Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Greece is Going to the Cats

Five years ago I published a book called "The Secret Life of Greek Cats" based on feline photographs I'd taken over the years, which told about Greek history, myths, traditions and superstitions from the point of view of the cats who are so much a part of the Greek landscape.  As I wrote in the book: "Everywhere you go in Greece you will find a cat...Cats are the punctuation in Greek life...During their catnaps they dream of the days when they were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and didn't have to rely on the kindness of strangers for food." (The book is still available--for $10-- on Amazon or  by clicking on the book cover to the right.)

Many of the cats in the book were photographed on the island of Hydra, including Vasili, the cat on the cover, who dreamed of jumping on one of the boats in the harbor of Hydra and sailing away to see the world.

On a recent trip back to the island of Hydra, I was curious to see if the economic crisis in Greece had affected the island's feline population.  The harbor cats were there, as numerous as always.  They were gathered to greet the tourists, patiently waiting under the taverna tables for handouts, and agilely avoiding being trampled by the donkeys in the harbor, who are the only form of transportation on the island.

Every time I'd comment that the Hydra cats seemed thinner than before, daughter Eleni would point out a fat cat who clearly enjoyed a regular meal schedule.  (Some of the Greek islands, including Crete, have  organizations which collect contributions to help with the spaying and care of the island's feral cat population.  As far as I know, Hydra does not.)

On many Greek islands the cats have become so numerous and so popular that they are now featured on touristic items like carrier bags.

The  best fed and happiest cats on the island are, of course,  house pets and store cats.

The harbor cats have a harder life, but they regularly greet the fishing boats as they come in in the morning, hoping for scraps when fish are cleaned.  They also keep an eye on the private boats anchored in the harbor-- to the point of mastering tightrope walking, if it will win a tasty bite.

Even the wildest of the feral cats, when the sun begins to set, have to stop a moment and wonder at the beauty of their island, and take a moment to wish for good hunting and a full stomach tomorrow.

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