Hong Kong's Feline-Loving Instagram Page @sheungwancats
May 16, 2022
There’s nothing like a funky and weird Instagram page in Hong Kong that takes a snapshot of what life is really like in the city. You’ve got pages recording drunk people in LKF, sleepy people on the MTR, and what music you’re listening to on the streets.
Non-human centric stories are harder to attract swathes of attention, but one feline-friendly Instagram page has captured the hearts and love of residents across the city with their love for Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun cats.
Tell me about yourself, what's your story?
“I grew up in Hong Kong with my feline-loving family and we had a cat for much of my childhood. Later, I went to the U.S. to study and work. I taught English to adult immigrants in NYC for a few years. When I moved back to Hong Kong, I taught in a secondary school and now I teach in a primary school.”
Why did you start the account in January 2020?
“I have lived in Sheung Wan for about 10 years but only moved to the dried seafood and herbal medicine shop area in 2019. Since then, I’ve seen many shop cats and some stray cats around. At first, I just took some photos and sent them to family and friends but later, I felt the urge to share what I saw with more people.”
“My account was inspired by @bodegacatsofinstagram and Marcel Heijnen’s @chinesewhiskers – I bought his Hong Kong Shop Cats book and first learned about shop cats in 2016, and in 2020 when I started taking photos of Sheung Wan cats, I was excited to find out that I live close to the shop of Fei Zai – a celebrity cat. He’s one of my favourite shop cats and I use his photo as my profile photo!”
What is your love for cats, and specifically, Sheung Wan cats? What makes a Sheung Wan cat? Why are SW cats different to other cats in Hong Kong? Why do you think SW cats are the way they are?
“Sheung Wan was where Chinese merchants gathered since the 19th century. They traded dried seafood, salted fish and herbal medicine here back then – and there are still many such shops in this area today. Keeping shop cats around deters rats from coming into the shops and destroying the goods.”
“I love that the shop cats are just doing their job by wandering in and around the shops and taking naps in any corner they want. Most shop owners take good care of their cats.”
“Other shop cats in pharmacies, florists or cat cafes may just serve as companions for the shop owners or customers, but Sheung Wan cats are here also for a very practical reason as mentioned above.”
What has the reception been for your feline-friendly Instagram? What is the future for Sheung Wan Cats?
“In 2020, people around the world were not happy due to the pandemic. Multiple people have messaged me and told me how my shop cat photos brightened their days and made their difficult lives feel a little easier.”
"Also, there has been quite a lot of negative news about Hong Kong and I wish to show a positive, warm and fun side of Hong Kong to the world and bring smiles to people’s faces. Finally, Hong Kong is undergoing lots of changes and old shops are being replaced by new ones, or simply left vacant.”
“Business has been difficult in the past few years, and I fear that some traditional shops in Sheung Wan may not stay for long. That’s why I try to capture as many beautiful moments as I can.”
“Many people love shop cats and take photos of them. The focus of their photos are the cats. However, when I take photos of the cats, I also make sure to include the shops, the surrounding, the interactions between the shop cats and the shop owners as well as between the shop cats and the passers-by. I think this is what makes Sheung Wan Cats unique.”
What do you love about Sheung Wan?
“Sheung Wan is at the crossroads of old and new.”
“I love being within 10 minutes’ walking distance of traditional herbal medicine and dried seafood shops, trendy cafes, inexpensive local eateries, upscale boutique hotels, and many more.”
“Sheung Wan probably has some of the best dried seafood shops as well as some of the best coffee shops in the city. There’s something for everyone here.”
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