Everyone who has been to Greece knows that there are cats pretty much everywhere you look. There are so many cats roaming around that you can’t fail to notice them!
If you’re sitting in a Greek taverna and enjoying your meal, there is a high chance a pair of hungry eyes will be staring right at you, waiting for your leftovers. Or you’re in Athens, admiring the amazing Acropolis, and a cat might be doing just the same as you – looking at the view!
These are mostly stray cats, but they are very friendly and don’t mind being petted. The local community takes care of their feline friends by providing them with food, water and health care.
However, some islands have a serious problem with cat overpopulation, especially during the summer. This is an issue because the locals cannot possibly provide for all the cats they encounter, so charity organizations are stepping in to help.
Keep on reading to find out more about why there are so many cats in Greece, the relationship the Greeks have with cats, their only native Greek cat, the role cats played in Ancient Greece, and why cat overpopulating is an issue for Santorini!
Why Are There So Many Cats In Greece? 3 Main Reasons!
There are cats in every country in the world, and stray cats can be found in every single one. Yet Greece is special – they have more cats than you might have expected!
This surely is an interesting “fun fact” about Greece, but why does Greece have a lot of cats? Do Greek people love having them? Or is a lack of sterilization the cause of the large cat population?
Below are the 3 main reasons behind cat overpopulation in beautiful Greece!
1. It’s Easy For The Cats To Survive In The Greek Climate
The climate in Greece is a typical Mediterranean climate. Everyone who has ever lived in a country with this climate knows how nice it is.
Summers are warm and dry, with lots of sunshine, while the winters are mild and rainy. What does this mean for cats? It means they will not have a lot of trouble surviving.
There are no droughts in Greece, nor do the temperatures fall far below zero. This is the perfect scenario for stray cats (the climate doesn’t really matter for indoor cats, right?).
Due to this, not a lot of cats die due to extreme weather, leading to a higher number of cats on the streets.
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2. The Greek People Are (Mostly) Friendly To Them
Greek people are always helping the cats out by leaving bowls of water and food outside. It is not uncommon for restaurant left-overs to be left outside for stray cats. Also, cat-loving locals are trying to help out the cats in any way they can and they do a good job at it.
Truly, the large cat population would not survive if it wasn’t for the help of good people. There is just not enough cat food for so many stray cats, so people try to leave out leftovers too.
There are a number of charity organizations (both Greek and foreign) that help with caring for the cats. Truth to be told, there may not be enough of them to help every cat, but any number of animal welfare organizations is better than nothing.
3. The Greek Government Doesn’t Do Enough To Control The Cat Population
The number of stray cats is continuously rising. The Greek government is putting in some effort into controlling the numbers – but it is not enough. The situation has been better since Greece became a part of the European Union, but things are still far from perfect.
Lack of spaying and neutering results in a high number of street cats freely roaming around. If more cats were sterilized, it would greatly reduce the number of kittens that contribute to overpopulation.
Do Charity Organizations Help In Any Way?
Animal welfare organizations are continuously pressurizing the government to put more effort into providing veterinary care and food to strays, as well as sterilizing them in high numbers.
Non-profit organizations take action too! Many of them (such as Nine Lives Greece) organize cat sterilizations. There are also foreign organizations working in Greece with the goal of helping these cats and regulating the cat population.
Some regions in Greece have it worse than others. Santorini’s problem with cats is famous around the world. Cats bring a lot of charm (and tourists) to the place, but there is a not-so-fun side to it, as we will soon find out.
The Famous Greek Island Filled With Cats – Santorini!
We all know about Santorini island – it is one of the most famous and most beautiful islands in the world and a popular tourist attraction.
What is there to enjoy? – Beautiful views overlooking the sea, clear waters, white facades and blue roofs, amazing wine and – lots of cats wandering around! It’s heaven if you ask me!
For those of us who have never been there, we will just keep on enjoying it through Instagram and hope that some day we get the chance to visit!
Santorini – A Cat Lover’s Dream Island
Santorini is home to a large number of cats. Whether you’re walking the streets or eating your lunch, cats will most always be somewhere nearby.
They survive thanks to the generosity of the locals during the year, and tourists during the peak season.
Honestly, the island would not be the same without them! They make the island a very special place. But is this really all there is – a beautiful island with adorable kittens running around?
The Hard Truth
Summer is a happy season in Santorini (and everywhere else). The island gets filled with tourists, seasonal workers, and cats. Everyone is happy! But is this true all year around?
Why Does The Season Matter?
Summers are much easier for cats to survive (compared to winter). Most tourists come during the summer time, which is understandable. Seasonal workers come to the island during the summer as well.
The presence of a lot of tourists and workers means a few things:
• they will most probably feed the cats a little bit
• there will be a lot of left-over food
A lot of left-over food means the restaurants are likely to leave it to stray cats. The tourists and workers themselves also leave the food near a dumpster or on some corner for the strays.
Kind-hearted people will also feed the cats by their own initiative and leave out cat food. The presence of this extra food essentially means survival for stray cats.
What Happens When Summer Ends?
When the warm weather ends and there isn’t a lot of left-over food, cats are left to face a cold winter and the struggle to find food.
Not all of them survive!
Considering the summer is the breeding season too – the population of cats on the island naturally rises. After the summer ends – it is estimated that more than a few thousand kittens and cats die!
Another upsetting thing is that there are frequent reports of cat poisoning, probably because people start thinking of them as pests.
Is There Anything Being Done To Help The Santorini Cats?
Luckily – Yes!
There are organizations dedicated to controlling the cat population on the island. They sterilize cats with the goal of preventing overpopulation and the subsequent drop in population (cats dying essentially) when the summer ends.
If you notice a cat has a clipped ear – that’s your sign the cat is sterilized!
A Job Offer The World Went Crazy About!
In 2018, a Greek cat sanctuary called God’s Little People posted a very interesting job offer.
They needed a person to take care of cats in a shelter in the Greek island of Syros. The person had to be a cat-lover, know how to drive a car, and commit themselves to the job for at least half a year.
It was a dream job offer for many! You’re getting paid to do something you love, on a paradise island in Greece – I would quit my job for it any time of the day and many people thought the same!
What Happened After The Post Went Viral?
Over 40,000 people applied for the job! Can you believe it?!
However, the owners of the sanctuary did not find the job that amazing. The worker would have to take care of about 70 cats – meaning feeding them, scooping their poop, giving them medication, taking them to the vet and making heart-breaking decisions about old or unhealthy cats…
It’s not just a job on the perfect Greek Island – it’s a job of taking care of creatures that really needed the help! In the end, one amazing woman got the job and is happy to put in the effort.
Netflix recognized the value of God’s Little People sanctuary and they filmed an episode about them in their 2021 show Cat People!
The Aegean Cat – The Only Native Greek Cat
Aegean cats are medium-sized, muscular cats that you might have seen running around Greek islands such as Santorini, Crete, Hydra, Mykonos, Delos, and many others.
They absolutely love being outdoors and near the sea or any type of water (such as a pond!). They probably owe this to their origin.
The Aegean cat has its origins in the Cyclades – a group of islands in the Aegean Sea.
They have been around for more than 10,000 years and are thought to be one of the oldest domesticated cat breeds!
They can be found all over Greece (and Turkey too) as feral cats but they can be amazing pets as well. They are the only native Greek cat and because of that, they are considered a national treasure!
They are very social and love being around families. They love one thing more and that is – playing! They are very active and always on the look-out for a good play session!
They are medium-sized, muscular cats that have a pretty long life span – up to 15 years. Their coats are made of either 2 or 3 colors – with one of them almost always being white. Some of them can be tabby. Their athletic build enables them to catch fish with their paws – how amazing is that?!
An interesting fact is that they do not suffer from cat genetic diseases. This is because humans never interfered with their breeding – they were allowed to develop completely naturally!
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Cats In Ancient Greece – Were They Sacred?!
This might come as a surprise – but No, they were not sacred!
Cats were smuggled from Egypt by Pheonecian traders, but they never got the popularity they had back in Egypt.
They were never a big part of Greek culture or daily life. Having a cat in the house was not a common sight in Ancient Greece and cats were never mentioned in the literature. For example – Homer never mentioned a cat in his writings!
Cheetahs, lions, and panthers played a bigger role in the art in Greek mythology than cats.
Why Did Greeks Not Treat Cats As Sacred?
This is most probably due to the fact that cats were not important rodent-killers as they were back in Egypt. Greeks used weasels and ferrets for that job.
Egyptians were the ones that considered cats as sacred, primarily because they were amazing at pest control. Later, all kinds of attributes were assigned to cats and the Egyptian royalty accepted cats as sacred. Royal classes even dressed their pet cats in gold and thought they brought good luck and fertility to women.
There were also examples of cats being mummified next to humans in the tomb because that means a continuation of their companionship even in the afterlife.
There is a misconception that cats were sacred animals everywhere – but it surely was not the case for Ancient Greece.
Why Are The Cats In Greece So Friendly?
Cats in Greece are truly very friendly. Of course, not every single cat will be friendly. There will always be shy cats or cats that are not so affectionate to people. But generally speaking, most cats are friendly.
The reason for this is the fact that they are domestic cats that are used to people. These community cats are usually dependent on the good will of local people who feed them.
Also, they don’t have a reason to be unloving towards people, especially tourists – they just want to take their photo, pet them, and sometimes feed them.
Why Do People Feed The Cats In Greece?
People in Greece accept the presence of a large number of cats. For them it’s a normal part of life and they have no reason to dislike them.
Cats know their presence is welcomed by the human population, so they turn to them when in need of food.
Kind-hearted people will have no issue feeding them occasionally with food leftovers or cat food. People are also aware of the lack of attention the feral cats get from the government (no veterinary care, lack of food, etc.) so feeding them is the least they can do.
Apart from locals, tourists often feed the cats which is always a good thing!
Do You Have To Pay To Feed The Cats In Greece?
Of course not!
If you’re in Greece and have some spare food then leave it outside on a corner you see fit (away from restaurants or busy streets for example).
Cats of Greece would love it if people fed them even more than they do, so every bit of food is welcomed!
Does Greece Have A Cat Problem?
Let’s get this straight – you’re not going to be tripping over cats while walking the streets of Greece. But it is true that they do have a large stray cat population.
Stray animals are not an issue when their numbers are kept in order and they are provided with some form of veterinary care (at least spaying and neutering).
In Greece, the problem is that they have a large number of non-sterilized cats that also have health issues and are not getting enough food and water.
This problem is most prominent in the islands of Greece, while the mainland does not have such a large issue with cat overpopulation.
Welfare groups from both Greece and foreign countries are working hard to find a solution to this issue and cat rescue and cat welfare are their main goals!
Greece truly is a beautiful country with amazing nature, architecture, people and… lots of cats!
Cats in Greece are loved by both the locals and the foreigners! Some Greek islands (such as Santorini) are especially full of cats, which have become a great tourist attraction.
People enjoy the combination of paradise-islands and cats so much that a simple job offer attracted more than 40,000 applicants!
Greek people are used to having cats as their co-habitants, and tourists seem to love seeing cats at every corner. Good people take care of them by leaving some leftovers and cat food around for them.
There are so many cats for several reasons, such as the favorable climate, kind people that feed them, and the lack of control over the increasing numbers of cats.
Seeing cats everywhere is cute – but it can be a problem too. The Greek government should put in the effort to provide veterinary care, food, and cat shelters for stray cats.
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