Cat city with no cats? Discover the stories behind Kuching, Sarawak

Statues of a loving cat family at MBKS Garden Park.

By Ling Hui

KUCHING, March 10: Many visitors come to Kuching under the illusion that cats can be found roaming all over the place because the name of the city means ‘cat’ in the Malay language.

That impression might have been true in the past, when James Brooke visited Kuching for the first time in 1839.

The story goes that when Kuching town came into view as he sailed up from the Sarawak River, cats were seen everywhere along the riverbank.

Brooke, who was trying to impress his fellow travellers with his knowledge of the Malay language, referred to the cats as ‘Kuching’, and the name has stuck ever since, according to Joan Lo in “Glimpses from Sarawak’s Past”.

Another narrative says that Kuching got its name from the many ‘mata kucing’ (longan fruit) trees along the banks of a little stream called Sungai Mata Kucing near the old Tua Pek Kong Temple, which is today the Chinese Museum building.

While the exact origin of Kuching’s name remains elusive, the city’s fondness for cats is undeniable. Cats hold a special place in the hearts of Kuchingites, evident in various cultural manifestations throughout the city.

Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Kuching’s feline affinity is the numerous cat statues scattered across the city.

These cat sculptures adorning the streets of Kuching City also serve as popular landmarks and photo opportunities for locals and tourists alike.

Other than sculptures, there are also topiaries and murals with cat themes around.

Meanwhile, located atop Bukit Siol, in the Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) complex, the Cat Museum houses a vast collection of over 4,000 feline-related artifacts, artworks, and memorabilia.

So, how many cats have you spotted in Kuching so far? — DayakDaily