Trap-neuter-return efforts in this most desperate central Athens area, thanks to generous grants from the Greek Cat Welfare Society and Marchig and the support of our Nine Lives friends, are resulting in smaller, healthier stray cat populations.
It is almost two years ago now since we started a trap-neuter-return programme for the stray cats that, against all odds, struggle to survive in the harshest area of central Athens, Omonia. (See Operation Omonia: Match your Gift campaign) We estimated then that the stray cat population was around 255 cats, lurking in the alleys and derelict houses around the square. Of those cats, only 10% had been spayed/neutered at that time.
The latest count, which we took this March, showed a population of approximately 140 cats, of which 55-60% are spayed/neutered.
Thanks to the generosity of the Greek Cat Welfare Society and, this year, the Marchig charity, as well as the incredible response of our supporters to our initial fund-raising appeal, we have managed to take 200 cats to be spayed/neutered over the last two years. During the next six months of 2015, our aim is to tackle the most challenging spots in the area where, until now, we have not managed to trap the cats. Everywhere in Omonia is challenging, due to the incessant traffic and hubbub until late at night, and the insalubrious characters roaming the area after dark; but there are particular places where the task of trapping is made even more difficult as the cats find safety on inaccessible rooftops or deep within dangerously-dilapidated buildings.
We also aim to catch and take for neutering all the new cats and kittens that have turned up at existing colonies, some dumped, but mostly wandering from other parts of this chaotic and dangerous area, and staying when they find a regular food source.
Sadly, the huge decrease in population is not only due to our neutering efforts to stabilise colony numbers and avoid unwanted litters. The lifespans of cats in Omonia are pathetically short, with the manifold dangers that face them every minute of every day and night. Last winter, Ioanna, the guardian angel of the strays there, was devastated to find every one of the cats that she feeds daily on Veranzerou Street, all spayed/neutered and healthy, had met a terrible death at the hands of a poisoner. At other feeding spots, cat families have been decimated by speeding cars, while she has also been informed of suspicious activities by some people in the area apparently attempting to capture the cats for unknown purposes. This information, and details of a homemade trap that she found, have been reported to the police, and residents in the area have been informed and requested to keep vigilant, as any such activity carried out by individuals for their own questionable purposes is highly illegal.
We continue all our efforts for the cats of Omonia, and hope that our dream that one day there will be no stray cats desperately ekeing out an existence between rubbish bins and hoarded-up shops on these mean streets will eventually come true.
Below, Ioanna tells the stories of just a couple of Omonia kitties:
“This lovely young tabby was waiting for me one afternoon, at one of the ‘best’ (ie worst) spots of Omonia. She called to me, meowing away, and because, if I left her there she would certainly die, either under a passing car or by someone giving her poison-laced food, I took her in my arms and carried her to my office. She purred all the way. She was about 4 months old, extremely thin and with some kind of wound to her spine that made her cry when touched near that spot, and she was desperate for love.” After treatment at the vet and some good meals, Elsa was strong enough to be spayed, and very shortly after that, lovely Christina fell in love with her and decided to adopt her. Elsa reminded her of a cat that she had adored when she was a child, who she had never forgotten. Now named Thea, for the goddess that she truly is, Elsa has grown into a beautiful, healthy, plump, playful cat and wonderful companion to Christina and her other rescue-cat, Luna. Our heartfelt thanks to Christina!
The car-park kitten
“During spring, Pepa, one of the ladies who helps with feeding at Omonia from time-to-time, told me about a kitten at an open-air car-park. The kitten had an appalling open wound across his chest, one front leg was completely mangled from the knee down, and his tail was badly hurt too. Perhaps he had got caught in a car engine or some other kind of machinery. Someone was feeding this kitten and another cat there, but it was clear that no-one was taking further care of them. We were told that the kitten had appeared, in this condition, a week ago. We rushed the kitten to the vet, who put him on antibiotics and painkillers, with the prognosis that the leg and tail would need to be amputated. Pepa offered to foster him, once he was well enough to leave the vet. But very sadly the kitten did not make it. After just a few days at the vet, he passed away.”
“This kitten recently appeared (dumped?) at one of our feeding places, where there about 15 cats, all spayed/neutered through Nine Lives. We found him in a drain, unable to move. We took him to the vet, who said that it must be a neurological condition caused by a microbe, that had left him basically paralysed. Now, he walks in circles and hangs his head to one side. We are still uncertain of his prognosis. He is in a very temporary home, but urgently needs a foster family who can give him the love and care he needs until an understanding permanent home is found.”