The Truth About Santorini Cats
"Oh, you're going to love Greece", people say to me. "So many cats everywhere". This used to excite me, but the thing is, now when I think of so many cats, I think of pain and suffering. This is not my usual Hotels With Cats type of post, but it is important information to share. My mission is to help cat lovers find cats wherever they are, but also I hope through my website that together we can raise the profile and value cats around the world, and be mindful, caring tourists and cat lovers. Together we can encourage responsibility of business owners, travellers and the wider community to help stray cats (and other animals for that matter).
This is why I need to write about Santorini Cats. When I heard about what was going on in Santorini, I had to try and help. With a seasonal population of around 1 million people, Santorini in the cyclades in Greece is only 18km long in some parts. It is estimated that around 5,000 stray cats live on the island year round, but with breeding season about 14,000 die.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTORINI CATS
The cat population of Santorini can fluctuate almost three to four times higher than the 5,000 figure during breeding season. Cute time to visit with a lot of kittens running around Santorini? No because he truth is that after peak tourist and breeding season that hardly any survive. It is estimated that only two out of each litter make it through, and not many cats survive more than a few winters.
Kittens that are born in summer, are left to face a cold horrible winter. Most cats, will not survive more than five Santorini winters. There is limited local support for cat rescue efforts, in fact, stray animals are seen as a pest. The island is seasonal, the tourists are gone in winter, cats and dogs are left to fend for themselves. Most starve to death, are poisoned, or killed by roaming dogs (who have an awful life as well). These figures by the way are no means 100 per cent accurate, they are estimates from the group of (AMAZING) local and international volunteers working hard to improve and save lives of cats on Santorini.
THE LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL
Sterlia was launched in 2016, by a couple of determined cat lovers to help the cats of Santorini, and is based in Switzerland with administration in Kamari, Santorini. Their global network is growing! Sterilia works in a number of ways to change the lives of cats on Santorini.
1. Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR)
This is organising the spaying and immunisation of stray cats on Santorini. It would be ideal if every cat had a home, but where this can't be the case, healthy community colonies of cats are the best way to reduce suffering and more kittens. This particularly works in a contained environment. If you see an ear clipped cat in Greece, this is a good sign! An ear clipped cat on Santorini means that this lucky kitty is one of the 500+ cats that have been sterilised on Santorini since 2016.
2. International adoptions
Whilst this is resource intensive for the Sterila volunteers, the stories I have heard of these international adoptions are amazing. Some 60 cats are flown off Santorini Island each year to their forever homes across Europe and America. It happens like this. Tourist comes to Santorini, falls in love (with a cat), either returns to find "their" cat, or it is up to the volunteers to search. The cat is located, immunised and transported to their forever homes. Sounds simple, but it is not! Volunteers do picks ups and drop offs from Santorini to help the cats meet their cat parents across the world. What is the most amazing part, is that once these 'island' cats find their forever homes, seem quite happy sitting on the sofa in their new homes, as if they know the despair they have escaped.
3. Improving local life
For the cats on Santorini, more local assistance is needed and this is one of Sterilas key goals. Sterila needs a shelter for sick cats and kittens, regular feeding stations all year around and TNR volunteers, as well as compassionate businesses and hotels who will at least sterilise and feed local cats.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SANTORINI CATS
1. Plan ahead and be active
If you're going to Santorini, or have a friend visiting tell them about the cats on Santorini. Go a step further so you can be effective during your visit. Feeding stray cats is not enough. Plan your visit, see what you can take with you to donate. Join a TNR mission! If you have time, and a safe place for the aftercare have a cat spayed during your stay.
2. Ask questions during your stay on Santorini
It is sad, but money is the motivator behind a lot of businesses (not the caring ones on our website!). Be an AWARE tourist. Ask your hotel WHAT they are doing to support Santorini Cats. Do they have feeding stations? Are their cats steralised? If not, write a bad review and take your business elsewhere, or tell them about Hotels With Cats! A lot of hotels think cats are bad for business, but the reality is not true.
3. Support the work of Sterlia, donate and tell all your friends, if you can't support in person, every little bit helps and every person that knows about these cats can work to reduce the suffering.
4. Check out our products! We just launched a little range of Santorini Cat Earrings, with 100% of profits going to Santorini Cats.
We will be visiting in August to create a video to help spread the news about the amazing work of Sterilia, and a postcard range.
Together we can make a difference to support Santorini Cats.