Locals & Street Cats: A Perfect Pair in Athens, Greece
On a dim lit sleepy street in Athens, Greece faint sounds of meows mill about. Shy stray cats peek from under cars and the show-offs parade down the sidewalk saying things like "Hey, I'm walking here!" in Greek, of course.
"They come every morning at 10am," says Erietta Tzalmakli, one of the self appointed care takers of these strays that lives in the building the cats call the mess hall. She sits on the steps wrapped in a light sweater, donning glasses and a welcoming smile. This isn't a big deal to her. This is second nature to her, taking care of the abandoned ones at night.
Her neighbor takes the morning shift, she says. In fact, there's a lot of people in Greece doing the same thing she is. The woman before her was Vicky. She'd been feeding the local strays for 30 years, since 1990, until Erietta move in and started helping. Now she points to a few, naming them off, "That one's named Fox, because he looks like one." He looks up and twitches his nose, nodding in agreement.
Cats Keep The City Safe
Walking down the side streets of Athens, it's common to see plates of food scraps decorating the sides of buildings, the way people put out flowers. It's a sign that the people of the city try to take care of more than their own. Although many of the abandoned cats were first deserted by their owners, others are street cats through and through; never having had the experience of a domesticated kind of love. Street cats and city dwellers have an agreement: we'll keep you fed and you keep the rats in the gutters. Beautiful.
It's not the most glamorous thing, but pest control is a real issue in big cities and these cute cats keep things in check.
In turn, the people of Athens have taken it upon themselves to try to keep these fur babies alive and well. You'll see them dancing between your feet while you're having lunch on a sunlit patio or sauntering on ledges, performing for the passers by. Most of them seem to be doing ok.
Charitys Making A Difference
For those that aren't, charities like Nine Lives Greece help. They feed more than 450 cats around Athens on a daily basis and have neutered more than 1500. This charity is supported solely by individual donations. They help cats that can't survive on the streets get adopted, take many to the vet, & host fundraisers. They don't have a facility or an office and rely on their amazing volunteers to keep the organization going.
If you're visiting Greece, why not see the sites while going in on one of their Colony Cat-Walks? They're free of charge and a great way to travel like a local while giving back to the community you are visiting.