The Cat House takes its name from two angry black cats, one perched on each of the two turrets of this rather grand 1909 Medieval / Art Nouveau styled house, located across the road from the Great Guild.
The house was owned by a wealthy Latvian tradesman who sought to join the Great Guild, an organisation promoting and protecting the interests of its wealthy merchant members. The ethnocentric German Guild rejected the application and the story goes that, as a mark of protest or revenge, the Latvian gentlemen had the two cats turned such that their asses pointed directly at the offending Great Guild across the road. One can but imagine the reactions and the ensuing discussions in Guild meetings.
After a lengthy court battle the man was admitted to the Guild and the cats posteriors were redirected away from the Guild building.
Another story has it that the cats, with arched backs and raised tails, had their posteriors pointed toward the Riga Town Hall following a dispute with the Council. The Town Hall was in the same direction as the Great Guild, though further away.
Personally I prefer the Guild version but whatever the story is behind the cats they have become an unofficial symbol of Riga and feature on all sorts of promotional material and souvenirs.
While the cats are the main attraction and talking point of this building do lower your eyes and admire some of the very nice Art Nouveau features on the exterior of the building as well. I particularly liked the decoration around the main door as depicted in picture 5 attached.
My Next Riga Old City Review
This beautiful building from 1909 has an interesting mix of Art Nouveau and Medieval styles. However, it is better known for the two cat figures on top of the turrets. Their history is not exactly known, but there are many legends around them. The better known says that the bottom of the cats once faced either the neighbouring Great Guild Hall. The owner of the house had disputes with both and it is said that the guild did not accept him as a member as he was Latvian while most of the traders were German. Finally, they came to a deal – the cats are turned around and the tradesman is admitted into the guild. Other legends say that the dispute also involved the town hall (which was right behind the Great Guild Building) or that the cats were initially placed on the rooftop for his wife.
Today, there is an expensive restaurant in the ground floor of the restaurant.
In a town boasting some serious amount of God-aspiring steeples and spires this little example stands out with its peculiarity. A cat is balancing on top of a cone-shaped roof as if to counter the other European capitals' desire to post political or religious idols on top of their roofs. Brilliant idea, most likely never to be repeated. Well done, Riga!
As a major cat lover, I really wanted to see this house. It is called the cat house because there are two statues of angry black cats on the roof of the house. It is located at Meistaru10/12.
Legend states that the owner of the house was a wealthy merchant who wanted to join the Great Guild opposite his home. At that time the guild was controlled by German merchants and they did not want to admit a non-German into their ranks. In fury the owner of the house ordered his two roof top statues of angry cats with arched backs and raised tails to be turned so that their bottoms pointed directly at the Great Guild. The Guild members were outraged by such disrespect and took the merchant to court. After a lengthy court case the statues were turned round and the merchant was admitted to the guild.
This large house just off Livu Laukums would probably be runner-up to the House of the Blackheads in any contest to find the most famous building in Riga! What would in any case be a grand Art Nouveau structure is made special by the presence of two large cats on the turrets at either end.
Cats are the unofficial symbol of Riga, scattered across numerous tourist souvenirs, and this building is the reason why. And there is a story attached to it, or rather several competing stories. The most commonly told is this:
A wealthy Latvian tradesman wanted to join the prestigious Riga Tradesman Guild, the so-called Great Guild, but was refused membership as the guild was restricted to German merchants. To show the guild what he thought about them he commissioned two cat sculptures to be placed on the roof of his nearby house with their backsides towards the guild house. He thought this would show the guild just what he thought of them, and invoke misfortune to those who had refused him entry. A lengthy legal battle ensued, and ended with him eventually being granted membership, at which point he relented and turned the cats around.
One version of the story adds a twist. In this version, the sculptor fell while erecting his work, and died - the bad luck had befallen him. It was in response to this mishap that the man turned the cats around, and the guild accepted him. It seems to me that the moral of this version is a little dodgy, since the man got his own way while inflicting death on another, but the cats are so cute that the building just has to be seen!
[Other stories say simply that the owner loved cats so much he/she wanted them on the roof, or that the owner of this house fought with his neighbour “like cats and dogs”, so one put cats on his roof and the other (long-gone) dogs on theirs.]
Next tip: So many [more] cats!
Not every house has a cat in the roof :) But in Riga - yes, it is :) The house surely has the Cat name after two black cats put on the roof. The owner of the house turned cats’ tails into the Guild hall to protest, but later he had to turn it back. I have to admit - great way to protest.
The Cat House is a big yellow house with black cats on top of the roof of the two small corner towers. There are several stories that explain why the cats are there. One of the most common is about a Latvian businessman who was refused entry to the city guild (the Big Guild Hall was only for rich German traders). Therefore he put statuettes of his cats with the backs arched and tails up against the Guild Hall. After it had become a court case the Latvian businessman was admitted to the guild, but he then had to turn the cats to another position.
This "house" took the name from two black cats perched on the roof.
At the century end, the owner of this house has been exiled from the Great Guild and they ordered him to turn the cats with their tails towards the Guild.
This house with was built in Jugendstil was named after two black cats situated on the roof. Story goes that the owner of the house was thrown out of the Great Guild at the end of the 19th century. Out of disrespect he had those cats put up with their backs turned towards the building of the Great Guild. Alas, after some time in court the man was admitted back to the illustrous guild and the cats were turned...
The Cat House is so-called because there are two black cats perched on its towers. The black cats have had a very controversial history since they were erected about 100 years ago. First of all the sculptor fell off the roof and died whilst putting them up and the reason they were there in the first place was because the owner of the building had been black-balled for admission to the Great Guild. He vented his displeasure by having the two sculptures added to the roof. However, the way he did it was the real highlight - they originally had their tails raised and their behinds pointing directly at the Guild House! He was later admitted to the guild and now they no longer "moon" the guild!
The story behind this buildings tells that a Latvian business man was refused a membership of a guild and therefore he went and bought the nearest land to the guildhall and build a house on it. He really wanted to spite them and so he put two cat statues on top of his house directing the backsides of the cats to the guildhall. Well, eventually he had to change the cats position, but the cats are still there reminding about the story.
I've heard three versions why the Cat House is called so.
One of the buildings' which rouse curiosity is this house, only you need to raise your head and look on top. There you can see two cats on the roof and after that the building got such name.
Some time ago the owner of the building was argued with Town House. He put on the roof one cat towards Town Hall and in a hurry he put the other one at the night. But as it was dark he put it on wrong way. The Great Guild objected and sued the owner.