Tuesday, 30 December 2014

I Gatti Di Roma - The Cats of Rome

Cat at the Colosseo courtesy of romeguide.it
According to what my humans tell me, Rome is a city of cats... Cats have been an important part of the Eternal City's history since ancient times. It seems that the first cats came to Rome from Egypt where cats were considered sacred.

Wadjet-Bast courtesy of Wikipedia

Although the ancient Romans did not worship cats like the Egyptians, they held us in high esteem because of our ability to keep in check the mice and rats that threatened to consume Rome's grain. 

Cat mosaic from Pompeii courtesy of ancient.eu
Pompeii mosaic at the Museum of Naples courtesy thegreatcat.org

Somehow, after the fall of the Roman Empire, things got very bad for us cats in Europe. I don't understand why but cats, during the middle ages, became associated with evil and were killed in great numbers. Black cats especially were targeted for a cruel death.

Illustration of a man about to kill a cat Biblia Porta, 13th C France courtesy of Catster.com

The association between cats and the devil and witchcraft was so strong that people who were kind to cats or kept cats were also persecuted and killed as witches. Our angels were perceived as demons.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Breugel the Elder

One would almost say a karmic consequence of all this cruelty and carnage was more death, this time for people, in the form of the Black Death, or Bubonic Plague in the 1300s. 

You see, this disease was spread by fleas from rats and mice. With so many cats being killed across Europe the rat population exploded. 

Courtesy Toronto Star

By this time Rome's population had already greatly diminished. Large swathes of the ancient city became uninhabitable due to lack of water. During the barbarian invasions of Rome the ancient aqueducts which brought water to the city were cut and never repaired. The capital of the ancient world fell into ruins. The human population abandoned the seven hills and moved to those parts of the city closest to the Tiber while we cats survived in the silent ruins.

Thankfully, over time, humans in Europe changed their perception of cats and once again we were allowed back into the house. Cat appreciation and how cats are treated seem to differ from country to country. Rome's cats in the ruins became a sort of tourist attraction. Everywhere you go in Rome you see cat calendars with pictures of us basking on a marble statue or posing beside the Colosseo. 

Roman calendar tabby courtesy of webecoist.com

Sadly, these calendar cats are largely without the comfort of a human home. They live in large colonies among Rome's ruins. People estimate that there are about 300,000 feral cats living in about 2,000 colonies in Rome. 

One of my feral buddies drinking in the ruins at Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

Many of these colonies are looked after kindly people. Such a woman in Italian is known as a gattara, and a man is known as a gattaro.

There are even gattare here in Casperia. My humans say that every day they see a group of dedicated women and men feeding the local feral cats from their own resources. They also say that sometimes these kind people are taken advantage of because heartless, irresponsible people, who are tired of their pets, dump their unwanted cats here in Casperia. 

Sometimes these unhappy kitties get adopted into a home, but those who are not become the burden of the kindly gattare who not only feed these cats, but often look after their veterinarian bills and get these cats spayed and neutered. This can be a very expensive prospect and it is not fair.

My humans say that any person who takes a cat into their home should have their cat spayed or neutered to ensure that there are no more homeless hungry kitties. To me, this just makes sense.

The life of some of these kindly gattare, especially in Rome where there are so many abandoned cats, is hard. Many of them sell the things they have to make money to support the cats they are taking care of. These people are truly angels... and we reward them as we can.

There are also very kind doctors who volunteer their services or provide neutering and spaying for lower fees. My humans have helped me attach a video at the end of this post. It is in Italian... I only understand a little, but I am trying hard to learn. 

I would like to thank my friend Alessandra for this very useful book. Mi aiuta molto, Alessandra. Grazie di cuore!

Anyway, please take a look at this video called I Gatti Di Roma, which of course means The Cats of Rome... It is not only the story of the life of these cats, but it also gives you an insight into the lives of the gattare, our angels. Please click the Youtube link below.


Miao for now!

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