They might sleep for 16 hours a day, but cats can teach us a lot about life, love, and chicken treats
I’ll be honest with you – I’m not a cat person. When I see a cat on the way home, I take a detour around the carpark so I can avoid its sharp, judgemental eyes. And I’ve spent countless nights staring at my ceiling listening to kitties having their happy hour in the void deck below.
I am not a cat person.
But then I took a trip down to the Cat Museum on Purvis Street. (Or, as the owner Jessica Seet likes to call it, Purr-vis Street.) And now, I live by the lessons these furballs imparted on me.
Lion City Kitty: the Cat Museum, Muses and Mansion consists of three levels: the Museum, where you can enjoy and even purchase adorable kitty artwork; the Muses, where nine cats from the Cat Welfare Society play and await saviours to come and rescue them; and the Mansion, where another nine resident cats lounge in luxury. Lion City Kitty doesn’t serve cafe food.
So visit the museum, stay a little while with these bundles of joy, and take some tips from them on living in the Lion City. Trust me on this – I’ve met the colony and shaken their furry paws on it.
1. Things change, people change, and we should change with them
“This is a fact of life. Things change, and people come and go,” muttered Harry as he stretched inside his hiding hole in the Mansion.
All he really said was “meow, meow, meow”, but we had an unspoken understanding between us. Harry – named after Prince Harry – is the adorably cross-eyed mascot of Lion City Kitty.
Jessica explained: “We’ve been on this street for 10 years. There used to be so many cats – whole families – but now, we can only spot one or two at most.”
She also told us that some kind people do pop by to feed some of the strays that roam the alleys. The Mansion has taken in several strays, two of which are affectionately named Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts.
As for changing with the crowd, Jessica explained that the Mansion’s felines don a mini bowtie whenever visitors come around. It may just be hopefulness on my part, but something in the kitties’ eyes told me they like the change.
2. Even the perfect and good-looking get rejected
This was a sentiment that many of the gorgeous cats in Lion City Kitty voiced. Among the mews, the call of Angie stood out.
“I love this soft, rich marbled coat I was born with, and many visitors love it too,” the beautiful maine coon crooned with her tail swishing. “But I was abandoned by my breeder.”
Angie – short for Angelina Jolie – and her sister are both pure-bred maine coons, found in a box about a year ago. They are now pampered in the Mansion.
Angie’s sister, a pastel-splashed beauty named Jennifer Aniston (or Jen-Jen), had a lot to say about rejection too.
“I’m as beautiful as they come, but Brad Pitt still doesn’t want me.”
(Brad Pitt is the handsome and exotic Persian shorthair that lives in the Mansion.)
3. Someday, your prints will come
Sometimes, the key to happiness is to have hope.
Just ask Zoolander, a stray in the Muses level who is indifferent to his surroundings – until someone turns on the tap in the bathroom. He reacts like he has been waiting his whole life for this one moment.
“He loves the sound of running water, so when we use the tap he will come rushing over,” Jessica said bemusedly as she washed her hands with Zoolander staring on in a trance.
Zoolander’s eight companions on the Muses level share the same volume of anticipation while waiting for visitors to adopt them. And it pays off – Zoolander has since been adopted by the Cat Socrates Shop in Joo Chiat. Currently, Midnight (a 10-year-old pure-bred Persian) and brothers Jack and Russell, among others, are up for adoption.
Since its soft opening for private previews, Lion City Kitty has already had several cats adopted. Visitors can play with all the cats, and choose to adopt any of them from the Muses level. Another cat – or cats – will then be brought from the Cat Welfare Society and introduced into the Muses. A maximum of nine cats are housed here at a time.
For Jessica, some art prints are donated to the Museum from artists around the world. However, she does bring in feline treasures from her travels as well. We can’t always wait – we must venture and seek out our own gems too.
4. Food isn’t everything
I know, I was also taken aback when I learned this. How could anyone – or any animal – live without food?
But that said, unlike dogs (and the bulk of humans), cats don’t live for food. They don’t pounce on every opportunity to eat, even when it’s time for lunch. They won’t grab the mysterious object you’re holding in your hands to entice them.
They will wait.
The Muses level was fully stocked with bowls of food, and in the Mansion, there was only one bowl of delicious boiled chicken. But the cats weren’t prancing on it like us with McDonald’s Hello Kitty toys.
I think we can learn a lot from this. Not that we shouldn’t be excited about food, but sometimes, good things come to those who wait.
5. Fear can be eased away
What’s a cat and cat owner’s worst nightmare? Trying to get a pedicure done – except on knife blades that will claw mercilessly at you.
Actually, that might just be everyone’s worst nightmare.
Kitties are very protective of their own bodies, so they will react defensively if you try to trim their claws. (Read: they will cut you.)
But the cats of Lion City Kitty are different. Jessica has taught them to be comfortable with having their paws and claws groomed – and she gives lessons to children and new owners on how to do it.
In the case of claw-preening, Jessica teaches owners to gently rub the paws of cats while they’re still kittens, so they get used to the human touch. It’s also vital to stroke the flesh between their shoulder blades, which will prepare them for injections at the vet in the future.
“Sometimes, people are scared of cats because they don’t understand them,” she said. “So we try to educate everyone.”
Looking up from his lunch, ginger cat Georgie meows in agreement. “People always try to run away when we approach them to rub our scent,” he explains. “If you just stand still, we will brush your leg and leave you alone. Now leave me alone.”
By Pamela Chow
Lion City Kitty: the Cat Museum, Muses and Mansion is open from 9 Jan 2015, every Fri-Sun, with an admission fee of $9 (free admission for children under six). Make your reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Lion City Kitty, Pamela Chow