Winter has been kind on our tiny Greek island, with many warm, sunny days and mostly night time rain. Today is the beginning of the Orthodox lent, this year nearly a month behind that of the Catholic church. Locals are queuing outside bakeries to buy the specialist, flat, sesame covered ‘lagana’ bread, which is to be dipped into olive paste or taramasalata, that salty fish paste so popular on Greek menus. In family circles around Greece it will be accompanied by fish and vegetable dishes to commemorate the beginning of the Lenten fast, leading up to the great celebration of Easter. Houses are cleaned in preparation and kites are flown in the brisk breeze, from beaches and hillsides, to symbolise a deeper inner cleansing of the soul. No matter we’re still in a strict lockdown – kite flying has been officially sanctioned!
The cats of the village are not interested in the festivities, except to relish a few fishy leftovers. They have just one thing on their minds – to find a mate. Although we’ve been sterilising cats here for more than ten years and it really shows with fewer numbers and healthier colonies, somehow a few always slip through our clutches, resulting in new kittens. These may be young cats, whose mothers escaped out attentions last year, or migratory felines, who have been fed by summer or weekend visitors and then left abruptly to fend for themselves. Happily many of them find their way to one of our feeding stations, so we can make sure they are fed and healthy, treating minor ear, eye and skin problems if they are compliant. Now it’s time to dust off the traps and drop cages, enlist the help of local friends and get out on the streets to catch any unneutered males and females and ship them off to the vet, before it’s too late. With the help of Animal Action Greece, we’re hoping to trap, neuter and release twelve males and females in the next week or so, thus preventing another explosion of unwanted kittens.
On the whole, locals like to see cats around and laud us for feeding and caring for them. But bad behaviour such as noisy fighting males, or sickly dirty cats scavenging in rubbish bins is likely to lead to abuse. So it’s really important that the colonies on the island are well cared for and look healthy – it’s part of the ongoing awareness-raising and education that we all try to do.