During summer 2016 I was working on the Greek island of Corfu, I was there for 8 months up in the north of the Island in a place called Sidari. Following recent tragedies where I had received the heart breaking news that a previous pup I had grown to love whilst I was working in Thailand had unfortunately passed away, I had tried very hard to tell myself I would not get attached to anything this summer and focus on getting my savings together for my upcoming travels. However this is never that simple and easier said than done, especially if you are somebody like me who has a heart like a big pathetic pile of soppy goo when it comes to animals.
Within the first two months of being there I had found a small female ginger tabby on the side of the road, too close for my liking! I quickly snatched her up and took her back to my apartment before giving her a quick check over for fleas, ticks or any skin conditions, she was all clear but could not have been older than 4 weeks old! Reality suddenly hit me and after my rational kitten-knapping antics I realised I was not equipped with any formula and did not know whether she could receive food yet or only mothers milk… besides the fact that at this age the mother would still be stimulating her to go to the toilet! I quickly made her up a bed left her asleep in my apartment and drive up to a local café called Jenny’s just off the main strip of Sidari where they fundraise, selling annual calendars and t-shirts sharing their stories of local dogs and cats that had been rescued and rehomed. Unfortunately Jenny’s is not a shelter and they were so busy with current cases that she could not take the kitten off me but did give me advise! She quickly told me that I may have taken the kitten away from an area the mother had left it to go in search of food and that she could return looking for the kitten but if not returned, abandon her or no longer recognise her scent. Kittens this young are also extremely technical little things and need 24/7 care with small feeds every 2-3 hours including stimulation for passing of the bowels which both not done correctly could also result as fatal. I had jumped in the deep end in hope of helping but realised I may have made a situation worse through being naïve! I was working every day and knew I didn’t have the time to commit to the little darling as much as I would have liked to. I also didn’t want to run the risk of taking it from its mother which was defiantly where she was going to receive the best nutrition for her growing health. With that I made the decision to return her back where I found her but further back away from the road which is heart breaking to walk away from, when something the size of a child’s shoe that is making a helpless cry as you leave it does feel wrong but actually the best thing I could of done for her at the time hoping mum would return. I kept an eye out In the area and a month or so later had seen her about looking bigger and healthier which was a relief!
A street cat in Greece is extremely familiar to the eye even after your first day and to pass a cat or 100 during a 15 minute walk becomes pretty ‘normal’. It seems as though people have established dogs as domestic creatures and are much more whiling to home a dog than a ‘pesky’ cat. The people that lived here all year round that where whiling to home a cat had already taken on more than they could handle. Often I would find people had either 30 cats or no cats and I think that is how the locals drew the line between not getting to carried away. You take in one, which becomes another and before you know it, own a personal cat sanctuary or dig your heels in and say no from the beginning. I was working for a while as a PR for one of the bars on the strip and at one point during the season not a night went passed where I wasn’t moving kittens off the roads and away from harm.
Something which I witnessed a lot of, going back to learning my lesson with the ginger tabby kitten was tourists walking up the streets with very young kittens In their arms. Now it was going to be very unlikely that any of these tourists who would be leaving the island in less than a week where going to find these kittens a home and therefore have, like myself moved them away from their mothers which most at that age are likely to still have and interfered with the chances of reuniting them with the mother after they realised they cannot home them and let them go at the opposite end of town to where they were found. People are unaware and have good intention as like myself you see something so small and think you can help, however it is important not to react rationally but monitor the situation and be patient until sure of that kittens situation, of course some may not have a mother and you may be in a position to help…
… Which was exactly the place I found myself in shortly after.
A tourist had mentioned that she had noticed a very young kitten down by the port in a bad condition and with no sign of mum for a couple of days! One of my house mates who was not working at the time went to check out the situation and found the extremely young male and brought him back to the apartment blocks. After finishing work I went home to see him, he was stunning, grey and white blotches, blues eyes, pink nose and around 3 weeks old! Though his eyes were glued closed together from a dirt built up and where they had been weeping so much, he also needed a wash and we found fleas on him. The next day we heard of another male grey and white kitten in the area of a similar size, which suddenly made this look like an abandoned litter, we went to collect him too and the two kittens quickly bonded with each other making it almost certain they were brothers. We gave them flea and worm medication and cleaned their eyes daily with salt water, we also to begin with had the pleasant job of stimulating them to go to the toilet as the mother would usually do. So there we were with a wet cotton bud wiping their bottoms until they showed signs that they were going to go to the toilet, after a couple of months they looked like healthy young kittens and we had named them Georgey and Dave. They moved into my room and stayed with me until the end of season in that time I also ended up gaining a ginger and white female when they were all around 2 months old. Somebody had placed her in my room assuming I would take in all the strays found…but of course I couldn’t throw her out so she slowly bonded with the boys and soon they all taught each other the mischievous tricks of the trade, she was also the most affectionate and had to have the closest contact with me at all times amongst the boys. I believe Dave was the runt of the litter as his growth seemed stunted and his fur remained upright and spikey, where-as the other two grew a lovely soft ‘grown-up’ coat. He seemed behind the others with his developments and I kept an eye on him but over the months he became more playful and curious and began to sleep less, gain energy and started to join in with the playfights and climbing which was relieving to see! All 3 of them loved food and sleeping on my chest every night, my room became a giant playroom, with my belongings being knocked off shelves and shoes being chewed, I could no longer have nice things or a tidy room! They also explored from my balcony, I would sit out there with them and watch them becoming curious by the outside world, until one day Georgey led the way and hoped over the balcony on to the roof top, the others followed with time and with a shake of the food box they would all come scattering back inside. Georgey was the daring one, always leading the way followed by Ginge and lastly Dave, it was the same when they learnt how to use the stairs.
As the end of season approaches and the kittens had become quite pampered by a domestic house cat life, I was starting to worry that I would struggle to find them a home before I left… I asked around everywhere for months! All the shelters on the island where full and would not take the kittens and I really wanted to keep the 3 together and not split them apart. Luckily for me 2 weeks before I was due to leave the Island my neighbour approached me who ran a successful tourist business and lives on the island all year round and had seen the kittens on my balcony. He had offered to take them after I left which was great news! So two weeks before leaving I took them over to him so that I could see how they were settling in before I had left, everything seemed fine and the best thing was they had somewhere warm for winter where they would be fed and they had each other for company. I was so sad to let them go and if I could have afforded to they would have been on a plane back to the UK with me, they were my little friends and kept me company during the end of season when most the workers had already left the island, I was as thankful for finding them as they were thankful to be found.
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