SZCZECIN, Poland - Cat lovers are heading to the Polish city of Szczecin to catch a glimpse of Gacek, a chubby black-and-white feline who has become an internet sensation.
The cat is sometimes found on a blanket in a small open-fronted wooden box, made by his owner, where he has lived for more than 10 years on Kaszubska Street. His home has become the highest rated attraction in Szczecin on Google Maps.
Having received scores of five-star reviews, the "Kot Gacek" (Gacek the cat) pin on the map, near a shop selling bags emblazoned with the cat's face, has beaten sights including a Renaissance castle to the top spot.
"Gacek is the Kim Kardashian of the cat world," Karolina Nowak, manager of the official TikTok account for the Western Pomerania region where Szczecin is located, @pomorzezachodnie, said. "Tourists only started looking for him because he gained popularity on the Internet."
Szymon Maksymiuk, who works for a tourist information centre in Szczecin, said the stories of people travelling to see Gacek were "mindblowing".
"There was a guy from Norway who took a flight. He claimed Gacek drove him to make the decision of coming here," Maksymiuk said. "Because of Gacek, tourism has increased enormously, far beyond my expectation or imagination."
Some fans attribute Gacek's fame to his confidence and cute face, others say it is his celebrity status that is attracting visitors to a city already known for its Pomeranian Dukes' Castle, parks and picturesque riverside setting.
Among those wanting to see Gacek was history student Kherlen, who comes from Mongolia and lives in Germany.
"I'm looking for that cat named Gacek," he told Reuters. "I hope I will find it, maybe today, maybe tomorrow."
However, some Szczecin residents are concerned. Marta Gluchowska, a nurse at the Szczecin Society for the Care of Animals, says people are offering Gacek inappropriate food.
Gacek is not the first animal to draw tourists to a Polish city. In 2021, a golden retriever became Gdańsk's most highly rated tourist attraction on Google.
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