Our association and our animal welfare work

Our association

Our association grew out of a private animal welfare project that association founder Marie started in April 2017 when she witnessed the misery of stray cats during a vacation trip to Andros. Marie subsequently traveled to the island several more times and laid the foundations for our animal welfare work through her own activities and also through contacts with locals and the island vet. Her project quickly took on great proportions thanks to the willingness to donate and help shown in the internet forums used for reporting.

Marie therefore started thinking about founding an association back in 2017. She and people interested in her project took up ideas and collected information on general association law issues as well as animal welfare issues. On August 19, 2018, the time had come. The “Cats at Andros” association was founded by eight members and Marie became our first association chairwoman.

On April 13, 2019, Marie passed away suddenly and unexpectedly for all of us, leaving us in deepest mourning. However, we were determined not to left down the Andros cats and our Greek friends, reorganized ourselves in a few very difficult weeks and have since continued what Marie started – without her, but in her spirit.

Our goals

The focus of our work is to supply the stray cats on Andros with the bare essentials to live a life free from hunger and suffering. The Greek island of Andros is located to the east of Athens, measures about 380 square kilometers in size, and has just over 9,000 inhabitants. The basic care of the island’s street cats includes on the one hand a regular and sufficient supply with food. On the other hand, we neuter as many cats as possible to reduce the misery caused by uncontrolled multiplication and its associated problems. An uncontrolled expanding cat population promotes e.g. the spreading of diseases, a high infection pressure among cats, a lack of food and hence malnourishment and starvation. Last but not least, the medical care of sick cats is urgently required to reduce pain and suffering.

Our main goal is to provide the stray cats of Andros a reasonably good life on „their“ island.

We cannot be on Andros all the time. It is therefore important to us to work with animal rights activists living on Andros. Likewise, that other locals are also made aware of this problem and, with our support, become active themselves.

Animals are only brought to Germany, fostered and placed within a home, if it is not possible for them to remain on Andros for medical reasons and sometimes also due to difficult socialization in the cat group at a feeding site. The animals we foster and rehome are only adopted out after they have been tested and treated for diseases, been neutered and vaccinated. Bringing healthy cats to Germany only for adoption, ie a „cat trade“, is fundamentally rejected by us as not being in line with animal welfare.

Of course, if necessary, we will not look away from suffering German stray cats or other animals! For us animal welfare is not bound to country of origin or species.

What is this all about? Why all of this?

Why did Marie, our first chairwoman, take on these efforts, first privately starting in 2017, and then set up an association to better serve the cats on Andros? And why are we continuing this work? Who would notice or care about what happens to the cats on this small island, only 1/20 of the size of the far bigger and more popular holiday island of Crete? Why should our association’s work on this little island make any impact?

These questions can easily be answered by the following pictures. They illustrate a well-known saying on behalf of the many other rescued and now cared for cats: „To save an animal does not change the whole world, but the whole world changes for this one animal.“

Liza in April 2017, weighing only 900 grams and suffering from extreme mastitis (the „plushy“ belly in the photo is not long-haired fur but a tumor…) and in March 2018 in her new home together with her „best friend“. Liza is the cat which basically got the Andros project started. In the condition she was in, left to her own devices she would not have survived much longer.

Emaciated, mangy cats at the garbage cans, dubbed as „feeding site 1”,  in April 2017 and well-fed in August 2020:

Miro-Vincent in June 2018 and only 4 months later:

Kitty in summer 2020, after her eye surgery in spring 2021 and at the foster home in early 2022:

Christa with sunburnt ears and resulting cancer in September 2022 and after her surgery in Germany:

Feeding sites on two private properties in December 2023 and March 2024:

Why do the cats need to be cared for?

The cats on Andros are wild strays. Are they not able to look after themselves? Should we humans better not intervene in the “natural order”? Does feeding not make the „cat problem“ worse?

At first glance, these questions might be answered with „yes“. Giving it a second thought, the situation looks quite different. In order to be able to live „naturally“ the number of stray cats is too high. In a millenia long process of adaption cats have domesticated themselves and learned to live close to humans and their settlements, because this means more easily accessible sources of food.

As a result, larger groups of cats prefer to gather at garbage sites. Anyone who has ever travelled in southern Europe is familiar with this sight of accumulation of garbage cans on the roadsides:

It is easy to imagine what „quality“ the food available there has. It is poor in quality and far from sufficient. Undernourishment and malnutrition of the cats are the rule. Therefore, diseases and parasites easily ravage the stray cats. The cool and rainy winters on Andros add to the misery. Cat flu is a permanent guest and not to be mistaken as something similar to a harmless cold infection in humans. Cat flu leads, for example, to blindness and chronic damage to the respiratory system. Often, after a long ordeal, it ends fatally.

Due to the population density, the many animals at the garbage dump sites, the infection pressure is enormous. This misery is exacerbated by the uncontrolled reproduction of cats.

The effects of infections, lack of food, frequent pregnancies, and a high cat population density can be witnessed here:

One of the central means to reduce this misery is a regular supply of food. There are numerous feeding sites which are maintained by locals continuously. While we initially sent food pallets from Germany to Andros, we are now in contact with local dealers and purchase the food directly on the island.

Why is neutering so important?

Feeding and medical treatment are the foundation for good survival chances of the existing cats. Overall, their health is in a much better condition, leaving them more resistant to diseases and infections. But if we left it at that, this would also mean that more cats giving birth and their kittens would survive. Who in turn would then give birth to more kittens, who would grow up to give birth to even more kittens. Given the reproductive rate of cats, soon the number of cats would skyrocket. They all would need to be taken care of so as not to revive the cycle of misery, deficiency, and disease! Even in the short term, this would turn into a bottomless pit. After all, it is estimated that within a span of 10 years a pair of cats can turn into 250.000.

The care for the stray cats of Andros can therefore only be successful, if as many offspring as possible are prevented. An important focus of our animal welfare work is therefore to neuter all the cats who show up at the feeding sites. This prevents more kittens from being born into a miserable, short, and painful life.

Our cats in Germany

The cats that leave for Germany receive intensive care at foster homes and are prepared for their future life with adopters. If you want to support us, you can find out more here: Foster homes wanted.

As already written above, these are animals that have few chances on Andros. These are, for example, immunodefficient, blind or otherwise disabled cats or those who develop diseases such as skin cancer under the southern sun. In some cases, complicated operations have to be performed for which Andros has neither the clinical facilities nor the animal specialists.

For our „travel cats“ who are then able to be placed, we look for people on many channels such as our homepage, in Internet forums or numerous placement portals, with whom they can lead a happy life according to their requirements and characters.

We are still available to help and advise the adopters even after the placement, and of course we are very happy when we get photos of happy cats from the new home!

As a registered association, we have more options, a wider reach and more experience than private individuals when it comes to animal placement. We are therefore happy to take on placment help for people who are looking for a home for cats, if this is compatible with our principles of animal welfare. Supporting „puppy mills“ is expressly not one of them!

All of this – the animal welfare work on Andros, the departure of cats for Germany, their medical treatment and care at foster homes – we do on a voluntary basis. If you want to support us, you can do so directly with a donation or through our affiliate partnerships.

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