The Cat Museum, which opened last year in Kraków, is admittedly small, spanning a petite 161-square-foot space on Floriańska Street. But owners Nataliya Koshivaya and her husband Yuri Snevshikov haven’t let those constraints stop them from cramming some 1,000 cat-themed collectibles and curiosities—ranging from soap dispensers to snow globes—within its humble walls.
Billed on Trip Advisor, where it boasts a 4.5-star rating, as the “only cat museum in Poland,” the attraction joins several other institutions celebrating humankind’s collective fascination with all things feline. Among others, writes Kirstin Fawcett for Mental Floss, the list includes similarly named outposts in Malaysia, Lithuania and Belarus.
Compared with its sibling institutions, the Polish museum has modest holdings. It doesn’t explore cats’ natural history or biology, instead simply showcasing Koshivaya and Snevshikov’s extensive private collection of kitty knickknacks, started some 15 years ago in their home country of Ukraine with a friend’s gift of a pair of feline figurines emblazoned with the German phrase “nur für dich” (“just for you”), reports Alex Webber for Polish outlet the First News.
From there, the couple’s cache quickly ballooned to gargantuan proportions, teeming with cat curios from around the globe, Koshivaya tells Reuters. Some took the form of culinary items like teapots or pepper shakers, while others served as paperweights or handbags. Friends even began to bring the pair zany cat portraits that quickly accumulated on their walls.
When political conflicts began to break out in Donetsk, Koshivaya and Snevshikov decided to flee Ukraine, packing each of their precious cat-themed possessions along for the ride. The journey was harrowing for all involved: To cross customs, the couple had to unpack each of the trinkets individually, and at least 15 of the most delicate figures broke, according to El País.
But enough of the faux cats survived to fill the new museum, which has been dubbed a “must see,” according to First News, and currently ranks 65th out of the 295 Kraków tourist attractions listed on Trip Advisor. In the wake of their early success, the couple already has plans to expand, with the ultimate goal of opening a second room to house live cats to complement their artistic counterparts.
For now, just one bona fide feline roams the Cat Museum’s halls: a gray cat named Geisha, who Koshivaya describes as the institution’s “real owner.”