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So you’ve left your own cat at home and are off to see the world. But what to do when you start missing your feline fur ball? Why, make an excursion to one of these sure-fire cat-spotting destinations, of course! At some you will find real living, breathing cats galore. At others, you’ll encounter an assortment of kitty oddities. But they’re all the cat’s meow.

RELATED: 9 places to hang out with animals in the wild

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Kuching Cat Fountain | Flickr photo: Travolution360

Kuching: Borneo, Sarawak province, Malaysia

Kuching is the Malay word for cat, so it isn’t a big surprise to find everything cat here in this Borneo haven, including the Kuching Cat Museum—said to be the world’s first and biggest cat museum—which is home to more than 4,000 cat-related artifacts. The origin of the cat is documented—does 5,000 years seem long enough?—and the museum displays images of all kinds, plus sculptures, memorabilia and even stuffed cats.    

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Houtong “cat village” | Flickr photo: cotaro70s

Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park: Houtong, Taiwan

This little “cat village” was known as a coal-mining town until the 1970s. Now, as a result of pictures being posted on the internet back in 2008, it is famous as the home to a few hundred abandoned cats living in the Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park. Visitors come here from around the world to see and photograph them, and everything cat-related is for sale, including cat-shaped pineapple cakes. As for the welfare of the animals, town residents actually do take care of the cats.

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Cat Heaven Island | Flickr photo: torne (where’s my lens cap?)

Cat Heaven Island: Tashirojima, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan

There are more cats than humans in this small Japanese fishing village (the ratio is six to one and there are about 100 people), which is nicknamed Neko Island—“neko” means “cat” in Japanese—and Cat Heaven Island. Apparently, cats at one time were brought in to take care of a problem with mice, and then the fisherman began to believe cats could predict the weather. Probably because locals believe it brings them good luck and prosperity to take good care of the cats, the island is overrun with feral felines who run the show.   

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Kalkan, Turkey

Located on the Mediterranean, this charming fishing town attracts visitors with its traditional white-washed homes and brightly colored bougainvillea. Additionally, it has become known for its army of stray cats that are seen everywhere, even on the beach. (There are also a lot of abandoned dogs here.) The Kalkan Association for the Protection of Street Animals tends to them all, keeping them healthy and happy, and tourists now arrive in droves to mingle with them. 

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Hemingway Home & Museum | Flickr photo: Sam Howzit

Hemingway Home & Museum: Key West, Florida, U.S.A.

A large colony of cats flourish at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, which is dedicated to the writer’s life and work and is the most-visited attraction in town. There are more than 50 felines living on site, and all are descendants of the author’s original pet—Snow White, a white polydactyl (six-toed) cat gifted to him by a sea captain. Many have inherited this trait, and what’s not to love about a museum that allows felines with fluffy tails to recline on glass exhibit cases while visitors pick up a little culture? 

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The Algonquin Hotel, a purr-fect place to stay

The Algonquin Hotel: New York, NY

In the late 1930s a cat wandered into The Algonquin Hotel searching for food and shelter, birthing the tradition there of having a resident feline. That cat was named Hamlet by actor and regular guest John Barrymore. (To this day, male cats are named Hamlet—there have been 8—and female cats are named Matilda—there have been 3.)  Matilda III, a pampered beige Ragdoll longhair, recently resigned at age 11. Now one-year-old Hamlet 8, an orange rescue cat, runs the show. 

Kattenstoet Festival: Ypres, Belgium

Once upon a time, cats were brought to this Belgian town to keep mice away from precious wools, then thrown from the tower windows when spring arrived and they were no longer needed. What a ghastly tradition to celebrate, but it has been altered for the annual May Kattenstoet Festival (Festival of the Cats). Today, stuffed kittens are thrown instead. As many as 50,000 people are expected to enjoy next year’s three-hour cat parade, cat tossing from the belfry into the town square and witch-burning reenactment. 

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Cats at rest at Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome

Largo di Torre Argentina: Rome, Italy

Rome‘s ancient Largo di Torre Argentina has been taken over by cats and is now known as the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. The cats delight tourists as they prowl among the stately columns. Around 300 cats currently reside here, but an attempt is being made to lower that number via an adoption program that lets you take home your favorite. Donations from tourists have helped the sanctuary evolve into a professional operation that uses the funds to feed and spay them.

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The Cat Boat | Flickr photo: taver

De Poezenboot: Amsterdam, Netherlands  

Located on the Singel Canal, De Poezenboot (the Cat Boat) in Amsterdam has been here since 1968. Also known as the “pussy boat,” this houseboat for homeless felines provides unique shelter—hope literally floats here. When it is open for boarding, you can meet the cats up close; and when it isn’t, you can view the cats outside from the sidewalk. 

Moscow Cats Theatre: Moscow, Russia

You might have seen the occasional cat jump through a hoop before, but this extravaganza of a show in Moscow presents a troupe of 120 cats and 4 dogs—many are rescues—trained to walk tight ropes and balance on balls. Some also hop on skateboards and pop out of boxes. They have a traveling show, too, so if you’re not going to be in Moscow any time soon, watch for them in your home town. 

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