The American Museum of the House Cat

What a delightful visit we had to the American Museum of the House Cat yesterday. 

I was thoroughly charmed before we even walked through the door.

This is the metal cat that greets visitors in the parking lot. Her name is Rainbow.

These are her kittens.

Even the price of admission was cute with kittens getting in for a mere $2.

It was created by Dr. Harold Sims, a retired biology professor, also known as the Catman. Here's the information on their business card.

This is the back of the card:

Proceeds from the museum help to support the Catman2 Shelter.

You can read more about it right here. Catman2 was the first no-kill animal shelter in Jackson County, North Carolina, and the first cats only, cat shelter in western Carolina to reject the practice of keeping sheltered cats in cages instead of allowing them to roam free in large open spaces.

The museum is housed in the Old School House Antique Mall, a local landmark. It is a large structure in and of itself and an antique lovers' paradise. The cat museum is located in a portion of the larger structure. Down the hall and walking through the door, one reads this sign.

Here's a little video of Dr. Sims talking about his museum. If you can't see the video, click right here.

Only about half of Dr. Sims' collection is here, and the museum has plans to add more. The current collection is already mind-boggling. Knowing there is more to come simply gives a reason for visiting again.

Just outside the door was this vintage quilt. It was for sale for $300.

Admission includes a guided tour, which would ordinarily have us running for the door. This tour was nothing short of fascinating. There was so much to know and learn about the items included in the collection that a guided tour was the best way to enjoy it. I listened in rapt attention. Other visitors were arriving and joining in at various times.

So...just feast your eyes on this treasury of feline fun. The first room includes cats from carnivals, circuses, and games. These were all large cats.

Our guide gave us information about the artist who created these carousel cats, and I'm sorry, but in the excitement, I've forgotten his name.

This one is a miniature of the full-sized carousel located at Knott's Berry Farm in California.

At our feet was the world's largest pet rock...as large as a life-sized cat.

This was a mechanical cat. The garbage can was life-sized and the cat raised up, lifting the lid, like Oscar the Grouch.

Behind us were two pinball-type games.

Thousands of items were housed in glass display cases. Much of the collection was behind glass, and so you'll notice a lot of reflections in my pictures. 

They were well-organized and categorized in a way that made complete sense, and also in a way that added to the interest of the tour. I had no idea there were so many ways to categorize felines. These two were made of rabbit fur, and haven't withstood the test of time as well as some of the others.

Until I visited the museum, I had no clue how much cats had contributed to our culture and media, and that was perhaps the most interesting part of this visit.

It would be impossible to show you everything we saw, but I'm going to give you a good sampling, and then encourage you to see for yourself. We went because it was unusual and...well...cats. We were surprised at how much fun it was.

In this display were wind up toys...and there were hundreds of these. This one happens to show some of the earliest Felix the Cat cats.

This one was made from yo-yo's.

These next two are needlepoint, and there's our friend, Garfield.

The upper shelf in the image below were cat tintypes. When a tintype was made, the subjects of the image had to hold completely still for three full minutes, which is why you never see people in vintage photographs smiling. These tintypes included cats. While some of the children in the pictures had moved and blurred their image, the cats held still, "proving that cats can hold still longer than children," our guide quipped.

Essentially every square inch of this two-room museum was covered in cat memorabilia...up the walls to the ceiling.

These were large masks, one from a Mardi Gras celebration.

Here's something I didn't know about, and it made me think of the Hobo Quilt I have in progress. They were approximately 3-inch clay disks that folks hung on their homes and fences during the Great Depression to designate themselves as "hobo friendly."

I was thrilled to find one for sale in the gift shop portion of the museum, and I picked up the one below. I'm thinking I might create a quilt block from it to be included in my quilt.

This is the message on the reverse side.

Some stuff was just plain fun. Who sees a quilt here?

This one was created by a local artist. Do you recognize the scene?

It's the Abbey Road album cover with the Beatles standing behind the cats.

This display was one of the most interesting to me. I'd never heard of Louis Wain, but he holds a special place in history. He was an English artist with a special talent for painting cats.

He was also one of the first people to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, mainly because he was an artist of some fame, and this gave medical folks a chance to follow and study the progression of his disease. Our guide told us that his case is required subject matter for students of psychiatry. Below are some of his later cats. You can read more about the man right here.

The one below is a print of the original, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He had a special talent for capturing cat faces. Over time, the disease began to affect his art, and the one below is one of his latest works.

He wasn't the only artist represented in the collection, however. Andy Warhol had four cats over his lifetime, all named Sam. Here are two of his prints.

Also, this Picasso print.

The collection went on and on. Here is a pan for baking cornbread in the shape of a cat.

This one was made of yarn.

Here's one in crewel embroidery.

This one was pressed flowers.

There was a petrified cat centuries old, which I haven't included because, frankly, it could be upsetting to look at. It was interesting because it was found when a centuries-old English tudor-style mansion was restored. In the chimney they found a petrified cat. The story goes that cats were known to jump from rooftop to rooftop, and this cat apparently got stuck in a chimney. Over time through freezing, smoke, and fire, it petrified and was found preserved by later generations. Our guide pointed out that it was taxinomically identical to present day cats, demonstrating that house cats, as we see them today, are essentially a perfect creation requiring no further evolutionary change. Even the whiskers on the specimen in the museum were still intact.

So, that was our visit to The American Museum of the House Cat. We went for the fun of it, but we went away thinking we'd just seen something unique and valuable. I encourage you to see it for yourself. Those of you who live nearby...get going! And if you visit the area in your travels, it's a must-see, and just half an hour away from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

On the way home, I shot some pictures of this school complex near the RV park. It's in the town of Cherokee, and I've admired how beautiful the structure is. It appears to be a school complex encompassing grades from K-12. Notice the details in the painting and the large picture windows that look like feathers.

I couldn't get better pictures because of the elaborate fencing that blocked my view, but I'm including what I can.

I noticed this quilt block on one of the walls as we left the RV park yesterday, and that prompted me to want to show you the whole thing.

It poured rain last night, and we were expecting freezing temperatures that did not materialize. We weren't sure when we went to bed if we would be leaving this morning or staying for a few more days. The rain has stopped now and there's no ice on the road, and so we'll be moving along. We had in mind to head back east, and we will eventually. It made sense to first head south, however, into South Carolina to see Congaree National Park. It only became a national park in 2003, and so it's new to both of us. We'll see that first and then head back north and east to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and the Outer Banks area, seeing a few things of interest along the way.