I didn’t come to Greece with the intention of rescuing 6 cats! In fact, one of the reasons I started housesitting was so that I could have the best of both worlds.
After my own three cats died over a period of 5 years I decided not to get more cats at that stage. It felt a bit weird not having animals around me as I’d had cats continuously for 14 years. But no pets of my own meant more flexibility to travel. Doing house sits meant that I could get my fix of furry friends when I wanted without all the responsibilities that come with them.
I’m still not entirely sure what will happen over the next few months with this little cat colony I’ve created. (Meet them all at the bottom of this post!)
They’re my little family now and so far I’ve been able to care for them and keep them together. If I were to leave the island without them they’d be fed by volunteers, But I can’t imagine them going back to a life of living constantly outdoors.
Getting pet passports isn’t cheap or as straightforward as it was before Brexit. I don’t even know right now where I’ll be living after Greece but for now, I’m just trusting that solutions will present themselves along the way. They have so far.
Street cats of Greece
If you’ve ever visited, I’m sure you noticed that the cats in Greece are numerous. As a rule, cats don’t live in houses as pets like they do in the UK. They live on the street, mainly near the bins, surviving on what they scavenge.
In the busy summertime in Greek tourist resorts, there’s a fair bit of food to go round. Restaurants have waste and probably appreciate the cats being about to catch the mice too.
I’ve been in Greece since October which is right at the end of the tourist season. Every time I went out on my walks I’d pass groups of cats near the bins. It was so sad to see them with their dirty fur and cut noses from rummaging around in bags.
One of the supermarkets I went to when I first arrived closed at the end of October as the season finished. There were always cats about outside and it broke my heart to think of them being there in the winter crying to non-existent visitors. I thought they might starve to death.
Furry visitors at my door
In the meantime, I’d started feeding a couple of cats that had been coming to my studio door. They were very timid but hunger pushed them out of hiding. They’d been sheltering in the storeroom next to my studio. It had a broken panel in the door and gave them a bit of shelter.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, the two cats multiplied. I found out that Mrs Moo had a kitten hiding out on the other side of the on-site (closed) restaurant. 3 other cats came to join the group and soon I had a solid little clan of 6. Other cats came and went and I threw them some food too.
I fed my little group twice a day and let them come into my studio. They piled in under my wardrobe and slept soundly in safety.
Feeding cats in Greece during winter
I looked online to see if there were any cat charities that took action in Naxos in the winter. I was willing to feed these cats myself but the cat problem generally became more overwhelming the more walks I went on. This wasn’t a one-person job to tackle and I couldn’t feed all the cats on the island myself.
Thankfully I saw that Naxos Animal Welfare Society (NAWS) has 30 feeding stations throughout the island. The cats are fed at these stations every other day during the winter. I’ve learnt that other people also take a bag of food with them on their walks. They give it out to the cats on their way around so between us we’re looking out for them.
Controlling the population of cats in Greece
About 10 years ago I spent some time in Rhodes. The problem was even worse then, with lots of stray dogs running about the street, too. I remember letting a pup come home with me one night so he was safe.
Many places, including Naxos, now have a programme in place to sterilise the street cats. A German company donated 5,000 euros to NAWS to subsidise sterilisiations.
Luckily I was able to have my colony included in that programme and the procedure for the last of them will take place this week.
My clan of Greek cats
My little clan bring me so much joy. When I moved from the studio to this current housesit I was able to bring them all with me. I’m so grateful for that. In addition to these six, I also feed two (plus two others unofficially) next door that the neighbour feeds when they’re on the island. And then two other foster kittens living in the studio attached to my house.
These two little cuties were found on the side of the road. I made a Tiktok video about some other kittens that broke my heart when I found one of them dead on the side of the road after being hit by a car.
People were saying that I should have taken the kittens away when I first saw them. But they don’t understand the vastness of the situation. There are hundreds and hundreds of cats on the island that were in the same position as those ones and made it through to adulthood.
These two kittens were found with eye infections. They were taken to the vet but in the end, both of them have lost most of their sight. Louise had one eye removed and Thelma’s eyes didn’t form properly. They didn’t stand much of a chance on the road and were brought back to the studio to grow and recover.
NAWS works with a German adoption company to rehome the animals. Cats in Greece are then adopted by people in Germany. The welfare of the animals is fairly rigorously checked.
Moving the cats to Germany
When these kittens are chosen from the website they’ll be prepared for travel. Once they’ve had the all-clear from the vet, NAWS volunteers will take them to the ferry. Someone accompanies the cats on the 6-hour ferry trip to Athens. In Athens, they’re passed to a pet taxi who takes them to the airport. Someone else will then accompany them on the flight and eventually they get to Germany.
It’s a long journey and probably not much fun for a cat. It hurts a bit to think of their fear during the journey. But it’s really a small sacrifice for a lifetime of love and care.
Follow our journey
Keep up to date with the latest on our journey over on TikTok or Instagram.
Get to know the clan!
Here’s the fam!