Today is World Spay Day and thanks to your support, we have raised the funds to neuter 80 stray / abandoned cats so far this month! Nine Lives Greece volunteers are currently working hard on our trap, neuter, return program in order to make 2014 a record setting year in the effort to humanely control the stray cat population of Athens. But we’re not done yet! Read about the campaign or become a Friend of Nine Lives Greece to support our work.
World Spay Day is part of World Spay Month, a public awareness campaign to spotlight the importance of spaying/neutering stray and owned animals alike, the only proven, effective and humane way to reduce stray cat populations and improve their everyday quality of life.
Nine Lives Greece interviews MTV host Jenny Theona on World Spay Month
World Spay Day Ambassador, the charismatic and socially conscious actress and MTV host Jenny Theona, spent an afternoon feeding the Acropolis colony with Eleni Kefalopoulou. After the cats had had their fill, we sat down and discussed Jenny’s dedication to caring for animals and the importance of World Spay Month.
You have given us a wonderful photo of you as a child with an armful of kittens. What do you remember about this scene?
The photo was taken at my grandmother’s house in Mytilene. It is my favourite island and the island where my mother family is from. I remember very clearly that kittens had been born and I had pushed together two chairs in order gather them all together into a big bed. My grandmother always had many cats and many stories from when she was a young orphan during the occupation. They had survived difficult years and she had kept cats for company and shared what little food she had- especially fish- to feed them. There were always cats in the family and my grandmother would go to the market each morning to get fresh fish to feed them. At times my grandfather would get upset that she was spending too much on the cats. I think her love of animals was one of the reasons I loved her so much.
Do you think that your love of cats comes from the memories of Mytilene and your grandmother?
Yes, I think so. When we would return to Athens from Mytilene in the winter, I would inevitably ask why we didn’t have any cats at home with us. And so, we ended up having cats in Athens as well. But yes, my grandmother’s love for animals and cats in particular was unimaginable. The amount of care she gave them was incredible.
Can you tell me about a couple of cats that have been particularly special to you?
I have a cat right now who is young and small in size. She’s like a little dwarf and she’s got a very funny personality. I feel very close to her because she was part of a litter that was born in a neighbour’s yard. I went and asked what they were planning on doing with them and since they didn’t want them, I took them home. They were in a poor condition, as their mother had abandoned them, and we went through a difficult time together. I would bottle feed them, wake up every 3 hours to care for them throughout the night.
One day I had taken them all to the vet and returned home with one kitten who didn’t need to stay in for care along with my other cat, Mimi who had been neutered. From that moment on, Mimi adopted the kitten, who I named Zozo. Mimi chose Zozo out of all the others and cared for her as if she was her own. She would clean her, make sure she was fed and take her everywhere she went. I remember the first time the kitten ate solid food, I was moved to tears because not all of her brothers and sisters had survived and I was so exhausted and sleep deprived from worry that I could hardly believe she had gotten strong enough to eat on her own and would live. Even though I had found adoptive homes for the rest of the kittens, there was no way I could give her away. Mimi had adopted her! Zozo has remained small but she holds her own with the other cats, especially when it comes to feeding. All my cats have to wait to eat in order and she has worked her way up to the front of the line.
I found Zozo’s adoptive mother, Mimi on Pireos Street. I was on a way to a rehearsal and I saw her on the side of the road. She was so frightened that it was difficult for me to pick her up, but once I did, she was so comfortable and so natural that it was as if she was my cat. I put her in my bag and she came with me to the rehearsal. The truth is, I did get into a bit of trouble at work that day but there was a happy ending.
Can you share one of your proudest moments or achievements with regards to the animals you care for?
I’m proud that I’ve neutered all of my 10 rescue cats, with the exception of one which still needs to be neutered. I’m very pleased because I have seen the benefits of neutering: the cats don’t have the drive to reproduce and so they don’t roam as much, therefore they are safer. When cats roam in the streets, there is always the danger of being hit by cars or being poisoned, no matter how smart or experienced they are. So for their safety but also for their health, it’s very important.
What motivates you to rescue stray and abandoned animals?
For some reason, when I see an abandoned kitten or puppy on the street, there is no question: I feel as if I am its mother- that it is my responsibility. I don’t give it a second thought that I’ll leave a “baby” alone on the road. Instinctively I feel that I am its mother. Whenever friends find a cat that needs fostering and there is nobody to take care of it, it naturally falls to me.
What does World Spay Month mean for you?
It is a good start for something that ought to happen all year round and at every opportunity. The current situation for strays is a dire one. Cats should not be living on the streets and the only thing we can do to keep their population under control is to neuter them. At some point I believe the dream of all of us is that each stray cat and dog will have a home and ‘parents’ for life.
What would you like to see for the future of strays in Greece?
I would like for the concept of strays not to exist. I never want to hear again about poisonings and I would like to see severe penalties enforced towards them. I would like for every municipality, every resident and every government, to feel that it has a responsibility towards its stray animals in the same way that they take responsibility for the citizens of this country. That is to say, I would like for people to realize that we share this city with the animals and that we are responsible for them- that they are the protected members of our community and we each have a role to play as their guardians.