Love cats? How about a whole museum dedicated to them? I headed out to Amsterdam’s De Kattenkabinet, or The Cat Cabinet, for a look at the ultimate cat-lover’s fantasy.
My landlord won’t let me have a cat, because even though cats are graceful and clean, adoring, sensitive alternatives to boyfriends, cats ruin furniture. I thought, rather than mope into photos of cats I can’t adopt on the Internet, I’d go with a friend to The Cat Cabinet and fill myself up on all things feline there.
The Cat Cabinet is based in an old canal house on the Herengracht, that dates back to 1667. It’s stuffed with cat memorabilia, all collected by a man called Bob Meijer, who, for the biggest Cat Man in the land is fairly normal-looking once you Google him. He dedicated this collection to his own cat, John Piermont Morgan.I like to think John Piermont Morgan posed for this self portrait on a throne Bob whittled himself from fishbones and furnished with silk and catnip.
The house that hosts The Cabinet Cabinet on its 1st floor was originally built for the van Loon brothers, who were part of a wealthy merchant family. Maybe they were crazy cat people, too. Maybe this house has always been a gateway to kitty heaven. Or hell, if this painting is anything to go by:
Actually, I think this painting is really saying that cats have a habit of bewitching us, till we feel as though they own us, instead of the other way round. I didn’t really think too much about it at the time because I was too busy looking for the real cats and imagining the van Loons draped in leopard print, gallivanting round the baroque rooms, batting lion-like lashes at all their social gatherings.
I imagine they liked to dress up and host cat-themed parties, where they’d all sip milk from saucers and lie on their backs looking up at this ceiling:
There’s a lot of red and gold here. Knowing the van Loons like we do by now, it’s likely they hired tall, Asian men dressed as Persian tigers to help them do the decorating and Bob just touched it up.
We looked for cats amongst the vintage sofas, behind the regal scarlet curtains. We hoped to find them sprawled along 17th-century woodwork items. But there were none.
There were however works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen, Henriette Ronner Knip, Toulouse-Lautrec and more. I know this because I read it on Google, but like I said, we were looking for the cats the whole time so I didn’t really pay much attention to who did what. Or why.
You can read about some of their reasons if you want, on all the little description cards, but to me they all mean the same thing: Cats are awesome and they’ve been awesome for so long, which probably means they will always be awesome and that is all we need to know.
My friend here loves cats, maybe more than me. With the possibility high that his own two cats will one day tire of human interaction, he was excited to find a place that might fulfil his needs.
With still no cats in sight, he sat a while on this exquisite cat-themed chair, and I looked a little bit more at that poster behind him, of kittens in shoes.
Maybe this house was where people came to look at cat things, long before YouTube was invented. Maybe if The Cat Cabinet adds a ‘Cats on YouTube’ room that plays 20-million different cat videos at the same time on tiny screens they could charge way more to get in and people wouldn’t be so annoyed about the lack of real cats.
Here I am in the garden at The Cat Cabinet in front of some more cat pictures, which must really annoy the neighbours out the back there. Imagine seeing all these giggly cat-fans taking photos like this while you’re tottering about naked, forgetting the window’s open.
The garden might actually be the best part though, because you can literally imagine the van Loons running round all the fountains in their slinkiest cream Siamese cat suits, way before there were any neighbours to worry about.
There is also a giant poster of a Space Cat and some graffiti on a wall, but I don’t know if the graffiti is part of the exhibit. I was wondering if maybe there were some cats stuck in that shed behind me, because there weren’t any anywhere else, until I went back into the house and saw two all at once.
It was a moment of pure cat magic.
To sum it up:
The worst part of The Cat Cabinet Amsterdam? No cats till right at the very end.
The best part of The Cat Cabinet Amsterdam? Seeing all the people looking for cats.
DISCLAIMER: There are 5 cats who live in the The Cat Cabinet. They were probably all out being awesome somewhere else on my visit.