Unlike dogs, cats don’t usually travel very well. So when we cat lovers are on the road, we rely on the local cat populations to get our purr fix. With nine months and over twenty countries under our belts, we found some of the best cat hotspots on the world.
If you love cats as much as I do, these locations are sure to put a whisker-induced smile on your face!
Now, truth be told, we found cats almost everywhere we went. Or rather… they found us (or perhaps just me). We were even visited by felines in a couple camps in Namibia! We used to joke that we wouldn’t see a cat all day. The thought would strike me, and I’d casually remark, “where are all the kitties?” And one would just appear! Perhaps my clothes are secretly infused with catnip.
It delighted me to no end! We even took to naming them in our Instagram stories. I befriended over 160 individual felines (I kind of lost count after that). But some places were more cat-saturated than others.
#6: Rome, Italy
The famous Colosseum is actually home to a number of cat colonies, and in Rome, any groups of five or more felines are protected by law. However, cats aren’t too fond of large crowds (and neither are we), so with the throngs of tourists, they mostly kept out of sight. They do get a mention on our list, though, for the cat-themed Colosseum magnets and official notices upon entering.
#5: Okonjima Nature Reserve, Namibia
I have to mention this gem for those seeking the big cats. If you’ve been following our adventures, you’ll know we struck out on seeing lions and cheetahs when we spent a week in Namibia’s Etosha National Park. Therefore, we went 8 hours out of our way to backtrack to the Okonjima Nature Reserve – a reserve specifically dedicated to education and rescue of large cats.
Mostly a sanctuary for leopards, the site also shelters cheetahs and lions. If you want to see the big cats in their element, you have a much higher likelihood of seeing them on one of the game drives here. You can read our entire leopard-seeking adventure here.
#4: Kotor, Montenegro
Now here, we saw lots of kittehs! Known for its stray cat populations, this cute little town in Montenegro is also a charming place to explore in its own right. Climb the fortress ruins behind the center of town, and you’ll have plenty of feline companions with whom to share the view.
Kotor even has a dedicated cat museum (that we somehow stupidly missed when we were there)!!
We also follow @kotorkitties on Instagram, whose mission it is to care for the Kotor cat population through a trap-neuter-release program and public education.
#3: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Also known as “Kings Landing” by Game of Thrones enthusiasts, this walled city on the coast of the Adriatic Sea quickly became one of our favorite places. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful place to visit, it comes with some remarkable history and unique architecture to explore.
The main old town is centered around a plaza with narrow alleys ascending in stairs to the outer walls. And each of these winding paths house dozens of nooks for kitties to take shelter, from which they’ll mew at you for scraps as you pass. We got in the habit of carrying cat treats on us, and I stopped frequently for those who would permit my affection (much to Aaron’s chagrin).
From the bus stop to the local grocery, the bridge through the wall to the pier, we found feline friends around every corner! Our Airbnb in Dubrovnik was even bedecked in cat-themed linens and curtains!!
I should also mention that this was true for most of the places we visited in Croatia. The large hill overlooking Split was sprinkled in paw prints, cats joined us at the sea organ in Zadar, and I had a kitty curl up in my lap in Trogir (I was chosen!!!). This could be one of the reasons we fell so much in love with Croatia!
It should be no surprise that Japan nears the top of this list. With compact living – particularly in the cities – cats make the perfect small, low-maintenance companion for the hardworking Japanese.
Japan has a particular affinity for felines, and this can be seen in everything from the maneki-neko “lucky cat” welcoming guests into shops and “cat girls” at the maid cafes to cat-themed dishware and the original cat cafes that have now swept the globe. We also saw them lining the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto.
Japan is even the home of both Aoshima and Umashima – two literal cat islands! These kitty havens are home to over 100 cats each, far surpassing the human populations of about 15 and 30, respectively. We didn’t get a chance to see these last time, so you can bet that these are high on our bucket list for our return trip!
#1: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul (not Constantinople) has become world-famous for its street cats (possibly due, in part, to the cat-aholic’s favorite documentary, Kedi). And it’s easy to see why! Not only can they be found wandering the streets everywhere throughout the city, but they are actively protected and cared for (even during a pandemic!). Local residents put out boxes for shelter and dry kibble for food.
Believe it or not, but there are actually more stray dogs in Istanbul than cats. We saw our fair share of the former, but we never would have suspected, even after a local pooch followed us along the waterfront for well over a mile. Perhaps I just have eyes for cats, because they appeared to be much more plentiful.
Why are there so many there? This article actually answers that question quite well. Evidently, cats are considered a very clean animal and are thus revered in Muslim communities. It helps that they are also fantastic hunters, keeping mice and rat populations at bay.
If you want the full feline immersion, we found the highest populations on the Asian side in Kadıköy (Catikoy? :3).
If you find yourself lacking in purrs and whiskers, try to find your closest cat cafe. Originating in Japan, this idea of sipping a latte while playing with kittens has understandably become quite popular worldwide. We have a cat cafe at home in Portland, and we also visited one in Bristol (in addition to two in Tokyo!). This is a fantastic way to get your kitty fix without a large local stray population.
People love cats all around the world! I definitely want to check a few of these out!
- CatCon (Los Angeles, California, USA) – What could be better than an entire convention dedicated to CATS?? Famous internet cats, panels, and more cat photo ops than you can shake a feather toy at!
- Edmonton International Cat Fest (Edmonton, Canada) – This festival is much like the convention above, but 100% of its profits goes to local cat rescues. And great news! They’re hosting a digital festival this year on May 30th for just $10. We might just do that… :3
- Kattenstoet (Ypres, Belgium) – This massive cat parade has a dark history, and I almost didn’t include it. Originating in the Dark Ages, it is thought this cat throwing festival symbolized ridding oneself of evil spirits during a time of witchcraft. Now, no cats are harmed, and only stuffed animals are thrown to expectant children below amidst massive cat floats and spectators bedecked in cat costumes.
- Cat Video Festival (Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA) – The internet is made of cats, right? We love watching their furry antics, and this festival collects the best gems from the interwebs into a night of catertainment. We were fortunate to attend a similar spinoff in our own city, where we got to see Moshow, the cat rapper live!
- Catfest (London, UK) – Panels, kittens, vegan food, videos, shops, and all things cat – what’s not to love?
If all else fails (or if you’re like me and just can’t get enough kitties in your life), you can also consider housesitting during your travels. Not only do you get to come home from each day of sightseeing to a warm fuzzball, but this type of arrangement has the added bonus of free lodging! It is by far our favorite way to travel.
We loved the time we got to spend with Jack, Mr. Purrkins (yes, really!), Bille Sox, Marvel (I loved his antics more than Aaron did), Lola, Jackson, Dimka, Captain Ahab, Zissou, Blackie, Ron, Oscar, Kedi (in Istanbul!), and Chispo, and we miss each and every one of them.
You can read more about our experiences with housesitting and other ways we save on lodging here.
As some of you might have figured out by now, I am a tad obsessed with cats. I dearly love our two little fuzz balls at home – so much that I crocheted little minis of them out of their own fur to take traveling with us.
We’re sad we haven’t gotten to Southeast Asia yet, as we hear places like Malaysia are also quite fond of cats. Once we do, I imagine we’ll need to update this post with a few more!
I’m always looking for new cat experiences around the world, and I can’t wait to discover new kitty havens. Someday, perhaps I’ll even find a cat who wants to travel with us!
Check out some of our favorite worldly felines in our latest video!
Where have you found the best cat spots around the world?
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