Forbidden City Cats

The Forbidden City has been a popular tourist attraction for a few decades, but has stood in its current location in Beijing for over six centuries. Once the palace of emperors, it now houses the Palace Museum. It is also home to a group of guard cats that patrol the formerly royal grounds. Let’s take a closer look at these felines, some of which are direct descendants of palace house pets.

If you take a look at the photos taken by visitors of the Forbidden City, you’re bound to see a few cats that have snuck into the frame. They can often be seen patrolling the premises and strolling in and out of the main office, appearing as if they are “on the job.”

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Many are strays who have wandered in from neighboring areas, others are descendants of royal house pets, but all felines are looked after by staff regardless of lineage. In fact, the cats are taken such good care of, the feline population has skyrocketed in recent years as a result of locals abandoning their pets within the palace grounds. To combat this, Forbidden City staff have spayed and neutered 181 cats since 2009 at a cost of 18,410 yuan (US$3,000). Ground staff also keep a detailed record of each of their cats with information such as gender, parents, and surgeries or medical procedures.

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The cats, aside from bringing smiles to visitors, serve the very important role of keeping the rodent population at bay and are credited with the decrease in property damage due to mice. If you’re hoping to see the Forbidden City cats on your next visit to China, take note that they prefer the quieter parts of the grounds, away from tourists. Of course, an occasional cat-spotting is not unheard of.

[ Read in Japanese ]