Nine Lives volunteer Sia introduces the characterful cast of cats she and her fellow feeders visit every morning in a central Athens park, and tells of the new arrivals and sad farewells over the past six months.
Being a feeder at the National Gardens can be a very rewarding experience. Soon enough you know you have a different kind of “family” expecting you once or twice a week. Every time you visit the Gardens and Zappeio the joy and relief you feel when your small feline friends run towards you is always the same and never gets old.
Our National Gardens/Zappeio colony experienced over the past few months times of happiness and times of worry. Unfortunately, we had to bid a sad farewell to one of the most sweet and smart characters to ever walk the park. Naturally, we also had some new arrivals.
During the summer, two new residents appeared at the Vouli area. First came the cuddly and energetic Alex the ginger, who turned – and still turns – the life of his neighbours upside down. Many cats have abandoned for a short time their hideouts, annoyed by his presence, but he has happily settled in, making us worry whenever he disappears for a day or two. After a few months, we found out about Johnny – a beautiful white and orange kitten. At first, he was a bit hesitant and preferred to be fed scraps by the police officers, but he quickly got used to us and has been our permanent “client” ever since. At Zappeio, we welcomed a few more cats. Some stayed, but many disappeared shortly after. Nowadays, we take care of a shy black-and-white kitten, who has her breakfast every morning on the roof of a container. Imagine how much climbing that takes for us volunteers!
All our newcomers appeared suddenly, but it was clear that some of them had been left to an uncertain fate by their previous owners. An odd-eyed white neutered cat was abandoned at Aigli, but now has been very happily adopted by Jasmine, living in Koukaki like a prince with his new friend rescue cat Magic. However, not all of them were so lucky. Another white fluffy cat was abandoned by its owner along with its carrier and a plate. We only found the cage and the bowl, but received a report of a terrified long-haired white cat seen by a dog-walker near its carrier cage. We kept searching for it and tried to reach through our Facebook page the anonymous owner to help us, until a cleaner informed us of a macabre sighting. He said he had seen the dogs dragging the body of a dead white cat.
Luckily, some really exciting news helped to cheer us up. A long-time resident of the National Gardens’ Children’s Library – the unique, sociable and affectionate Natalie – found a loving carer after one of our volunteers, Dalida, provided her with a warm forever home. A few months later, another old friend of ours left the park and moved to a safer place. Our long-haired elder sweetheart, Dora, was taken in by the volunteers of another group after someone contacted them to report about a stray at the Parliament. The volunteers kindly called us to ask if we were missing a cat from the Gardens and indeed we were. Dora was taken to the vet, where we discovered she had to have an operation for a lump (benign, luckily). The procedure was successful and she currently stays at a foster home. They are dearly missed, but now that they are happily in warm, cosy homes full of love, we wish to never see them again in the Gardens!
Trips to the vet were required for two more cats of our colony. Young orange girl Goldie suffered a worrying injury on her tail some days ago and had to receive treatment. Her tail was saved and she is back with her friend Bambina. Bob, an Aigli resident, had a visit to the vet scheduled, when he appeared to have stopped eating. The vet informed us that our little whiner has unfortunately lost most of his teeth and probably suffers from FIV. After receiving the required treatment, he was happy to be back with the rest of his gang of (neutered) male cats. He is daily spoon-fed huge portions of wet food and he feels really glad we found a way to help him out a bit and improve his life.
My last paragraph was saved to be dedicated to a late member of our cat family in the National Gardens. Horeftoulis had been roaming and exploring the park for many years and most of our old and new volunteers who fed or still feed there remember him with special love. He always was a very high-spirited handsome boy and a sincerely loving and positive character. Along with lucky Natalie, he had been residing at the Children’s Library, being one of the two last cats to survive there. All the other cats living in this area had been killed by dogs. He really liked to take long strolls, a fact that made us worry for his safety. The last few months before his departure, Horeftoulis seemed tired and ill, restricting himself to the whereabouts of the library, which was strange. We took him to the vet, to check on his health and decided to look for a foster home where he could be safe as he grew older and more frail. Unfortunately, his blood tests showed that he was suffering from Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a very serious and aggressive disease, which meant we would have to say goodbye too soon. Horeftoulis spent his last weeks happily and under special care. We ensured that he would be comfortable and warm with as much love as possible. However, his health was quickly deteriorating and his pain grew stronger. This led us to make the hardest of all decisions. Horeftoulis was put to sleep. Ioanna Foskolou, one of our most hard-working volunteers, stayed by his side until the end and found him a nice park near her house to finally rest.
His story really reminds us that there are so many other animals out there that need us to be strong and keep going. This is easier when you give and receive so much positive energy from them and from the rest of the volunteers.