The first six months of 2017 brought happy new beginnings, but also tragedies among the Athens park cats cared for by Nine Lives Greece volunteers.
Goldie, now Chrysoulaki, lives just a few blocks from the park, chatelaine of her own spacious art deco apartment which she allows her adopter, Simon, to share. Meanwhile Belle, now Ruby, after her first portrait session for our calendar is now an accomplished model with her very own Instagram account, where adopter Julia posts daily photos and videos for Ruby’s adoring public.
A third cat from the same area, Socksie, is also now enjoying home life and resting her weary paws after a lifetime on the streets. You might have seen Socksie, as photographed by talented volunteer Alexis-Kimonas Kokkinaris, on our Nine Lives postcards. One of the oldest cats to survive against all odds in the park, scrappy, streetwise Socksie developed arthritis that left her unable to run and swiftly jump into trees to escape the dogs that kill cats in this park. Our great supporter Katharina set herself the very difficult task of finding a perfect home for this lovely, friendly, but elderly cat – and succeeded! Since February, Socksie has been living happily at a cosy apartment home with adopter Elena, with plenty of birdwatching potential from the window to remind her of her old life, but with none of the dangers.
Among these happy new beginnings, though, there have also been tragedies at the park. All of us volunteers who feed the cats in the park have been shocked and devastated by the disappearance of Benji – aka Green Eyes. One of the original ‘B-Boy’ group of cats that used to live there (all with names beginning with the letter B), this gorgeous tabby with the stunning eyes and the gentle nature turned up at the feeding place some eight years ago, very scared and scrawny. He was accepted by the other cats, we took him to the vet to be neutered, and over the years he flourished. It was our hope to find him a retirement home as he grew older, but he seemed still in the prime of life when suddenly feeder Ioanna saw him ‘reeling like a drunkard’, clearly not himself, ten days ago. She rushed to get a cage from her office to bring him to the vet, but by the time she returned, he had vanished. We have been searching fruitlessly ever since. The chances of him turning up alive now are very slim. We can only hope that, whatever had suddenly happened to him, he died peacefully and without pain.
Another sad loss was that of the ginger boy who had appeared near the gates of the park last year. He was suffering from cat flu, which required several visits to the vet (also for neutering) and he was always rather nervous and not 100% healthy. But he seemed to be accepted by the other cats and to have learned to keep alert for the many dangers. Sadly, though, it was not the case. One day, feeder Kimonas saw a cleaner gathering up the dead body of this poor ginger cat, with a gaping wound down his side. It seems that dogs killed him; tragically, this is the usual cause of death for cats there, either by groups of strays that enter the park to hunt, or owned dogs whose owners think it is ‘a game’ for their dogs to run off-leash and chase cats. A couple of these dogs joining forces, or even one alone catching a cat sleeping or otherwise unawares, can and do kill within seconds. As in all public places in Greece, it is illegal for dogs to be off the lead in this park, but the law is never applied and a blind eye is turned by the authorities both to the frequent killings and to the widespread fouling.
Sleep soundly, precious boys, and know that you were truly loved. We miss you every day.
From the same cat group as Benji, sassy tabby Tigroula is currently at our vets having a tumour removed. Feeder Cordelia had gone to search for Benji, and while there stroking the other cats, realized that Tigroula had a wet patch on her belly. She lifted up her front paws, to find a raw mass underneath. Tests will show whether the mass is benign or not, but the vets decided to remove it anyway, as a precaution. Once Tigroula is well again, she will join the cats back at her feeding place.
We miss beloved Benji Green Eyes every day (Photo by Alexis-Kimonas Kokkinaris)
As ever, the first six months of 2017 saw several cats and kittens abandoned at this park. Tragically we rarely find most newly dumped cats alive, as they have no idea of the dangers from the dogs, or where to find food and water and hiding places, and most are fresh from apartment life, dumped by callous owners who feel that this is the perfect place for their former pets to live ‘in nature’. Among those we found in time were Chico and Iman. Shy little Chico, with his black button nose, has been lucky enough to find a wonderful home with an adopter who had already taken in an adult cat, Ron, from us, and the two boys are getting along well and Chico showing his very playful and lively side. Iman, meanwhile, a three-month-old short-tailed black female kitten, as soft as a slip of velvet and with an endlessly trusting and affectionate character, is in temporary foster care but urgently needs a forever home.