aoshima Cat Island, where cats outnumber residents by at least six to one.
Where did all the island cats come from?
The cats were left behind by the fishermen who made their living on the islands, years ago. In Japanese culture, cats are considered to bring good luck, as well as money and good fortune to all who cross their path. Some even claim that it was the cats who kept the majority of the island from being destroyed during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Cat Tourism takes in feral colonies
Feral cats prove quite a hit at Turkey Turquoise Coast, Kalkan. A large colony of cats taken care of the Kalkan Association for the Protection of Street Animals gather by the old mosque along the picturesque Kalkan beach. Turkey’s Istanbul, has an enduring love affair with feline friends with thousands of street cats blending in with the cityscape. This special connection was recently featured in the documentary, ‘Kedi’ that premiered at the 2016 !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival. Turkey is not unique among predominately Muslim countries for honoring cats, as the domestic cat is a revered animal in Islam.
In Rome, about 250 feral cats reside among the ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina, some 20 feet below the street, where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Currently, visitors can only admire the square from above. It is closed to all except a colony of stray cats and the human volunteers who operate a sanctuary for them in the south-west corner. It is currently undergoing a major restoration, scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2021; however, the restoration should not impact the cats.
Just down the street, Rome’s Protestant Cemetery is home one of the city’s most famous semi-feral colonies. Cats roam around the graves of well-known British poets Keats and Shelley. The cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in continuous use in Europe (the earliest burial dates back to 1738).
In Taiwan, the Houtong Coal Mine, Ecological Park, has a footbridge, complete with ears and tail, connecting the station to Cat Village where some 80 cats roam, and the coal village has become transformed into a cat tourist destination, where many stray cats roam around the station. The park also consists of Japanese era buildings, coal processing plants, mining transport bridges, educational exhibits, and museums.
Japan’s Kishi’s stationmaster Tara, an infamous cat tourism figure
Japan’s Kishi’s stationmaster the cat, is also a huge cat tourism destination. The original stationmaster, Tama had very cat-like duties, including napping in her office (a converted ticket booth) for an unlimited supply of cat food. For years, the train journey was lightly traveled. As a result, Nankai Electric Railway, which managed the route, closed down in 2004 due to financial difficulties.
In 2007, after Wakayama Electric Railway took over the Kishigawa Line, the company appointed Tama, a cat owned by a local shop-keeping family, to serve as stationmaster as a way to revitalize the route. Tama’s cuteness was exploited wherever possible – from the chairs to the cakes in the cafe to the cat-shaped station building itself. The idea is so successful Wakayama Electric Railway now operates three themed trains: Strawberry Train, Tama Train and Toy Train.
While serving as a station master, Tama gained fame for her adorable outlook and attracted tourists from home and abroad. She frequently appeared in foreign media, causing her to gain an international reputation. Despite her death at the age of 16 in 2015, her popularity endures, so much so a Shinto shrine, with small gates, that holds the spirit of Tama, who was Kishi’s ‘super stationmaster’ and became the sprit goddess Tama Daimyojin upon her death.
Fear not, you will still find a live cat stationmaster. Since Tama’s death, a new cat, Nitama (second Tama), has become the new super stationmaster, while Yontama (fourth Tama) serves as a station master at Kishi Station.
Nitama did not instantly assume her new role. In Japan, the traditional mourning period for the loss of a loved one lasts for 50 days. Therefore, the position of stationmaster at the Kishi station was vacant for 50 days following Tama’s passing. Nitama (the “Second Tama”) started working in the fall of 2015; she was born in the city of Okayama and was rescued from underneath a train car by employees of the Okayama Electric Tramway. Nitama did not automatically move into the new role. She has to graduate from ‘Cat Stationmaster Training School’.
Cat Shows educational and informative
Cat shows around the world provide a host of entertainment and information for attendees. Both the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA) have large shows loaded with pedigreed and companion (or moggy) cats vying to become top cat in their category. Although rules differ from organization to organization. Cats are compared to a breed standard, and the owners of those judged to be closest to it are awarded a prize. Moggy’s are judged based on their temperament. At the end of the year, all of the points accrued at various shows are added up and more national and regional titles are awarded.
What’s so great about cat shows is you get to learn about various cat breeds through educational seminars. You may even stumble across a cat agility competition, and get to compete. Here, cats go through an obstacle course, and the one with the best time wins.
For more info, check out, Paws’ post:
Sometimes, you will find cat related destinations in the not so likely places. When visiting Hawaii, be sure to check out the Lanai Animal Sanctuary, home to some 600 cats. When founder Kathy Carroll moved to the island of Lanai from Illinois, she was shocked to see the large homeless cat population. She vowed to stop the suffering of cats struggling to survive and rallied volunteers to help. Today on 3.5 acres, Lanai Cat Sanctuary helps relocated cats from protected bird areas.
With a growing cat culture around the world, there’s an increasing number of mega cat events, drawing thousands to be part of the cat culture, whether they are cat lovers or not. These mega-events all have a bit of a different twist; however, they all are devoted to helping cats.
Mega Cat Events draw thousands
CatCon LA, the first mega cat event, was founded in 2015, and draws literally thousands to Pasadena, CA for this huge two-day event mixing pop culture and cat culture. It should be no surprise as the event is laced with Internet cat celebrities like Nala Cat, Simon’s Cat and Maru.
Part expo, part symposium, CatCon engages, educates and entertains thousands of fans, featuring the latest in groundbreaking products and ideas for cats and their people.
With a mission to spread joy and goodness to cats and the people who love them, CatCon is designed to educate and inform people about cats ‘outside the box’ in entertaining ways. Also, core to their values is to debunk the Crazy Cat Lady Myth, by changing the negative perception to one that is hip and stylish.
London’s CatFest showcases stylish cat-related products, books, cat films, an art show, live music, cat-themed cocktails, and vegan street food, along with meet-greets with feline superstars and inspiring talks from renowned writers and animal experts.
Pop Cats Austin, TX and Portland, Ore., is a fun-packed two-day festival fueled by the spirit of cats, pop, and art. You’ll be greeted with the cat playgrounds, artists, music, photo ops, artisans, brands, workshops, influencers, cat adoptions, tattoos; and more.
Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Camp in New York City, a weekend-long adventure all about exploring and celebrating your love for cats. The immersive experience with a summer camp-like atmosphere will include speakers, arts and crafts, adoptable cats, workshops and more.
Chicago’s Meow MeetUp, sponsored by The Catnip Times, is an immersive, experiential and educational event where cat lovers from all over Chicago and the Midwest come to enjoy all things cat. Enjoy a catpuccino in the cat café, take a break with a kitty yoga class, party at the Meow Mixer After Party on Caturday night, or sign up for Kitty Bingo.
These events entertain and enlighten the crazy, or not so crazy, cat people, who just can’t get enough cat, and what better way to get more dose of cat than by going to meet and mix with cat-minded people just like you. We encourage you to check out their websites, and the dates on these festivals are subject to change.
To read more about why these mega cat events are so important, check out our blog post:
Best Selling Author Gwen Cooper tells how cat tourism & events helps cats
We encourage you to keep coming back to Paws for Reflection to learn about the oh-so-many other places you can go to get your cat fix on vacation. We’ll be taking a closer look at some of the places listed here, as well as giving you a cats-eye look at some very other super cat-tastic cat destinations world-wide. Did you know there’s even a festival in New York’s Catskills centered around the cat?
Do you have some favorite cat destinations? Or better, yet, do you have some photos of some very cool cat places that you’d like to share. If so, tell us and share in the comments field.