Sonia Soldatou talks about the impressive trap-neuter-return and care programme that she has set up to help stray cats in the Athens neighbourhood of Kaisariani, and how it has developed into a community effort. Nine Lives Greece is proud to be helping this active and focused young team.
It all started in spring 2013, when a silver-grey, lime-eyed cat began to meet me occasionally at the entrance to my apartment building, seeking a friendly caress and some food. A few months later she disappeared for about a month, only to show up on my 1st floor balcony with three newborns, which she had carried up the adjacent tree. And thus, though we had not previously thought of getting a pet, we were adopted by Lady Grey. We gave two of her babies to good humans, but couldn’t bear to part with the darling of the litter, black-and-white Xena, so we bundled up mother and daughter and set up for our summer vacation.
Upon our return in September, I discovered a cat colony at a nearby park; they were being fed by an elderly gentleman, Mr Yiorgos, who did not do any sterilizations. Although the cats initially appeared healthy, when one of them, whom we had named Sylvie gave birth to a litter of four, they all got sick with the cat flu and soon died. Another, Mama Roma, produced a litter of very sick babies, but we caught those early and through incessant care, multiple vet visits, much medication and good food, we saved them all and sent them off, one by one, to good responsible homes.
That’s when I realized that sterilizing my own cats was not enough; I had to help sterilize the strays too. I started off with Mama Roma and Sylvie. Then I met a neighbour, Thaleia, who had been feeding around 20 strays for 6 years now, but hadn’t been able to afford more than 2 or 3 sterilizations. She and I, along with two more friends, agreed to split up the expenses, and started catching cats and sterilizing them in earnest.
However, if it hadn’t been for the help we got from Nine Lives, who gave us a cat trap for the hard cases and subsidized a good number of our sterilizations and treatments, we would never have been able to sterilize our 34 females and 10 males so far!
Eight months later, and with Mr Yiorgos having passed away, I am now the sole caretaker of the park colony, and along with my friends we continue sterilizing and caring for the wider Kaisariani area feline population. Having found good homes for a number of kittens, we have also been trying to get some of our neediest and friendliest adults adopted, like creamy-soft yearling Siren, or gorgeous Margot, whom every passer-by admires, but none take her home.
All this time, we’ve faced many challenges: wounds and diseases, the often deadly hostility of barbaric neighbours, and the sudden deaths of beloved little furballs; but we have also come together to celebrate successful adoptions, miraculous recoveries, and the improvement of the quality of life for our colonies. It has brought us closer together as a team, and we are now more resolved than ever to continue helping those helpless souls who have taught us how to truly love.