In the first months of 2014, we lost several much-loved members of the stray cat colonies we look after in central Athens, including Rasmiga, our cat-mascot from Acropoli, and beautiful diva Foteini at Zappeio.
We are very sad to report that since January 2014, no less than 10 cats at the Plaka-Acropoli areas where we feed have lost their lives. It is partly nature – the colonies that we feed are ageing, and in most cases these cats have already lived far longer than the average lifespan of street cats. But other cats are meeting their ends suddenly and tragically, and often disappearing without trace. Our beloved Rasmiga is one of those.
We first saw her in spring 2007, with two tiny sisters, gambolling in the yard of a disused tavern. We never knew who their mother was, she had already moved on, but all three kittens quickly became friendly and would join the throng of cats appearing at a run on hearing their feeders’ calls. When they were old enough, Rasmiga, Ismene and Mavroula were spayed, and all became favourites with the volunteers. But Rasmiga was something special, not only was she very affectionate to her feeders (not, luckily, to strangers) – she had star quality. Photographed by Yiannis Mouzakitis for our very first calendar in 2010, we soon found that she was the subject of numerous tourists’ photographs, as she posed nonchalantly in the sunshine below the Acropolis. We chose Mouzakitis’ portrait of her to grace our event banner, and thus our vivacious tabby-and-white mascot became a fixture at all of our events and fundraisers. She went on to feature in the 2011 calendar as well, and in photoshoots for both publications featuring the work of Nine Lives – and then, suddenly, on January 6 she went missing. We searched everywhere, for days, calling up and down the streets and alleyways, searching inside the derelict buildings and asking all the local residents and shopowners, but no-one had seen her. We still pray that our girl is alive and happy somewhere, and may one day be reunited with all her friends and fans, four-pawed and two-legged.
On March 24, the volunteer team at the Zappeio Gardens were devastated to learn of the death of beautiful Foteini, a capricious, gorgeous cat nicknamed ‘diva’ for her skittish character. A rare all-ginger female, Foteini had appeared at the park several years ago, nervous and newly pregnant though barely out of kittenhood herself. So her first port of call, once we had caught her, was the vet, where she stayed for a week to be spayed. Though friendly enough when she wanted to be, she was desperately unhappy being confined, and once back at the park, she settled quickly and found her place in the colony there.
Volunteers never knew if she would grace them with her presence for breakfast, but when she did, she ate with gusto and allowed a few strokes and caresses. It took us a while to realise where she spent the rest of the time, but one day feeder Ioanna chanced upon Foteini just outside the park, in a safe haven she had discovered by Zappeio Hall. She spent more and more time there, and often her colony pal Natalie would join her there. Then, in January 2014, everything changed. Zappeio became the headquarters of the Greek Presidency of the EU, and defences were drawn up all round. Despite the security phalanx, sniffer dogs, and loud preparations for events within the building, Foteini continued to hang out there, hidden and undetected. To get in and feed her, the volunteers had to obtain permission from the security staff, sometimes successfully, but usually not. We set traps to catch her and bring her out to her old place, but she would not get in for any amount of tempting tuna or other lures. Just when we were getting desperate, Foteini suddenly appeared at the park with her old colony, eager for breakfast and seemingly happy to have returned.
She was there every day for the next month. And then suddenly she wasn’t. Assuming she had got back into the secure zone, we assumed she would return again when she felt like it. Until, sickeningly, on March 24, Ioanna found the body of our beautiful girl, attacked by dogs and left dead in the shrubs just close to her feeding place.
Sleep soundly our little ones, and know that you were truly loved.