American Museum of the House Cat – Sylva, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura

American Museum of the House Cat

This vast kitty-themed collection illustrates the history of human-cat interaction. 


Cats have a regal bearing that seems to have fascinated human beings throughout history.  Bastet, a feline goddess, was an important deity in ancient Egypt, most commonly represented by a sitting cat staring straight ahead.  A bronze statue of the worshipped feline dating back to 600 B.C. is one of the highlights of the American Museum of the House Cat, which has hundreds of exhibits dedicated to the beloved species.

Founded in April 2017 by the local “Catman” Harold Sims, the museum focuses specifically on the house cat, the domesticated pet. The museum features cat memorabilia collected by Sims over three decades: A petrified cat rescued from a 16th-century English fireplace, a hand-carved kitty carousel, antique cat toys, and cat beer steins are all on display. 

The retired biology professor and his wife Kay set up a no-kill cat shelter in 2002 right next to their home in Sylva, North Carolina. The museum was conceived as a way to share their vast cat-themed collection with feline lovers, document the history of human-cat interaction, and raise money for the shelter. Most days, Sims is at the museum, adding to the unique experience with stories about the exhibits.

Know Before You Go

Note that a map will show that the museum is on Route 23; some GPS directions may have you turning in different directions.  From Hwy 74 just go south on 23 and you can't miss it on your left.  The museum relocated in 2020 south just down the road to a larger building. A u-turn is required if coming from the north.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.  There are discounts for seniors and military; ask at the door.  The Catman himself is often there and will tell you about pieces or just talk about anything cat-related.  On our last visit, he told us he was in his 80s and was glad to find a place and people to continue on his legacy.

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