Cats big and small. Some black, some white. Others bright orange or bursting with other colors. All adorable and painted on the walls of Penang’s streets.
For cat and art lovers like me, George Town, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Penang, Malaysia, is a dream destination. These cats are in fact one of the reasons I fell in love with Penang.
While Penang is abundant with beautiful street art, the cats particularly stand out with their cuteness. And, they are also not just there for looks alone; they were painted in 2013 by Malaysian and Thai artists of the Artists for Stray Animals to raise awareness about stray animals and encourage adoption of the city’s “unwanted” street cats and dogs. The project was called “101 Lost Kittens.”
In fact, one of the murals – my favorite – is a painting of a real cat, Skippy, who has a deformed leg. She was rescued, adopted, and is now living in Langkawi.
Skippy, a painting of a real cat, located in George Town’s Armenian Street. You can see how the real Skippy looks like here.
Pssst! There’s a rat over there, Skippy!
It is quite easy to find all these cute cats; most accommodations give free maps, and one of these maps is a detailed map of Penang’s street art. It is best to take at least one day to see all the cats and other street art.
Here’s a portion of Penang’s street art map.
On my first visit to Penang, I had at least one clear mission: to see all of Penang’s cat street art. A few locals claimed that the “101 Lost Kittens” is literal – there are indeed 101 cats to be found among George Town’s street art. While I am not sure I saw all of them and I lost count of all the cats I saw, I was happy to see all of the cats listed in Penang’s street art map, and some that are not.
Here are the cats I saw. A few of these photos are taken on my second visit:
“The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This.” Yes, he certainly wouldn’t! I was at first disturbed with this artwork, found at an alley from Ah Quee Street, but I later understood its message against animal cruelty. These were the first cats I saw on my street art walk.
“Cats Walking for Animal Awareness.” And I am following behind them! There are far more of these cats beyond the frame of this photo. After seeing the Bruce Lee and cat mural, my travel companion and I walked past other street art before seeing these at Beach Street, heading on to Victoria Street.
One of the cute black cats up close. I tried counting all of them, but lost track.
“Cats And Humans Happily Living Together.” This is a cats’ procession of Taoist deities. (I didn’t see any humans, though, as the title suggests, until I joined the artwork hehe). My friend and I went back to Armenia St. and headed to Khoo Kongsi area (arguably the most famous and most-visited clan house in Penang) and later saw this.
The same artwork from a different angle. A more recent photo, taken 2016.
Cat guarding the bikes! This cat was not part of the street art map, but we were happy to see this anyway as we walked along Armenian Street.
“Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat.” The title seems to be a message to potential adopters. A grayish cat looks up at the beckoning or waving “fortune cats” (also known as maneki neko) and possibly at the rat on the left. We saw this as we walked farther down Armenian Street and passed by Skippy. This cat is possibly the second most famous artwork after Skippy, ubiquitous in Penang souvenirs like refrigerator magnets and notebooks.
“Please Care And Bathe Me.” Another cute and gentle request to potential adopters to raise stray animal awareness. This artwork is just near Skippy.
Saw this cute mini-cat art while we took a water break from all the walking and the heat.
This time it’s the cat doing the kicking, and he’s bad-ass. Saw this artwork along Victoria Street, though it’s not listed on the Penang street art map.
When we went back to Armenian St. on the way to our bus stop, I happily found another one of the black cats, away from the merry band of “Cats Walking for Animal Awareness.”
The next day, as I explored more of George Town’s streets, I chanced upon this lion dance. Now, lions are not technically cats, but are definitely beautiful relatives!
There are hardly any stray cats in George Town – the organizations for stray animals seem to be thorough in their work. I did glimpse a cat on my first visit after I saw that lion dance (See that beside the door?), though none on my next.
“No Animal Discrimination Please.” Yes to equal treatment of cats and dogs, as this artwork seems to suggest. Walking along Armenian Street again that day, I found an alley that led to this.
“I Can Help Catch Rats.” At another alley from Armenian St., I found this colorful artwork.
“Shade Me If You Love Me.” Found them at Victoria St. Another cute message of appeal to potential cat parents.
“Even If Handicapped, Still Love Me.” The title of the artwork speaks for itself. Also saw this at Victoria Street.
Behind this cat is a direct appeal from the Artist for Stray Animals.
On my next visit, this 2016, I saw this cat for the first time at the street outside Khoo Kongsi clan house. .
I believe there may be other cat artworks then and now I haven’t seen yet. It is wonderful to find all the cat street art marked on the map, but it’s also exciting to stumble upon those that are not.
So to cat and art lovers out there, happy cat hunting! May you find what you are looking for and far more than that. And if by chance you find some I haven’t seen, I would love it if you can share them with me.
How to get to Penang: Take a flight to Kuala Lumpur, then another flight to Penang. You can also reach Penang by bus or train from KL, but if you want to go straight to Penang with no detours or side trips, it is best to fly, since getting to Penang by land requires more than one trip, as downtown KL is around an hour from the airport. I recommend using AirAsia’s Fly-Thru service, which I did on my second visit, thanks to AirAsia. It works like a connecting flight, and if you have check-in baggage, you can just get it in Penang instead of getting it in KL then checking it in again. Fly-Thru helped me breeze through check-in, unlike on my first visit when I booked my AirAsia Manila-KL and KL-Penang tickets separately.
From Penang’s airport there are buses that can take you to the city proper. On my first visit I rode the 401E bus, which took me to George Town.