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Cat Museum Café in Tehran: Paws and Reflect

A Day at Tehran's Cat Museum Café

In recent years, Tehran has become home to a distinctive café-museum that captivates cat enthusiasts.

This two-story traditional house in one of Tehran’s central alleys has been transformed into a café on the first floor and a museum on the upper floors.

The café serves vegetarian food, while the museum’s walls up to the third floor are adorned with cat images from films, historical books, old photos, stamps, and significant paintings of the Persian short-legged cat.

Video: Inside the Tehran Cat Museum and Café

This café-museum does more than just house a few cats; it offers a detailed historical account of cats in paintings, literature, and history. For instance, one room features a painted epic by Obeyd Zakani.

Until a few months ago, cats freely roamed this renovated old building, but since the recent Nowruz (Persian New Year), only the second and third floors have been designated as their empire.

To enter the museum, visitors must cover their shoes with plastic bags to avoid bringing in dirt with their outdoor shoes. Ascending an ancient staircase, you are introduced to the living space of 28 cats of various breeds.

Hosting in Cat Style

Each cat here has its own character and personality. “Yal” is the oldest cat on the premises, over ten years old, and is usually asleep during museum visits.

Nazli, another museum cat, was previously exploited for breeding and now suffers from osteoporosis; rest assured, she is under special care here.

A family of Siamese cats, known for their origins in Southeast Asia, named Babak, Forough, and their child Bijan, also reside in the museum.

Farrokh and Shirin, another family within the museum, became parents after a delayed spaying procedure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the museum’s beauties, Bahar and Fereshteh are famous for their uniquely colored eyes. As the founder of the museum says, Bahar is particularly vocal, constantly meowing whenever you enter.

Azar loves to escape and thus is allowed two hours daily to roam outside. Farrokh is blind, and Siavash, a Russian Blue, is effectively the museum manager. Babak Akbari, the founder, states, “Despite many offers to buy our cats, we neither trade nor agree with it; we’ve even received high bids for them but always refuse.”

Persian Cat Abroad

The Persian cat, known for its long fur and round face with a short muzzle, was first mentioned in Pietro della Valle’s travelogue to Iran. Ranked as the second most popular cat breed in America in 2015, this breed was introduced to Europe by della Valle, who brought Persian cats from Khorasan to Italy.

From Ankara, other samples were taken to France, and eventually, the breed spread to Britain. Today, Persian cats have more genetic links to Western European cats than those in the Near East and Western Asia.

In Iran, Persian cats are usually traded for about 4 to 6 million Tomans, while rare breeds like the Scottish Fold command higher prices, up to 8 million Tomans. Siamese cats, if found in Iran, can fetch up to 20 million Tomans.

Prices in this informal market vary based on color and appearance, and some cats have been bred and sold at these rates. Akbari was initially offered partnerships to advertise these breeding businesses but sees such practices as exploitative and harmful to cats.

The Cats Rule Here

The Persian Cat Museum is designed with the welfare of cats as the top priority. Therefore, visitors must abide by museum rules to enjoy the company of the cats.

The first rule is that visitors are not allowed to pick up the cats. The second rule prohibits flash photography to protect the cats’ eyes. The third rule discourages bringing food from outside; treats should be purchased at the museum entrance.

Usually, when you visit the museum in the morning, the cats are sleepy and less active. The museum director explains that unlike street cats that must search for food or enjoy petting, these cats have fewer human interactions and tend to sleep when overwhelmed by large crowds, unless motivated or it’s their feeding time. Plans are underway to dedicate part of the balcony solely to the cats, restricting visitor access.

A Day at Tehran's Cat Museum Café

How It All Began

The story of the Persian Cat Museum began with Mrs. Zari from the Shahr-e-Ketab bookstore in Ekbatan. The bookstore’s investors encountered a sick cat that later became known as Mrs. Zari.

After her recovery, Mrs. Zari never left the bookstore and gradually became a fixture, having the privilege of lounging on books by some of the greatest and most important authors.

The investors decided to expand their business by creating a museum dedicated to Persian cats, obtaining a license for the Persian Cat Café-Museum, thus turning Mrs. Zari Ekbatan into a benefactor for 24 other cats.

Tehran Cat Museum in Photos

Rules for Visitors

  • Cuddling, kissing, hugging, and pressing are strictly forbidden unless the cats themselves show interest in interacting, in which case they will come to you.
  • The presence of children under 10 years old must always be accompanied by their parents.
  • Photography is allowed, but please ensure your camera’s flash is turned off.
  • Bringing any kind of food from outside the museum is prohibited. You can purchase approved snacks (packaged treats) from within the museum.
  • Do not interact with the cats if they are sleeping or eating.
  • Do not touch the cats’ food and water dishes.
  • Wearing shoe covers is mandatory.
  • Please book via Telegram or WhatsApp at +989057069362. (Reservations can be made daily from 10 AM to 4 PM.)

Information

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SURFIRAN Editorial Team

SURFIRAN is an Iranian tour operator and travel agency offering tour packages to those interested in Iran. It provides the tourists with services needed to travel to Iran, offers tours across the country, and assists the tourists in obtaining Iranian visas.

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