Showing posts with label Cats of Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cats of Greece. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Greece ~ Cats, Culture and Conflict

Those cats of Greece. Gatas, (yatas) they are called here. Every visitor here has a cat tale to tell.

It might be how you avoided them or how they captured your heart. Maybe it is how cute their photos on souvenir calendars and postcards or maybe you encountered some so desperately hungry they were foraging in garbage bins or begging tableside at a restaurant.

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"Mom" Cat just days before giving birth to kittens - Spring 2016
“You can’t have a cat,” The Scout admonished me (I am one of the world’s greatest cat lovers) way back while contemplating a Greek house purchase. We’d be part-time residents – not conducive to having pets. But during our short time as part-time ex pats we’ve learned cats really aren’t ‘pets’ by that cushy definition and lifestyle they lead in the United States.

And it wasn’t a case of me having ‘a’ cat.  It has become a matter of how ‘many’ cats have us. That’s where culture and conflict come into play.

"Muffin" short for Ragamuffin - new arrival Spring 2016
While I’ve written of the challenges and rewards of absorbing a new culture, the one topic I’ve skirted is that of those determined felines who’ve recognized ‘those Americans’ as easy marks and are causing severe conflicts between our heads and our hearts. Even The Scout, (also an animal-lover), has forgotten his earlier admonishment and has been taken in by them as well.

Today, 36.1 million U.S. households own one or more cats,
for a total of more than 74 million pet cats.
--American Veterinary Medical Association.

Stray - but well fed cats - in Monemvasia, Greece
Our first cultural difference and conflict: Cats are not considered pets, they are animals with a job to do. But there are simply too many of them. In Greece spaying and neutering – is expensive – and not the rule. They multiply rapidly. Their job is to keep down the vermin – that would be rats, mice and snakes who make their homes in the olive and citrus groves that carpet the land. Some are 'lucky' and live in villages; kept alive by local restaurants and well-meaning tourists who sneak food to those brave enough to sit near the tables. It is those gatas in the rural areas who tug at the heart strings as they struggle to survive while keeping down the pest population.

Sign in a restaurant in Trahilio - The Mani
“Unlike dogs, cats have become purely domestic pets only very recently, within the last 50 years. For most of their history, cats weren’t pets. Cats lived in and around human villages for millennia, but there is no evidence they lived in our homes.”
-- from “The Trainable Cat” a book by Dr. John Bradshaw

"Bob" for his bobcat ears - another new - desperately hungry - arrival at our house
In Greece abandonment is widespread and our picturesque area is not immune.

“Six puppies abandoned in Ag. Nikolaos Monday, Aug. 10.
Six kittens about two weeks old dumped at Pantazi Beach the same day.”
-- from MIAO, Mani International Animal Organization

Pantazi Beach below our home is a popular spot to 'dump' unwanted cats
Sometimes, even well-meaning tourists contribute to the abandonment. They arrive and spend a season, love them (feed them) and leave them at the end of their visit. We were guilty of abandonment at the end of our first stay at The Stone House on the Hill and I fretted so much about ‘my cats’ after that stay, that we’ve since hired our gardener to come and feed and put water out for the cats (‘ours’, ‘others’) when we aren’t in residence - whether the garden needs attention or not. Our neighbors – two sets of full-timers – also feed them. 

"Mom" with her grown kittens last fall 2015 use my 'shelter'
While my head told me that they got along fine before we arrived on the scene, my heart had fallen head-over-heals for each flea-bitten, tick-laden hungry one that has shown up at our house. Our behaviors as well as theirs have become quite predictable:  we refuse to feed the new arrivals for at least a few days, we shoo them away from those we are feeding.  But then they are so desperate that we give in . . .as with Bob, pictured above.  He was so frightened of us and the other cats he’d wait until the bowl was empty before venturing over to lick its surface. The heart won out. . .Bob was invited to eat and drink.

"Tom" on the table, "Princess" in the chair
Longtime readers will recall my cat tales of "Princess" (The Cat who came for Christmas) and her brother, "Tom" who arrived at The Stone House on the Hill shortly after we took ownership.  Both appeared to be homeless but somewhat taken care of and well-versed in how-to-win-the-hearts-of-the-new-owners. (As I've noted, we were easy marks.)  We eventually began feeding them.

Tom and Princess sleeping on our couch
When we returned to the house several months later, both showed up at our door within hours of our arrival. Tom, had a reputation in the neighborhood as being a bully and a Romeo, so we took him to the vet and a few snips and hours later, he was a new man, in a manner of speaking. Then we came back but Princess didn't; instead "Mom" cat arrived and has been a regular since.

Then Princess and Tom and Mom returned – looking healthy and not hungry when we came back in the fall.  By then they’d put a strangle hold on our hearts. Mom had kittens to attend to, but we let Tom and Princess inside for a cat-nap or two.

"Princess" napped while I worked in the garden
A very pregnant Mom Cat greeted us immediately but Princess was slow in arriving last spring – we’d been there several weeks before she came to the door. (We’ve learned her real name is ‘Sula’ and she belongs to someone else up the road but apparently likes to holiday at our place when we are there). Tom never returned. I fretted. . .hoping we'd see him this fall.

It turns out Tom is my first Greek heartbreak, (sadly, I am certain he won’t be the last).  Our neighbors learned that Tom had been hit by a car on the road not far from our house, was found by a Greek lady and was in such bad shape that the animal protection group was called and Tom was put down. That tug between head and heart continues . . .

PicMonkey Collage
My tribute to "Tom"
The good news about Greek cats (and dogs) is that there is a group of residents – ex pats and Greeks – in our area who do care about the stray animals.  They’ve established feeding stations (like at Pantazi Beach, and volunteers make regular runs both to feed the animals and help those which are distressed, as they did for 'our' Tom.

Called, MIAO, the Mani International Animal Organization, the group even helps relocate unloved and unwanted dogs to foreign countries. They’ve offered rewards to help find individuals guilty of poisoning animals (yes, poisonings do occur). 

A little stray watched us eat from this window sill in Monemvasia
A Google search for ‘Greek cats’ returns 11 million results. Among them are sites that offer suggestions for ‘Greek cat names’ (which range from Adonis and Antigone to Zephyr and Zeus) and other links that link to animal organizations like the Greek Cat Rescue and Greek Cat Welfare Society

Should you find yourself in Greece, I’d suggest attending one of the animal group's fund-raisers as it is a great way to meet locals and it helps them help the animals. Or donate that small change you don’t want to carry home to them - many have collection jars at local businesses.

That’s it for this week. Hope you are enjoying the last of the season and looking forward to the next.  As always, we appreciate the time you spend with us and thank you for sharing our posts with friends and family. Our travel season has begun, we are on the road hope . . .hope you'll join us next week!

Linking up with these amazing groups this week:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The (Greek) Cat Who Came For Christmas

Greece is known for its cats.  They roam the streets. They adorn tourist calendars. They pull at the heart-strings of cat lovers like us.  All that said, way back several years ago when purchasing a vacation home here was in the pondering stages, The Scout made one thing clear:

You cannot have a cat!

He was correct, of course, as our time here would be too fleeting to properly care for such an addition to the family. And in Greece many cats are feral; they want (and need) food – but they dash away from humans when approached. No problem, I thought.

'The Cat' on Our Deck
Fast forward: 2014. Pondering ended, purchase made. We were prepared for every possible ‘unexpected’ except “The Cat” that seemed to be as much a part of this house sale as the car and furnishings that came with it.

The Guy who said no cat and 'The Cat'
Sometime within hours of our taking possession of the house. “The Cat” appeared at our door ready to take possession of us.

'The Cat' supervises yard work from the olive tree
We ignored its meow’s for several days and paid no attention to the fact that it followed us much like a dog as we began the task of clearing the jungle (once a lovely garden) that surrounds the house.

'The Cat' in my lap
When I squatting to pull weeds the cat would jump in the lap, contentedly purring while I ignored it (not an easy thing to do, for a cat lover, by the way).

“The Cat” came and went. With regularity it would appear on the deck outside our two windowed doors or be sitting on a window ledge peering inside. It obviously has been well taken care of and has lived in a house.

Our friends, Don and Sue, (you met them in the last post) came to visit and Sue scooped up “The Cat” holding and adoring it (she also has several little bundles of fur at her house at the opposite end of the valley).  We began to weaken.

'The Cat' supervises the painting project
The first round of painting took place this week requiring doors to be open. . .a virtual welcome mat for “The Cat” who took it upon herself to be the project supervisor.  When the painters took a break, the cat joined them – the call of their laps too great to ignore. Furniture was delivered Wednesday – the cat insisted on a head rub from the delivery men.

I confess. I bought a bag of cat food two days ago and a saucer of it and another of milk was most appreciated by “The Cat” who now hangs out here most of the day, content in knowing ‘The Humans’ are nearby. We’ve joined our fellow neighbors (whom you will meet in a future post) in feeding “The Cat”.

Epilogue (of sorts):

The painting supervisor takes a 'cat nap' on The Scout's lap
We learned from the neighbors that the cat is owned by a fellow who lives down below us. He has gone away for a time (long or short, we don’t know) and has left the cat apparently to fend for itself (and don’t get me going on that!). So our neighbors have been caring for “The Cat”.  I’ve told them I will leave food for the little vagabond when we leave and hopefully it will still be in the neighborhood when we return.

So for those of you who met the cat on Facebook and made suggestions: thank you, but we are not naming the cat nor do we need a carrying case. Hopefully its owner will return soon and The Cat Who Came For Christmas will return home for a Happy New Year!

Again, thanks for the time you’ve spent with us as we embark on our Grecian adventure, in the Stone House on the Hill.  I will tell you next about Trimming the Tree on Christmas and then for those who want to see the garden, we will take a Jungle Tour of My Secret Garden.  Hope you are having a great holiday season.  As soon as we get back to internet land, I will visit my fellow bloggers to see what you’ve been up to of late.  We are currently limited to cafes and tavernas for internet time which makes for quick check emails, Facebook and blogs.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Greece: Cat ‘Tales’ from the Cyclades

We’ve been in Greece for a month now and while I’ve been trying to give you real time snapshots of our travels, it occurs to me that I’ve been remiss in writing about one of Greece’s most ubiquitous features:
 its cats.

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Being cat lovers, those furry felines make up some of our favorite memories. Take the foursome that lived in Hotel Vardia in Kardamili:  Owner, Voula, was as smitten with them as were we, and during our stay she was busy treating one for a cold and  attempting to ‘capture’ that wily white one (above) who kept avoiding her despite the fact he needed a bit of much needed medical work (Voula finally won out  - he was at the vet when we left). 

peloponnese2014 168 Of course, the smallest one immediately wrapped us around his little paw by running to greet us and following us to our room, much as a loyal puppy would do. It was difficult leaving him behind – he was my choice for a souvenir but then he was quite happy at his hotel home.

In each of our stops, the homeless furry ones have nearly caused us heart attacks as they nonchalantly crossed streets without concern for drivers or motorcyclists who came within inches of hitting them.

Then there was the trio, who lived at the Island House Hotel on Ios. Their ferocious cries and snarling made us think we were living below a huge, on-going cat fight as they spent their days and nights in the bougainvillea that framed  the slated roof of our deck.

mykonos2014 018 

It seemed two were always ‘picking’ on the third.  The Scout broke up a ‘fight’ one day and sent them on their way.  The next day we realized it had been simply a lover’s quarrel and they were back ‘together’ again, a menage a trois both literally and figuratively.

We arrived Friday in trendy, touristy Mykonos. Last night as we were munching on a gyro pita at an outdoor cafe  the quietest little cat showed up at the foot of the stool on which I sat.  I’d been people watching and didn’t notice from where it came.  Noiselessly it sat, its stare an intense one.  So compelling was it, that I slipped large portions of the pork  from my pita and would drop chunks when the owner of the place turned his head.

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What a con artist was that one!  Dining done, it walked across the small walkway and jumped up onto his cushion to bathe -- outside the jewelry store where he obviously lives!

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And then once the beauty ritual was over it was time to hop on its chair and wait to be adored by nearly every passing tourist!

We walked past the store again this morning. . . breakfast, I believe, was about to be ice cream!

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Happy Travels to you all and thanks so much for being with us as we wind up our time in Greece. We’ve got one more island to visit before we are off to Istanbul.  We’ve appreciated the comments and emails our tales have prompted.

For you animal lovers out there:  there is a Greek Cat Welfare Society (with a Facebook page) and a Dutch Foundation operates a Greek Cat Rescue with a web page of the same name. Both offer donation options via the web.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Room with a View

             Syntagmatos Square from our room
Sometimes, we've decided, it is simply luck. 

No amount of research can turn up a hotel as perfect as one that you simply happen upon.  Such is the case with our 'room with a view' in Nafplion

After finally getting a rental car (thanks to our new friend, Dimitri on Poros, who managed to rouse Pops  Rental Car across the channel when no one else could) we set out in our small Renault on the coastal route, then heading inland for a bit and arriving about 6 pm in the  port town of Nafplion (also called Nafplio and Nafplia).

We had had mixed reviews of Nafplion prior to our arrival:  a German couple told us to skip it, they were so disappointed; yet, the tourist brochure said it was a 'fairy land'.  We are voting for the latter now that we've been here a day - in fact ,we plan to stay here a few days longer.

This city, once the capital of Greece, was under Venetian rule many centuries ago.  The old city, where we are staying, has such a heavy Italian influence that its easy to forget you are in Greece - as evidenced by the town square we overlook. Bouganvillas drape the small cobbled side roads that lead to the main square we overlook..

We happened upon the Hotel Athina on the corner of Syntagmatos Square and inquired about availability - although with its location we expected the rate to be astronomical. . .wrong. They offered a room with breakfast for 50E a night and as we climbed the stairs (no elevator here) Joel asked if any rooms might look out on the square. 

Not only do we have a room with a view - but two views, one balcony looks directly over the square and the other looks back on the Venetian fortress (more on that soon).  Yes, the price is 50E a night. 

And I am heading out to the balcony soon to sip some Greek white wine that we bought today at the farmers market for 2E a liter from the little lady who makes it.  Yes, sometimes, it is simply luck.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dog Days of September - Greek style

We couldn't resist the charms of the street dog we named Amiga, after a similar charmer who came into our lives during the Mexico days. . .
Amiga, our Poros friend
  And because our paths crossed during our brief visit, Amiga is now one of our travel treasurers - those memories that will linger long after we've returned to the Pacific Northwest.

Amiga and a fellow street dog entertained us
Our Grecian Amiga seemed to appear one evening while we were dining.  And the next day she showed up as we walked along the quay; much further south of where we had been when we first met her. She seemed so well-fed and cared for that we didn't suspect she was a street dog until last night when she brought several of her 'street friends' to entertain us at the restaurant where we were dining and ultimately was chased away by the owner.

Then she decided she'd be my 'guard dog' and watch -- or sleep on -- my Bagallini purse. (Another use for those all purpose bags!) All the street animals, cats and dogs, were well cared for on this island.  I suspect it is through the animal welfare efforts. This donation can was next to the visitor information booth :

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bus,Train, Plane, Bus, Boat: Poros

Flying Dophin High Speed ferry - last leg of our journey here
Our Big Adventure has begun.  This post is being written in Poros, Greece, an hour from Piraeus by fast boat; 2.5 hours by slow boat.  We arrived here 23 hours after leaving Kirkland WA. During that time we traveled on our trusty Metro bus to Seattle from where we rode the Link train to Seatac Airport, then flew Delta Airlines to Amsterdam, KLM to Athens, caught a bus to Piraeus and then the high speed ferry to Poros (pictured above).

I have to admit that at about hour 18 we were asking ourselves if such travel is worth it.  We could have stayed home, slept in a comfortable bed eaten better food and not looked like human paper clips trying to sleep in a Delta Airbus 300 or a KLM 737 plane.  As we dashed (quite literally) to three different transfer desks in Amsterdam's airport trying to acquire boarding passes, the question again came to mind.

But then as the KLM flight left the soggy gray skies of Amsterdam for the Aegean's blue skies and sunshine, we knew we were on the home stretch.

Hotel Manessi  Poros is the larg building on the right
 Our hotel, Hotel Manessi,is footsteps from the ferry landing, and just across the channel is the Greek mainland.  We watch the car/passenger ferry yo-yo back and forth from early morning to late at night. We've sipped Mythos beer, eaten the best gyros we've ever had, visited the monestery high up in the pine-blanked hillside, walked for miles along the waterfront and find that it is almost time to return to Piraeus and start part two of the Big Adventure.

The weather turned cloudy and rainy our first full day here - note the cloud cover in the photo below, however, today the sky is bright and the weather extremely humid.
Sunset from our deck
Octopus drying in the afternoon sun will be someone's dinner tonight
Greek cats on Poros lead happy lives it seems

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cats of Greece

A photo is worth a thousand words, right? So, need I say more? The cats of Greece are known throughout the world . . . calendars feature them, books, tourist items galore. Lefka Apartments has a set of two white/red kitties that are the official cats, but then we have the one pictured here. She just showed up last spring we are told. And she is fed along with the official cats but is still considered the outcast.

We were greeted by this little creature and have now given in to her persistent charms, a tuna can food dish is now a part of our deck and yogurt, tuna, leftovers (and Greek cookies) are all favorites of our new friend. She isn't allowed inside so makes it a point of jumping on my lap while sitting on the deck -- she's an intelligent little beast; she knows an easy mark when she sees one


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