Home is where your cat is. This is probably what the settlers of Iceland between 870 and 930 AD thought when they brought the first cats with them among the livestock. These days, you will find lots of different cat breeds in Iceland, from the fluffy Norwegian forest cat and the exotic-looking Bengal cat to all kinds of mixed breeds.
It is estimated that there are around 20,000 cats in the Capital Area of Iceland. A lot of these cats roam around the city, so don’t be surprised if you see a cat on every street corner. Most of them have loving homes, are well-fed and are ready to demand your attention. It’s no wonder that there are several Facebook pages dedicated to them, like the Cats of Reykjavík and Spottaði kött (Spotted a Cat). The only goal of these “fan clubs” is sharing pictures of cats with fellow cat lovers. Let’s face it, life is just better with cats. If you agree with this, do read on, because this is all about the cats of Reykjavík.
The most famous cat of Iceland is the Christmas Cat, Jólakötturinn. The Christmas Cat is the pet of child-eating monster Grýla and her husband Leppalúði. They are the parents of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads. The Christmas Cat is not cute, though. She’s actually a gigantic kitty that likes to scratch. As legend goes, she eats all the children who don’t get new clothes for Christmas.
The second-place winner is Baktus, a cat with his own popular Instagram account (6000 followers)! Baktus lives in downtown Reykjavík and hangs out at the Icewear store on Bankastræti, where he spends his days working as a security guard and collecting cuddles. If you are in Reykjavík, be sure to say hello to him.
Even though most cats in Reykjavík have a permanent home, there are also stray cats or cats looking for a new place to stay. Luckily, there are a couple of good organisations focused on helping these cats.
Firstly, there is Villikettir (Feral Cats), a feral cat shelter and animal protection agency. Winter can be especially hard for feral cats in Iceland, with stormy and snowy weather and little food around. Villikettir has put feeding stations around the country to help these cats survive. They also offer veterinary care and have nursed hundreds of cats back to health.
Kattholt (Cat Shelter) houses The Icelandic Cat Protection Society, a cat shelter and a cat hotel. Their goal is promoting better treatment of cats and ensuring that all cats have shelter. They also encourage everyone to microchip their cats and have their animals registered. When stray cats are brought in, they will first look for the original owners, but if these can’t be found, the cats will be put up for adoption.
A third animal welfare organisation is Dýrahjálp Íslands (Animal Aid Iceland). They offer all animals that need it shelter, and provide foster homes for pets until they find a permanent home.
Cat reality TV show
Keeping Up With the Kattarshians is the most exciting reality TV show around. Main reason: The stars of this show are cuddly, fuzzy and cute kittens. The kittens are put in a special cat-proof tiny house and everything they do is livestreamed on kattarshians.tv. The house is located inside Kattholt, and the main goal of the show is raising awareness about cat shelters, and finding new homes for the starring cats. The show was an instant, worldwide hit, with international media covering stories about the concept, turning the first kitties into top-ranking celebrities. The adventures of many cats have been broadcasted since the start and it has proven to be a successful way to find them new homes.
Iceland’s first cat café
Iceland’s first cat café, Kattakaffihúsið, opened on the 1st of March on Bergstaðastræti in downtown Reykjavík. The cosy vegetarian and vegan café has delicious sandwiches, cakes and coffee on offer. And all the orders come with a side of cat cuddles. The cats that live at the cat café are selected in collaboration with cat shelter Villikettir and are all up for adoption. Seeing is believing, you just have to check it out for yourself.