Easter 2012 - Introduction
Here We Go
The three of us, myself Mark, my wife Pauline and daughter Christina, have been volunteering at Romney House for about eighteen months. This Easter we decided to see first-hand Silvana's other rescue project in Italy.
As we flew into Alghero airport on the north western coast of Sardinia I was struck by how beautiful the area is. Green rolling hills and not too much development has left this side of the island more as it should be and less like a tourist trap. But we digress, visit on holiday and see for yourself.
A fuller set of pictures can be found here: Italian Job Easter 2012
Cats are NOT Pets
Over the first few days it became clear to me that you have to have a very different perception of what a cat's role is in Sardinia (and most likely a lot of Europe). Dogs are dogs, and have a similar role there as they do here in the UK. Cats however are very different; cats are basically not pets. There are exceptions of course, a few people do keep cats as pets. However here in the UK 99% of cats you see will belong to someone and have a home. In Sardinia it’s the opposite. 99% of cats you see will be 'feral', living on their wits out in the open. That isn’t to say they don’t get on with people, many are friendly, particularly when it comes to food! So if you see a cat in Sardinia, feed it, because most likely no-one else is.
Another thing that immediately struck me was the type of cat. You assume that all the cats will fit the typical feral stereotype; long legs, thin, etc. But no! All types of cats are present, from long haired Persian types, tabbies to tortoise shells. Just see the galleries.
View Alghero Cats on a google map
A cat colony? Here in the UK we see cats as mostly individuals. However when faced with a wild life they congregate into colonies, not just coming together for food, but actually living as a group. As you would expect there is a 'pecking order' although this is mostly focused on the main 'boss' (who can be either male or female).
Another thing that surprised me. These cats are not 'wild'. Some will be quite happy to be petted. Others will shy away, but generally there is an acceptance of people into their lives.
Silvana helps look after three major cat colonies in the area, along with her own colony at her house and any number of smaller colonies wherever they are found. When we say 'looking after' it’s important to understand that feeding them is only one part of the operation. The goal is to reduce the numbers in these colonies and there is only one way to do this - neutering. A big part of Silvana's time involves vet care for the cats. Even this has inbuilt difficulties as the veterinary system in Italy is very different from our own, and many vets simply never see cats as they aren’t considered domestic.
Another sad fact of cat life in Sardinia is that many kittens simply never survive. Life is tough, very tough, as you will see from the following chapters.
Life on the Wild Side
But Its Not Easy
Feeding Time For The Hotel Cats
The Church Cat Colony