Free range cats
During our recent trip to Thessaloniki, we saw a lot of free range cats (according to my girlfriend, the correct term is stray cats but I think free range just sounds nicer). We saw cats of all kind of colors and sizes, but it would have been impossible to even make a guess how many there actually were. We found them under cars, on top of cars, on ruins, between ruins, on the pavement, at the harbour, in front of shops and fishstands, in narrow alleyways, in the middle of big motorways… literally everywhere where you could stand on four furry paws. Eventually we just started to call them cats of Thessaloniki.
Why are there so many cats in Thessaloniki?
The reason why there is such an abundance of cats in Thessaloniki is actually a very simple one. Greek people, unlike people from urban areas of northern Europe or north America, regard cats more as wild animals than pets. This leads to an uncontrolled increase of the cat population as nobody is neutering them. A lack of harsh winters and relatively easy access to food makes it easy for them to survive outdoors. Their greatest problems are cars and dogs.
These street cats tend to “adopt” one or several houses (sometimes even whole neighbourhoods) that welcome them and provide them with food. They will mark it as their territory and defend it against other intruding cats, much the same as a domestic cat marks its own turf.
The people of Thessaloniki like their cats as they help to decrease the population of mice, and even scorpions and snakes. Organised animal welfare charities are not a big thing, but every now and then we saw individual people who brought food directly to the cats or put food-bowls out in front of their doors.
So if you ever go to Thessaloniki, keep your eye out for these beautiful cats and maybe even take an example from their laziness.