Animal welfare abroad

Back home in the UK it was predictable that we would get approached by either stray animals or stray people 🙂 – seeking attention from us, perhaps due to our energy from being Reiki Master Teachers.

This didn’t change in Kefalonia – stray dogs seemed to just follow us wherever we went, and cats didn’t seem frightened of us when they ran scared from everyone else.

The campsite owners had several cats and 2 children.  Nice, we thought…although seemingly very hard to deal with when we realised one of the children was autistic, and quite a handful for both parents and grandparents who took turns looking after them.

We were in the café one day when a young ginger cat came across to the tables, and immediately the owners wife scooted over, picked it up and threw it out, exclaiming ‘I want to kill this cat’.  We thought she was joking due to the smile on her face as she dumped it outside the bounds of the café, and then we overheard her saying that they had actually thrown it out because it kept biting the children, but it kept coming back.  That’s kind of what tends to happen when an animal thinks you’re it’s owner because you took it in and fed it!

Now, Greece doesn’t have the best track record for animal welfare and the usual trick is for wealthy Athenians to go to their coastal houses for the summer months, get a pet to keep their kids happy, and then ditch the animal once it comes time to go back to their Athens apartment where they can’t have pets.  Hence the abundance of stray animals especially at the coast.  The campsite owners are Athenians who come to the island in the summer to run the site, and return to Athens in October when they close it for the winter.   So, their cats get left to fend for themselves once they leave, and only the resilient and resourceful will make it – even then, they will more than likely have a short, hard life.

It’s a very ‘throw-away’ attitude to animals and one we cannot possibly share, as we bond, love and care for our pets faithfully until death (when we had the fortune to own any – dogs, cats and birds in the past).

Obviously on our travels, we can’t own an animal so it makes it hard to see these poor things just being thrown away by humans who look down on them as unimportant, and just a distraction and plaything for their kids during a few short months.  It’s a shame that humans don’t actually realise that they too, are just animals in the grand scheme of things.  Yes people, we are related to monkeys, and therefore are PART of the animal kingdom, no matter how much you may want to think yourselves ABOVE them in some kind of hierarchy.  We are all part and parcel of the same life, with the same type of cycles, survival instincts, reproduction, etc etc.  We are not any better, just different, in how we view and cope with life.  We are not above the food chain, we are on it.

After witnessing this action with the cat, we were not really too surprised a few days later when the cat showed up at our pitch.


Viewing us from a distance first, she surveyed us going about our day and then decided to come over and say hi with a very hoarse quiet meow.  It seemed she had been without water on this very dry island for a while now, as the only really accessible water was the sea.  All the riverbeds are dry during August/September, with the first proper rain storms coming at the end of September.

We put some water down for her and shared some meat with her.  After devouring this, she came over for a fuss.

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I was surprised to find that she was very cuddly and very trusting – cats don’t usually lie down and bare their stomachs to be tickled unless they trust you, as it puts them in a vulnerable position, but she did after only a few minutes and she hung around for quite a while.

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She would either hang out on one of the chairs or the bench, have a fuss, or sit nearby grooming herself whilst we went about our business.  Silently, she departed at some point and we decided to leave the water down for her in case she came back.

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She returned a couple of days later, and so we nicknamed her ‘Pretty’, as she had the most beautiful eyes and pretty stripes with a bushy tail.  Every couple of days she would show up with either a greeting meow and a rub against your legs, or a silent push of her head against your hand – often appearing so quietly that you didn’t know she was there until you felt her nudge.  We contacted the local shelter to see if we could take her in for rehoming, and also volunteering to help them out for a few weeks as per their program, knowing that she would just be abandoned here when we moved on and the campsite closed for winter.  We were also prepared to sponsor her monthly until they found a home for her.

Sadly we never heard from them.

We had to leave the campsite knowing that she was left to fend for herself, and also knowing that she was far from the vicious cat they thought she was – they just didn’t understand her behaviour.  Knowing cats already, having cared for my own rescue kittens years ago, and being party to her company for a few weeks, we knew that as with most of the animals here, she had been parted from her mother too early and she nuzzled and kneaded as they do when feeding from the mother cat as infants.  She would always do this when having a fuss made of her, because she knew no different and hadn’t been disciplined and instructed by a mother cat when growing.  It was sad to think that she was labelled as vicious due to this, and the fact that she played as normal cats do by using her paws and sometimes claws/teeth.  Her mother would have taught her when this was inappropriate, and her owners should have been able to do this too, if they had only understood the nature of animals and stepped in as a teacher and carer.

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We left behind a beautiful, affectionate young cat – and we only hope that someone else takes her in to love and care for her, or that she is able to survive on her own merits.

It’s a harsh reality for them anywhere in the world, but harder in a place where they are undervalued so much that people shoot them for sport and leave them to die at the side of the road (as was happening with the local dogs) or deliberately feed them poisoned food.

Sometimes I think it’s a shame that we don’t have a more capable predator than ourselves, so that if we were being treated like this by something ‘higher’ on the food chain, we would have more appreciation for how we then treat other beings.

This post is dedicated to Pretty, in the hope she makes it.

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One thought on “Animal welfare abroad

  1. Pingback: Siem Reap, Cambodia | The Grumpy Flumps Too-Honest Travel Blog

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