Τhe plight of these two tortoiseshell kittens in central Athens set off a chain reaction reaching all the way to Canada and England. Their extraordinary story and future is testament to a dedicated global network of true animal-lovers.
In November, Nine Lives Greece received an email from a British business traveller to Athens, who, on departing the city for the airport, spotted a tiny kitten peering out of a hole in a wall near the bus ticket guichet on Athens’ busiest square. He asked us if we could investigate and help the kitten who was alone in such a very dangerous place, with no food or water. We received the email just as one of our volunteers, Kimonas (the talented young man who photographed our 2015 calendar!) was finishing his round feeding 30 hungry mouths in colonies not very far from the square, so we called him and asked if he could pop over to check it out. An hour later he called us to say the kitten was safely out of the hole and in his carrier cage, en route to the vet. We replied to the traveller, Christopher, with the good news, and almost immediately he and his wife Gill had written back offering the terrified little tortie a home with them in northern England, on their beautiful farm with their two cats Daisy and Charlie. They attached photos and a Google map. Further, they added that they would like to name the kitten Poppi, after Christopher’s grandmother, who was Greek and had lived in Athens!
Little Poppi was gravely underweight and her coat very stark after her ordeal, and during her first week at the vet it was touch-and-go whether she would make it. She was hardly eating, didn’t play at all, and just sat rather listlessly. But the next week, the course of treatment seemed to kick in and she turned the corner, started eating with a hearty appetite, and was bright and alert. Once she had the all-clear from the vet, she moved into her foster home with incredibly caring Slovenian exchange students Anja and Alesa, and soon was sleeping on their beds and pouncing playfully onto their limbs to wake them for breakfast.
Meanwhile, at about the same time as the email from Christopher, we had received an email from a Canadian tourist and regular visitor to Athens, who had spotted a small tortie kitten in another dangerous spot just around the corner from where Poppi was found. This was an altogether more difficult case, though, as this kitten’s hiding place was not immediately accessible, and she was far too scared to come close. Our volunteer Caroline made it her mission to care for, tame, and catch this kitten, who she named Philomena, and bring her to safety. For a month, she went every day. She brought food and toys, water and brushes to clean her bowls out thoroughly, and rubbish bags to throw away the mess of human food (pies, beans, spaghetti, mouldy yoghurt) that other well-meaning but misguided passers-by were dumping for the kitten, creating a health and hygiene hazard that put little Philomena at great risk of someone taking matters into their own hands and laying out poison to kill the rats and cockroaches (and of course Philomena too). A kindly neighbour said that initially a mother cat had been visiting Philomena, crossing the very busy thoroughfare with care late at night, and that there had been other kittens, but she must have moved them, and one day the mother herself never returned.
Day by day Philomena grew more confident, and one day, while playing, she came close enough to the edge of her ‘prison’ for Caroline to touch her. She stroked her, then gently brought her through the locked gate into her lap. Philomena started purring! Without having a cage with her, Caroline zipped Philomena into her coat, hailed a taxi and sped to the vet, where the kitten had a complete check-over, antiparasite treatment, and was put into a hospitalization cage with toys and a blanket from Caroline’s home. As well as being surprisingly friendly and relaxed around humans, Philomena was also fairly healthy, if a little thin and of course full of fleas. While she received all the necessary medical attention, we talked to Anja and Alesa, and they gladly agreed to foster Philomena as well, to give little Poppi a playmate. And it was when we brought Philomena to their house, and watched the two kittens following each other around curiously, that a thought struck us: could they actually be sisters?
Their teeth show them to be the same age (though Philomena is slightly bigger-bodied); they were found within a block of each other, each seemingly put there by a mother cat for safe-keeping; and it is an area where we are quite familiar with the cat population and not aware of other kittens or unspayed females. Had we just reunited two siblings? It certainly seemed possible!
In mid-February, these two lucky – and plucky – little ladies travelled to their furrever homes: Poppi with her saviours Christopher and Gill, and Philomena also in northern England, with members of the Nine Lives extended family who have three other former Greek stray kitties living the dream in their cosy home with its warm beds, cornucopia of cat toys and treats, and garden stocked with a fish pond and hen-run (feline TV), sunny snoozing spots and shady shrubs for pouncing from.
We are indebted to all the people who, from around the world, united to ensure a fairytale ending – or, rather, new beginning – for these kittens. Had it not been for them, Poppi and Philomena would be dead by now, flattened by traffic as soon as they emerged from their temporary bolt holes to seek food, companionship or, with the courting season in full swing here, to be pursued across 4 lanes of speeding cars by ardent romeows. Poppi is already best friends with her new feline companion Daisy (Charlie took a look at her, then continued about his usual business), while Philomena is chattering, in heartfelt chirrups, to her gregarious fellow Greek migrants Oscar, Mu and Skoupi.