You might think I wrote an ode to the felines of Kuching dubbed "The City of Cats: because I'm a Crazy Cat Lady. Well, I'm not. In fact, I'm allergic to cats but I need not worry in Kuching. My eyes didn't get red and itchy. I wasn't coughing like an 89-year-old chain smoker. You see, the cats in Kuching aren't the usual four-legged, furry critters you'd expect. I found the cats of Kuching quite endearing.
AN ODE TO THE FELINES OF KUCHING - THE CITY OF CATS
Otherwise known as "The City of Cats", it's not often you come across a city that embraces its name as much as Kuching has. The funny thing is, nobody really knows how it got its cutesy moniker. Some say it's because 'kucing' means cat in Bahasa Malaysia (or Malay). This might seem like the most logical explanation but there's a caveat. Kuching is in the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. Although most people speak Bahasa Malaysia, Sarawak has its own Malay dialect. The word for cat in Sarawakian Malay is 'pusak', not 'kucing'. If this theory held true, then wouldn't the city be called Pusak, instead?
Others speculate that Kuching was named after a local fruit, 'mata kucing'. Mata kucing literally translates as 'cat's eyes' from Bahasa Malaysia (Malay). We need to delve a little bit into Sarawak's history to debunk this theory. Sarawak was founded and ruled by a British businessman named James Brooke. It was an independent state with its own language(s). In 1963, Sarawak became part of Malaysia where Malay is spoken. Thus, Kuching derived from the Malay words 'mata kucing'. The only problem is, and it's a significant one, James Brooke gave Kuching its name in 1872, nearly a century before Sarawak joined Malaysia. Oops. So much for the fruit theory.
Yet, again, here's another theory that attempts to explain where Kuching got its name. In the 19th century, British traders had settled in Sarawak. Apparently, they referred to any port as 'Cochin' - taken from the Indian port city. Cochin closely resembles Kuching but that doesn't even come close to explaining why it's called The City of Cats. And that's what we're trying to figure out here. I don't know about you, but I find this is the least believable theory. It's too simplistic and boring for my taste (ha-ha).
Read also: Discovering Amazing Street Art in Kuching
Care to indulge in another theory? Here it goes: Before running water was readily available in households in Kuching, locals got their water from a well. The Chinese (a prominent ethnic group in Sarawak), called this well 'Ku Ching'. This sounds like the most plausible theory, kind of. It fails to incorporate the most important element: Where do the beloved cats of Kuching come from?
As you can see, theories regarding The City of Cats are as diverse as its cats. In the end, it doesn't really matter where Kuching got its name. What really matters is the devotion the locals have for their 'cats'. I cracked a smile each time I saw yet another feline. On walls, on street corners, on roundabouts, on pedestals. Tabbies, white cats and black cats. Solo or a clowder. This is my ode to all the cats of Kuching. And, there are a lot.
Don't believe me? Have a look.
Read also: Things To Do In Kuching
What do you think of The City of Cats? Which theory do you find is most plausible?
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