CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - The American Museum of the House Cat has opened in North Carolina, proving that we as a nation have not yet run out of ideas for quirky roadside attractions.
And quirky is the word. Among the 10,000 artifacts included is a petrified cat pulled from a 16th century English chimney, its last meow frozen in time.
The museum opened April 1 in Sylva, 160 miles northwest of Charlotte, and its the brainchild of a guy known in that area as "The Cat Man."
His real name is Harold Sims and he's a retired college professor and cat shelter owner who has taken a love of house cats to the next level. His is not the only cat museum in the nation (one in Ohio holds nothing but Japanese toy cats), but it's the only one honoring house cats.
"My mission now is to display my collection in a museum where these items can be shared and enjoyed by all cat lovers, and provide a place where everyone can learn more about the house cat," Sims wrote on AnimalPeopleForum.org.
"The museum will be an educational institution where one can learn the history of the house cat, its place of origin and migration all over the world, and how the cat has interacted with humankind throughout the ages."
Tours are self guided, the staff is all volunteer and the museum is entered through an Antique Mall.
If the idea strikes you as eccentric, keep in mind that North Carolina's mountains are also home to the Aluminum Tree & Ornament Museum, the world's only museum dedicated to vintage aluminum Christmas trees.
The Asheville Citizen-Times recently profiled the museum and described it as a place that highlights "the bond between humans and cats, from ancient Egypt to modern day." The collection, compiled over 30 years, includes antique cat toys from the 1930s, pet store advertising from centuries past, and a hand-carved carousel kitty, says the Citizen-Times.
The Web site RomanticAsheville.com says a highlight is a bronze of the feline goddess Bastet, dating back to 600 BC.
"On most days, Harold will be there to share interesting tidbits about items that fascinate you," says RomanticAsheville. "You can't see a petrified cat just anywhere - and it still has its whiskers!"