Thursday, 8 January 2015


Giorgio washing his face...

Miao Maria. Thank you for allowing me to interview you today.

Smokey: You have six cats, or should I say six cats have you. What are their names and how did your feline family happen?
Maria Piazza: Giorgio is my eldest boy at almost 14.  Paolo found him next to a dustbin in Rome thinking he was a dead rat, but when he went to pick him up he saw this tiny paw open up, stretching out his little  fingers.  He was furless, with no ears and scrunched up eyes, still showing signs of his cord.  The vet said it would be very difficult for him to survive but he did "alla grande" and he is now here in all his adorableness to tell the tale!!

Giorgio in the arms of Richard, one of my humans... What patience. I jump after a few seconds. 

Lupa, 10 years old, decided she was going home with Stefano and the more he took her out of the car as he was chatting to his friends one evening in Rome, the more she would jump back in. It was obvious she was looking for a family so he took her home. She is named Lupa because of her three colours, black, white and orange - the colours of Paolo's contrada called Lupa in Siena …. unfortunately we found out yesterday that she is probably going blind as she has detached retinas …

Marzia just turned up one day in March a couple of years ago, full of facial nasties but absolutely lovable. We have no idea how old she is. She has had a couple of operations for benign tumours, but they keep growing back so we are going to leave her alone now and let her live her life in peace. 


Sleepy, a kitten, too just turned up one Saturday morning in 2009 when I still used to come for my weekends to Casperia. I was told that she had been seen in the big car park down below, a couple of days before, so she had obviously been abandoned and followed someone up into the town. I was sitting on my bench doing my knitting in the sun and she jumped on my knee and fell asleep. And slept and slept the whole two days. I even made a kind of pouch for her to sleep in by rolling and pinning up my t-shirt so that I could walk about and do my chores… hence the name Sleepy! She must have been so relieved that she'd finally found a home that I simply didn't have the heart to leave her behind so I took her back to Rome that Sunday evening.

Sleepy keeping watch over Casperia's ramparts... That must be a lovely perch to get some sun in... 

Chicco, whose real name is Romeo is probably around eight years old and used to belong to a dear neighbour called Ottavia. Before she died a couple of years ago she made sure I would look after him and take him into my home. He is a sweetie and I still feel Ottavia's presence when I stroke him and brush his long sleeky ginger fur.

Chicco enjoying the warmth of the sun on Via Rivellini

Then we have a two year old ginger tinker called Romolo. Paolo's brother Francesco found this stray kitten in his garden and gave him to Paolo. He has a mind of his own and WILL NOT be bossed around by anyone. He comes and goes as he pleases and quite vociferously lets people know he's the boss!


There have been others at home throughout my 40 years of married life with Paolo in Rome, many of whom are buried in the peaceful grounds of Montefiolo - along with many more who were strays at Paolo's art studio complex and on the streets below our appartamento in Rome…

S: Did you live with cats when you were small? Have you always like cats? 
MP: I have grown up with cats, my mother was another cat lover as is my sister Rita.

S: Casperia is known as a town of cats and cat lovers. Would you say this is a correct assessment?
MP: Casperia may be a town of cats (Catsperia!) but to say it is a town of cat lovers is not strictly true.  Many consider the cats to be a nuisance and in the past it has been known for poisoned polpette to be left around to keep the numbers down….  We instead considered it a better idea to try and and neuter as many as possible.  It seems to be working as there are no way near as many strays as there used to be …. and they seem to be so healthier. 

S: From what my humans tell me though, this reputation means that cats are sometimes abandoned here in the hoped that kind hearted people like you will adopt them? Who are these people and why do you think that they come to abandon their pets?
MP:  As for those inhumane humans who abandon their pets - well words fail me, I get so incensed and upset each time I go out of the door each holiday and find yet another crying creature hungry for a home. Unfortunately a lot of Italians consider cats and dogs to be just soul-less "animals" and jeer at us for keeping our pets in the house and allowing them to sleep on our beds and sit on our chairs..

S: From what I understand from my humans there are a lot of people here in Italy who choose not to spay or neuter their cats. Is this true, and if it is, why do you think this is so?
MP: Many think it is cruel to tamper with nature by spaying and neutering, yet consider it quite normal and common practice to kill newborn kittens and puppies …. it's also a LOT cheaper to keep numbers down their way … Grrrrrrr

S: Grrrrrrr indeed! I know from my humans and from my limited interaction with the cats I meet here in Casperia that there are a number of people who help feed the homeless cats here. It must cost a bit of money to do this… How do these people afford to do it? Is there support from the Comune or other sources?
MP: Thankfully there are quite a few humans who are not like this and are more than willing to feed the homeless cats.   There is NO help from the Comune or elsewhere for that matter. There are some kind veterinarians who charge less to spay or neuter a cat if it's feral. We are happy to feed them but would be even happier if we knew there would be no new arrivals to break our hearts.

S: It is getting cold and wet outside now that it is winter. I remember that there was even some snow last week. Where do the homeless cats go for shelter here in Casperia? Are there places for them to stay dry out of the nasty weather? 
MP: These strays, almost all of whom have names, are fondly cared for and sleep in the numerous cantinas dotted around the town.  Luckily a lot of them have rotten wooden doors with huge holes and they can come in and out and shelter in the dry when it rains.  Some of us have put igloos with comfy cushions for them to sleep on. 

S: With six furry friends in the house I can imagine that bedtime can be challenging… Do all of your cats get to sleep in bed with you? Do they take turns? Or do some of them have their own special places to sleep.
MP: Bedtime is extremely challenging with at least two, usually Sleepy and Giorgio at my feet.  Turning over with a two-ton-ted like Marzia next to my shoulder, who refuses to budge can be frustrating for her and impossible for me.  Chicco and Lupa tend to sleep downstairs on the armchair and divano.  Romolo sleeps anywhere!

S: What would your life be like without your cats?
MP: My life without cats? Mamma mia! No way!!  I simply cannot envisage it. xxxxx

S: Thank you Maria. Grazie di cuore. You are a wonderful human. I am proud to know you, and I am so happy you agreed to be interviewed.

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ 

I leave you, my readers, with this video that sums up my thoughts and emotions after this interview with Maria. Here are two links, one in Italian and one in English, for for heartwarming video: 

Enjoy. Miao for now.

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