In the wee hours of Sunday the 21st of May, Riona and I headed off to Dublin to catch a flight to Athens. We decided to take a trip there to volunteer our veterinary skills to the Greek Cat Welfare Society by neutering strays. Much like Ireland, Greece has a huge problem with cat-overpopulation and stray/feral colonies. To make things even more difficult, a lot of vets in Greece will not carry out neutering surgeries as some of them see it as an unnatural intervention; this means there are a LOT of cats in Greece needing to be neutered! Luckily there are charities under the Greek Animal welfare society (such as the ones we liaised with – Cats of Tolo and Nine Lives, Athens) which arrange for vets to go to Greece from the UK and Ireland to carry out these much needed neutering surgeries.
We were greeted at the airport my Petros, one of the trappers and feeders. He ferried us to our location in his “cat car”, filled with traps, transfer cages and yummy tempting food – a sight I am familiar with from working with Galway Cat Rescue! From there we went to meet Yvonne, the lady who very kindly agreed to provide our accomodation while we worked in Greece. She greeted us warmly with a beautiful Greek meal and introduced us to her cat Simonea, her poodle Cara and the street dog who adopted her named Skanza (which is Greek for Hedgehog!). Over the course of our time in Athens we did approximately 50 cat neuters. We had great help from Vivi who trapped, labelled and injected all the cats for us and also from Olga who donated her kitchen to us to use as our make-shift surgical theatre!
From Athens ,we then traveled about 2.5 hours to the little sea-side resort town of Tolo, where we met Toni and Alan from cats of Tolo. They introduced us to their extensive cat family, some garden ferals and some indoor pets with ages ranging from 6 weeks old Kitty to 20 years old Louis. Over the course of three days we neutered approximately 80 cats in Tolo. Our theatre here was a picnic table out side! Our hosts were so welcoming and Tolo itself was beautiful; on the days we finished early we got to swim in the clear blue water. We were sad to leave on our last day; despite working hard we enjoyed every minute of our trip, but it has been lovely to be home in galway with the sunshine we’ve been having lately – there’s no place quite like home!
The thing that struck me most about the trip was the difference between Greek and Irish cats. In general here at home, feral cats are truly feral; as in you cannot touch them without sedation. A feral cat would never willingly approach a human as they see us a threat. An Irish feral cat behaves more like a wild animal than a domesticated species. In Greece, their feral cats are not what I would count as wild at all. You may not be able to pick them up, but these cats actively approach people for food and attention. The cats in general are much less fearful of people and a a result are much less aggressive. The other big difference was the general condition of the cats; here at home i’m quite used to seeing feral cats being handed in to us in horrendous condition either through injury or chronic neglect. Broken, infected pus-filled mouths or wounds causing a huge amount of pain would be a common sight here at home – we didn’t see any of this in Greece. The cats in general are well fed, healthy and in good condition which was lovely to see. The tourists seem to be a big source of food, affection and veterinary care for these “ferals” and the Greek natives are following suit. I hope we can follow in their foot steps and eventually feral cats will be few and far between, healthy and happy. The other big difference was fleas – I’ve never seen so many fleas in my life, yuck! it must be the heat. Luckily we brought a load of flea treatments with us so everyone we neutered got treated for parasites aswell; lucky kitties.
If you would like more information on Greek cat welfare, or to make a donation, you can find all the relevant details here:
Until next month!