The small museum called “miaouseum” was born in 2020 in the Iranian capital. It presents reproductions of paintings, photos, caricatures and a collection of stamps from many countries celebrating the cat.
It is a large tomcat lying nonchalantly on the stairs that welcomes the audience to the Tehran Cat Museum Cafe, a strange establishment where about thirty felines roam freely in the exhibition halls.
They are called Shahrzad, Farrokh, Shapoor or Shirin and are the real stars of this museum that opened in 2020 in a small two-story building in the center of the Iranian capital.
Its promoters named it the “miaouseum” (“miaousée” in English) to symbolize their ambition to “to coexist without problems” visitors and cats in the rooms, such as on the cafe’s terrace, explains the director, Hossein Hamleh Dari.
Not very wealthy, the private museum presents on its faded walls reproductions of paintings, photos, caricatures and a collection of stamps from many countries (Iran, Korea, Guinea, Ukraine…) celebrating the cat.
Citizen cats in Iran
The audience at the cat museum seems above all to have come to approach, pet or play with the thirty cats, all adopted, representatives of the great diversity of cat breeds.
Among them are several Persian cats with long hair and a calm character, which would originally come from the region of Persia that today borders Iran and Turkey.
“As I love cats, I really like this place with its friendly atmosphere”, says Mina, a 21-year-old student, cuddling a cat with soft brown fur. Also keen on these pets, his friend Mohammad, 20, decided, “to buy a cat in the coming weeks.
“When people come here and meet Farrokh, a cat born blind but very agile, they realize that cats are also citizens of this city and can coexist with the population.” wish Hossein Hamleh Dari.
He thus seeks to rehabilitate their reputation, which suffers from the nuisance created by the large number of stray cats in the streets of big cities, Tehran in the lead.
Cats have been popular pets in Iran for centuries. “They are represented in many works of art, especially Persian miniatures”, emphasizes Hossein Hamleh Dari and gives the example of Babri Khan, the famous cat of Nassereddine Shah who ruled from 1848 to 1896 over Iran.
All Iranians also know the famous humorous fable Masnavi Mush-O Gorbeh (The mouse and the cat in Persian), a political satire written by the poet Obeid Zakani in the 14th century, which features a cunning and confident cat.