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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WEIRD MOSCOW




Fat cats, blue cats, thin cats, flying cats, fish cats, orange cats, cloth cats and square cats adorn the walls and floors of the first floor flat at 109 Rublyovskoye Shosse.


The only cats not present when I turned up at Moscow's only cat museum were live ones. That's because Bonnie (short for Boniface) was at her dacha.


Andrei Abramov, the owner of the cat museum, can reel off a list of artists who have done their thing with cats. Rubens, Renoir, Picasso, Velazquez and Chagal.


None of that lot are here though.


"It doesn't matter if it's a good or famous artist," said Andrei, who opened the museum in 1993, and who proudly shows the pictures of him and his wife featured in cat magazines from all over the world. "We take those who work well with cats."


In one corner stands a sculpture of Behemoth from Mikhail Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita," a proudly bedraggled beast wearing square glasses and holding a large chalice whilst riding on a scooter with one wheel and one ice-skate.


"Cats are a kind of aesthetic," said Andrei, tall and thin with a twitch of a moustache. He began the cat museum in 1993 as a spin-off from his own art gallery but was forced to move it to Rublyovskoye Shosse from the center after a pet food company stopped sponsoring them .


Andrei believes the easy form makes the animal attractive to the artist.


Pointing to an abstract cat with a triangular head and an angular body, he asked me "Can you tell what it is?"


I refrained from saying "a hippopotamus, perhaps."


"Cats are extraordinary creatures, mysterious," said Andrei. "Every artist can make their attempt."


Among the themes are sea cats and flying cats. One of Abramov's first themes was cat and women, and every November, the museum holds a beauty contest for the best pair. Contestants are judged on looks, cat obedience, cat knowledge and a special task, which last year was to create a millennium meal for your cat.


It's not all art in the museum. There are cat biscuits from France, postcards, masks, photos, calendars, cuddly toys and cat magazines.


None of the work - some of which is very good - is for sale. And back in their other gallery they have stored more than 700 other works of art.


But frankly I was more interested in the video in the kitchen, "Breaking Bad Habits for Your Cat." I'd just returned to my flat after a few weeks away to find my cat - whom I inherited from the previous writer of this column - had decided to try and give me ammonia poisoning. Her weak or vindictive bladder was starting to annoy the neighbors as well as me so who better to ask than the owner of a cat museum.


He wasn't much help on that but later he gave me some good advice.


"In England," he said, "they treat cats and dogs better than their own children. There's an English proverb, 'If there's a cat in your house, you don't go to your house, you return home.'"


That was all news to me and I was born in England. And although I haven't quite been transformed on the road to Whiskas, I did clasp the moist one closer to my chest that evening.


If you'd like to take part in the beauty contest or visit the museum, phone Andrei Abramov at 141-5455 or 141-5424.


- Kevin O'Flynn