Saturday, 5 July 2008

Tourist, Wild, Home and Foreign Cats

I just feel like I'm on holiday once the summer starts. Not just because the weather is warm and each day I can swim in the sea. It's mainly because I no longer have to cook enormous pans of pasta and I no longer have to worry if I have enough food in the house.

The more than 20 cats that I feed in the winter goes down to some days just 3 cats. Instead of tens of feeding bowls only one long one is in use. Most cats in the summer take a very long holiday. The biggest group disappears into the nearby hotel as soon as the first tourists show (actually, they originally come from the hotel!), another group goes to some tourist apartments where there are people that take care there's a permanently full feeding bowl and a lot of attention.

I should organise Cat Holidays. Not for the cats, but for the tourists that feel that they have to take care of these animals during their holidays. It is very sweet, I'm not complaining that they're spoiling the cats, but does anybody realize that there can be consequences from their spoiling the cats? The cats (and some dogs as well) learn to beg for food during dinner, they learn to sit on your lap and they get used to the luxury of sleeping on a bed and being an indoor cat. Originally they are Wild Cats, that have to look after themselves. And this is how a Greek Wild Cat turns into a Tourist Cat.

Another nasty habit of some tourist is that they take cats from the street to their hotel. They probably cannot resist these furry animals and they think: in the hotel they're better off, they get food and attention. Do they ever stop to think what happens to these cats when the hotel closes at the end of the season?

Look, I don't run an animal shelter, but I do try and keep the cat population on an even level. This means that in the wintertime I take the cats to be sterilised and some male cats to be castrated. At the beginning of the summer all the cats are done. So how come that pretty quickly all those cute little kitties appear in the hotel? Please, the hotel is also not an animal shelter!

You don't want to know what happens in November and December when all the hotels are closed. Suddenly Tourists Cats are on their own on the street, no tourists left to give them food or to give them attention. I know that a Greek Cat Life is much harder than the life of a Dutch House Cat, but sometimes I wonder if a Tourist Cat might have a harder life than a Greek Wild Cat. In the summer a Tourist Cat gets accustomed to all the good food and loads of attention, in the winter he has to forget all this wealth and look to his old instincts to survive as a Wild Cat. Think this over whenever you spoil a cat during your holidays.

Luckily enough there is another type of tourists that during their holiday fall in love with a cat or dog and take the animal home. These cats become Foreign House Cats, with a life that many cats here dream of. Sometimes I think about starting an export business for cats. Besides olive oil and feta there are so many cats here on the island that I'm pretty sure you could get rich on them. But then I also think of the many animal shelters in Holland. I mean Dutch Home Cats also are not all happy and often look for a new home.

A book was recently published (in Dutch) called 'Foreign Four Legs'. They praise the import of animals from abroad because they say that the Dutch shelters are so much better than those abroad. Well, what can I say...

Anyhow, here on the island are two shelters that can easily be compared with those in Holland (except they're very poor). There is the Wildlife Hospital in Agia Paraskevi which is meant to be a hospital for injured wild animals like birds and turtles. Their intention is to heal the animals and get them back in the wild. The other shelter is EreSOS for animals in Eresos, a shelter for about 7 dogs (but they generally have about 20 dogs) and a house full of cats.

So the Wildlife Hospital is no shelter for wounded animals, although they look like it. They have amongst other thingd=s some impressive birds like owls and buzzards that cannot go back to the wild anymore and they share their house with a large number of cats and dogs. I mean, how can you let go of a cat that after an operation turns into a cat on three legs, or what is there to put back when you save some puppies from the rubbish bin? For more information about what animals they treat and for visiting hours you can go to:

Then in Eressos there's the growing and growing shelter that care for cats, dogs, donkeys and horses (yes, sometimes Greeks also let down donkeys or horses). Just as elsewhere on the island, the people from the shelter find new born kittens in the rubbish, or they are just deposited on the doorstep of the shelter, or they free chained dogs that are left in the middle of the blazing sun, just to keep the foxes from the sheep. Don't ask how the animals come to their shelter! In the shelter they are fed, taken care of and then they try to find a new home for them (often abroad). Just like the Wildlife Hospital they are an organisation with people working 200% and depending on gifts and volunteers. You can email EreSOS: or phone: (00 30) 22530 - 52148.

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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