Welcome to Cat City! the bus driver announced upon arrival in Kuching.
I had already been having a rough day. The news that kucing in Malay meant ‘cat’ sent a wave of fear down my spine. Images of a hot, humid city overrun with fluffy moving furballs infusing the air with trails of dander suddenly clouded my vision. I felt my airway tightening with a phantom allergic reaction. I am not a little allergic to cats; I am asthma-inducing, sinus-imploding, eyeballs-a-flaming allergic to cats.
Why had no one mentioned this fact earlier?! I screamed in my head.
I was on guard from the moment I stepped off of that bus. Where were they lurking, these slinky felines with their adorable allergens?
PRELIMINARY CAT ASSESSMENT:
Number of cats I expected to see: 9 trillion.
Health threat level assessment: EXTREME.
I have never been so alert while on vacation. Instead of strolling down the riverway through the parks and taking in the lovely views, I was scouting for cats as if I was on a military recon patrol.
I was equally vigilant over my meal times, scanning the restaurants and cafes for any tails, and frequently looking up from my delicious pansoh manok (chicken chili cooked in bamboo) and laksa soup, which tastes a bit like Singapore noodles in soup form.
My inspection of the Sarawak Museum was all the more thorough, because I was surveying both the exhibits and the grounds for cats in addition to learning fascinating information about the history of Kuching from British colonialism and the first Caucasian rajah of Sarawak, to out-of-this world indigenous carvings from the tribes of Borneo, to the bright coloured temples and peaceful gardens of Chinatown.
On the third day, I finally began to relax my guard.
It was clear that although Kuching LOVES cats, there are not that many cats around. It could be that cats are so important in Kuching that they have their own palaces that they never leave. Or maybe they are all kept at the Cat Museum.
Yes, Kuching has a Cat Museum where cat lovers can revel in their love affair with felines and learn how cats have been human companions for eons. Or at a minimum for 3000 years, since that is the age of the Egyptian cat mummy in the museum.
Yes, they have a cat mummy.
FINAL CAT ASSESSMENT REPORT:
Numbers of cats I actually saw: 7*.
*and these were cat statues.
Health threat level assessment: NON-EXISTENT.