The world’s most famous cat, aka the “humble” house cat, is getting a museum dedicated to their own awesomeness! That’s right. On April 1, Dr. Harold Sims has officially opened the doors to the American Museum of the House Cat in Sylva, North Carolina. It’s the only one of its kind in the country dedicated specifically to house cats.
The museum is located inside the Savannah School, a historic landmark which also houses the Old School House Antique Mall, in The Gateway to the Smokey Mountain National Park in Jackson County. It’s 4 miles south of the town of Dillsboro, and less than an hour’s drive away from the city of Asheville.
Sims, known as the “Cat Man” in Northern Carolina, is a retired college biology professor, cat shelter owner and advocate, plus avid collector of cat-themed items. We’re not just talking lucky cat trinkets here. For over 30 years, Sims has amassed a vast and impressive collection of cat relics from vintage pet store advertising and cat art including some Andy Warhols, to a hand-carved carousel kitty and a set of mid-century Italian ceramic “spaghetti” kitties. Some of his most valuable artifacts include a bronze statue of Bastet–the Egyptian feline goddess, which dates back to 600 B.C., and a petrified cat pulled out of a 16th century English chimney with its whiskers still intact.
The museum is the culmination of Sims’s years of planning and dreaming to open his own cat museum. It has two rooms packed with 10,000+ items. Volunteer staff man the museum, and tours are self-guided. If you’re lucky, you might catch Sims around sharing interesting info on some items. According to Sims, “The museum will be an educational institution where one can learn the history of the house cat, its place of origin and migration all over the world, and how the cat has interacted with humankind throughout the ages”. And his mission is “to display my collection in a museum where these items can be shared and enjoyed by all cat lovers, and provide a place where everyone can learn more about the house cat”. True enough, there’s no doubt that cat lovers from all over will want to come to this place that gives homage to the unique bond between cats and humans.
Entrance fee is $5 per person, $2 for kids under 12. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday, 10-5 PM, and Sunday, 12-5 PM. Proceeds go to Sim’s organization, Catman2, a cage-free and no-kill cat rescue and rehabilitation shelter (after some of it goes to museum upkeep).