Before I started pet sitting and blogging for Cat Fancy, I was a travel writer. It was pretty great and sometimes I got to see animals. I snorkeled among giant manta rays in Hawaii, swam with not-at-all-interested-in-eating-me reef sharks in Bora Bora and saw so much wildlife in Yellowstone — bears, moose, eagles, bison — that I eventually stopped taking their photos because I didn’t want to even think about how I was going to curate my huge collection.
Except for the wandering-around-the-neighborhood-pet types, however, I never saw cats. If I’d been able to plan a trip completely around felines I absolutely would have, and now that all my trips are personal instead of for business I just might try it. Here are some places to consider.
Zimbabwe: Big Cat Safari
Of all the potential cat encounters, setting out on foot to see lions is beyond exciting. I’ve been hearing about Nick Murray, who runs Bushlife Safaris and takes visitors by Land Rover into Mana Pools National Park. When fresh tracks are spotted it’s time to get out and walk in hopes of spotting lions, as well as wild dogs, elephants and more. When your feet get tired you can book a canoe trip down the Zambezi River to spy hippos and crocodiles.
Visit our Wild Cat page for more big cats >>
Ypres , Belgium: Cat Festival
A festival all about cats is something I can get behind, even if it’s just held every three years. The next one isn’t until May 2015, but that just means more time to save up. Its origins are pretty awful. In the 12th century, cats were employed to kill the mice that were destroying the wool the city was known for. When they multiplied, unwanted cats were thrown from a church tower. Today’s modern festival includes lots of cat merchandise to buy, a parade featuring giant cat floats and more cat tossing, but the ones that fall from the tower are of the toy variety.
San Francisco: Cat Cafe
Unfortunately, although it has a name — KitTea — and missions to “create a Zen retreat where people and cats can hang out to the benefit of both, through the vehicle of a teahouse” and “provide homeless cats with an oasis that provides all the love and comfort of a forever home” — San Francisco’s cat cafe doesn’t have a location yet. They hope to open in the city sometime in 2014. Watch this site for more info.
Tashirojima, Japan: Cat Island
Its official name is Tashirojima, but many people call this place Cat Island instead because the cat population is much bigger than the human one, which stands at less than 100. Although cats are not considered pets on this fishing island, they are thought to be good luck and several shrines honor them. The cats are well fed and never get harassed by dogs because dogs are not allowed to live there. A ferry from Ishinomaki will get you there. Note: Ishinomaki is still recovering from the 2012 tsunami.