Every day is Caturday in George Town.
George Town – a UNESCO World Heritage site in Penang, Malaysia – is known for its colourful and interactive street art.
The street art scene is so popular that some would argue it rivals Penang’s all-time favourites – cendol (cold, sweet, coconut-based drink) and char kway teow (flat-rice noodle cooked in a wok).
Popularity contest (Left) An orderly crowd queueing for a photo-op with a street art (Right) A queue outside Penang’s most famous char kuey teow hawker stall on Lebuh Keng Kwee
Two local favourites (Left) A bowl of cendol (Right) A plate of char kuey teow
Cat-themed street art is particularly prevalent in George Town, and this is no coincidence.
Artists for Stray Animals – the group responsible for giving George Town its feline-flavour – painted 12 cat-themed murals for their 101 Lost Kittens project during George Town Festival in 2013. The aim of the project is to raise awareness towards the plight of strays and to encourage people to care for animals.
Simply known as the ‘Giant Cat’ mural (or officially titled ‘Skippy Comes To Penang’) is arguably the most-recognised due to its size and more so because of the story behind it. The mural is based on a real-life marmalade cat with a deformed leg, named Skippy.
One day, Skippy met its soon-to-be lady master at a chicken rice shop, begging for some food. Out of sympathy, the lady ordered some chicken for Skippy, but when the shop owner refused she knew that Skippy wouldn’t get a lot of love on the street. But Skippy was in luck. The lady wasn’t just a passer-by. She was in fact a co-founder of Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary aka LASSie. Naturally, she adopted Skippy who now lives in Langkawi, an island known for its idyllic beaches, where he gets plenty of love.
Another larger than life mural of the marmalade cat can be found in an alleyway off Lebuh Cannon. Looking out from a strikingly blue-framed window, the adorable cat gives a curious expression that cats typically give to strangers.
Other murals encouraging people to care for animals include: ‘The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This’ – a mural depicting someone who appears to look like Bruce Lee, the Kung-fu legend, kicking a cat. The idea behind it is to encourage people to NOT do what the revered legend wouldn’t; and ‘Cat Walking For Animal Awareness’ – a mural of a procession of black cats walking in the same direction, reminding us that they also have rights and deserve love and respect.
(Left) Do NOT do what Bruce Lee wouldn’t (Right) Care for strays
Keeping cats as pets isn’t without its advantages. Apart from being cuddly companions for humans, cats can help hold down rat population. This cat-vs-mouse message is portrayed in several artwork.
Sharing the same street as Skippy on Gat Lebuh Armenian is a grey cat in ‘Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat’. In the mural, the cat is eyeing a mouse that is hanging precariously by its tail on a roof. Ironically, the mouse appears to be teasing the cat with a tiny fish bait (is it offering the fish or itself?).
(Left) This ‘Giant Rat’ mural is the answer to the ‘Giant Cat’ mural. The rat appears to be hiding from the cat.
Naturally, a cat-loving town isn’t complete without its very own cat-themed shop.
On Lebuh Cannon, Cat n Dog shop is a shopping mecca for cat (and dog) people.
A shopping mecca for cat and dog lovers
At the entrance, customers are greeted by a cheeky looking cat clinging on a tyre-swing. And on the inside, it’s hard NOT to spend money on the adorable cat-themed merchandises which include t-shirts, tote bags, keychains and even god-like cat statues (if you’re into worshiping cats).
Psst. Take my money. Take all of it.
While the cute and cuddly-s take centre stage in George Town, big cats mural is a rarity. Lurking in a lane off Lebuh Chulia, a tiger awaits for some company. While it may look menacing, the stick in its mouth reveals the gentle giant playful nature. All cats, big and small, just want to be loved!
Most of these murals are painted with eco-friendly paints. They don’t last very long and are made to fade. So while they’re still visible, let loose your inner cat-self and go wander in George Town!
PS: Does this article tickle your whiskers? I’d love to know.
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