They call me Coco.  It’s a bit of an insult to my beautiful dark black, brown and orange glossy fur. I go to a lot of trouble keeping it clean and smooth. I didn’t always live at Syros Cats, but I’ve always had plenty of food. I was born in Kini, my mother made a cosy nest in the cliff, out of the wind, on the harbourside.  She chose a good place, because a local fisherman lives there and every time he comes back with his boat, he throws some bits down for the colony of cats that live there. In the summer there are nearby tavernas too, so when we get overloaded with fish, we can scrounge there as well.  Another boatman has a kiosk there, he takes tourists up to the north of the island and also gives us scraps and drinking water, which is hard to find in the dry summer heat.

As soon as I was old enough, my mother took me and my three siblings to the feeding place, where we waited patiently for the boat to come back. We all had our own spots in the rocky cliff, which were safe from traffic and people who wanted to harm us. One day, some people came with traps and took us to a sort of hospital. We had an operation, so we didn’t have babies.  The colony was getting too big and we would have had to fight for food.  We all had lovely glossy coats, because of the fresh fish.

A few years ago, someone put a proper feeding station there for us, with trays for food and water and every morning, someone came and filled them with cat biscuits, so we could graze all day, it’s how we cats prefer to eat and it didn’t matter if the boat was late or the weather too rough.  All in all, for stray cats, we had a good life.

Then my ears started to hurt. I was shaking my head constantly and one day one of my feeders noticed.  I let her look at my ears which were smelly and wet. I hoped she might help me. A couple of days later, she put me in a cage and took me to a cat doctor. I tried to be good, but the examination really hurt, so they gave me something to make me sleep and when I woke up, I felt much better. But I didn’t go back to the beach colony as I had to have ongoing pills and ear drops. Instead, they put me in a cage and I was very scared. I was warm and dry in a shed and there were other cats running around, but I just hid in my bed and only came out for food or to use the litter tray when there were no humans around.

I went to the doctor a few more times, it’s never good, but I’ve learnt to cope with the trips and treatment and made friends with the cats here. My cage was big and I had toys, although I wasn’t in the mood to play much. Gradually I learnt to trust the humans here and tolerate the ear cleaning and drops. Although I’m not completely cured, my ears don’t hurt all the time and I know the treatment is making them better. So even though I’m allowed out now, I know I need to stay here, so they don’t get really bad again. I’ve made lots of new friends, human and cat, there are trees to climb and beds to snooze in outside, if the day is warm and sunny. I’ve found out that humans love it when I rub around their legs – I’m careful not to trip them up – and often get rewarded with a meaty stick as a treat. I’m happy to go back in my cage for the night, with my own food and a snuggly bed – I feel very safe there.  Of course, I miss the cats from the harbour colony, but that was quite a long time ago now. I think the humans are afraid I’ll run back, because it’s not really very far and I could get there in a day. But Syros Cats is home now. I’m well looked after and comfortable. I think I’ll stay.

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