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No Nine Lives For The Cats of Rhodes

By Edited Nov 18, 2014 1 2

No nine lives for these

It's common to hear of a nasty vermin infestation, just as it's common to hear gritty tales of mice living at the back of the cupboard, or rats roaming through your roof rafters. 

In Greece, however, there's a particularly widespread epidemic that not many of us would deem akin to a rat infestation. Rather, Greece and the surrounding Dodecanese Islands are roamed by a seemingly endless supply of one certain mammal. 


They're everywhere - Under the tables, laying on the walls, camping out by the bins or even at your feet, begging for a treat from that four-euro meal you just ordered. They'll prowl the pavements and cuddle up on your sunbeds, and may even decide to pop into your hotel room for a visit. Whilst many find that these adorable creatures are a delightful addition to their holiday, the locals are less than happy about seeing them. 

Many tourists are unfortunately oblivious to the fact that these cats only have until October to live. Come the winter, when the tourist season dies down, many hotels and businesses will lay down poison for the cats to ingest. At large, this tends to kill off a majority of the feline population, and keeps their numbers down until the next tourist season in spring. They're not just aimed at the kitties either - other feral creatures, like wild dogs, will unwittingly come across the poison as well - and as such, so will domesticated pets. There are many saddening tales of loved pets falling prey to this inhumane system of eradication. 

A cat that can hunt for itself and knows to avoid the poisons during winter will probably survive longer than cats that thrive off restaurant left-overs; without any tourists to feed them and no knowledge of how to catch food for themselves, malnutrition is likely to claim them before the poison is.

It is a cruel, repeating cycle. In a society that views cats akin to rats, it's no surprise that not many people have being doing anything about it. T N R (Trap, Neuter and Return) programs, however, have proved very effective in recent years, and the creation of several Cat Welfare societies across Greece seem to project the image of a brighter future for the furred felines. With the help of these societies, slowly but surely, hotels are straying away from their current method of keeping cat numbers down. But the inevitable threat of 'poisonous winters' still linger, and it is a dark time for both feral and domesticated animals alike.



Nov 24, 2014 6:14am
I remember this being a hue problem in Tunisia too when we went there a few years ago. They were literally EVERYwhere.... in every corner, under every bush, outside the front of the hotel begging for food and attention. We homed one in our hotel room for the week we were there and felt horrible leaving him behind when we left! It was obvious that half of them (at least!) were pretty unwell, with eye infections and fighting injuries.... I am glad that the TNR scheme is helping in Greece though I think that they should roll it out in all countries that have this problem. Cat's reproduce so fast and at such a young age that it's easy to see how things can get out of hand. I think it is important to educate the owners of the domestic cats as well though so that they neuter their pets and stop this cycle continuing at such a rapid rate. I know that lots of places in the USA are doing their own TNR scheme and it is helping to contain the problem to some extent. I do think that education would be the biggest change-maker though...
Nov 25, 2014 1:08am
There are now cat feeding stations in Pefkos I noticed and probably many other locations on the island. It seems that all sorts of folks are stopping by to look after these cats, it's not just the tourists feeding them from their meals in restaurants (as the waiters try to shoo them away), it seems these cats in the main are very well cared for, you can just tell by looking at them. It's all about balance isn't it and making sure that reproduction is restricted, because any animal in an environment where resources are scarce, will go wild, even us humans!
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