I traveled to Penang for its street art, the “lost kittens” of George Town.
The work of several artists who call themselves the Artists for Stray Animals, the kittens of Penang are just a few of the hundreds of street art scattered around George Town.
On a regular day, you’ll find hordes of tourists holding maps leading to the paintings, sculptures, and installations, trying the match the print to the real artwork. One snap beside the artwork, and they’d be off to the next, ticking each one as they do so.
The installation of over a dozen kitten street art, called the 101 Lost Kittens Project, was started in 2013 by artists Natthaton Muangkliang from Thailand and Tang Yeok Khang and Louise Low from Malaysia.
Together, they formed ASA, whose goal is to create more public awareness on the importance of finding homes for stray animals.
I arrived in Penang in the midst of the summer season, so it was extremely hot and humid at that time. I didn’t have a detailed map of where the kittens could be found, so I just walked around George Town, focusing primarily on the streets of Armenian, Victoria, Ah Quee, and Chulia.
I only found nine, but I was happy, as it was my aimless wandering which led me to them, not a printed guide. I celebrated with a little skip every time I saw one, knowing that each artwork found was a gift.
I was especially glad I found this Bruce Lee mural, because it was so well hidden I almost didn’t see it behind the parked cars off a side street in Ah Quee.
I didn’t like how it was portrayed (those poor babies!), but it was supposed to show people what NOT to do to stray animals (go figure!), hence the title. Incidentally, there are three cats in the mural. Did you notice where the third kitten is?
ASA started with around a dozen kitten installations, but it now numbers more than that, with non-ASA street artists painting other figures to complement it, like the rat below which seems to be “hiding” from Skippy, the huge orange tabby on Armenian Street.
Skippy’s huge. It’s too bad I didn’t have something to show the scale (that’s one of the disadvantages of traveling solo!). He reminds me so much of my cat Jumper, just lying there watching humans go gaga over him, oblivious and uncaring of the giant rat waiting for him in the corner.
Beside Skippy are three cats made of wire, walking along the pipe. They were not named. I liked the one who seemed to be rubbing himself on the pipe.
Across Skippy is another non-ASA artwork, an adorable blue kitty that seems to be asking if he could be considered the 102nd lost kitten in George Town.
Here are the other lost kittens I had “found” and their locations.
Artwork 4 (off Armenian St.): “Two Kittens in a Tub”
Also known as the “Please Care & Bathe Me” mural, these kittens can be found in a back lane off Armenian St.
Artwork 8 (Beach Street Fire Station): “Cats Walking for Animal Awareness”
These are just a few of the 45 kittens walking along the wall parallel to Chulia St. Find the Beach Street Fire House and you can find them on the wall just before Chulia.
Artwork 10 (Armenian St.): “I Can Help Catch Rats”
Artwork 11 (Soo Hong Lane): “No Animal Discrimination Please”
This is one of the hardest to find. Make it a challenge to see this, you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of achievement when you do so.
I was surprised that I didn’t see more street cats in Penang. Was the campaign effective in that all stray cats had been adopted, or was there not so many in the first place? It was a glaring difference from the small towns in Thailand and the Philippines where you can find a lot of them on the streets.
However, I did see one real cat, and he allowed me the honor of petting him for a few minutes before running off. He was adorable!
For more information about the 101 Lost Kittens of George Town, check out the Penang Travel Tips site. (Note though, that if you’re not a cat lover, there are still loads of things you can do in Penang. It’s a great city!)
There is so much more street art in Penang, so many works that you should check out before they’re gone forever. Street art is meant to be transitory, and lasts only as long as the material used and the surface it’s applied on.
“Our art is dying,” an unknown artist wrote on a decaying wall in Penang, part of his work already falling off. And yet he/she knows, as all street artist knows, that once the work is gone, once the canvas is clean again, there will be another work of art, by another artist. The end of one work is the beginning of another.
In a few years or so, the lost kittens of George Town will be replaced by other images, other advocacies. I’m just glad I’ve seen them and appreciated them before they’re gone.
Do you like street art? Which city have you seen some good ones?