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. 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. We do not engage in ”cat tourism”. This would exceed the financial and other resources of our association. The animals we foster and rehome are only adopted out after they have been tested and treated for diseases, been neutered and vaccinated.
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 take on these efforts, first privately starting in 2017, and then set up an association to better serve the cats on Andros in the future? 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.
Samurai (Samu) showed up at the feeding site littered with battle tracks and could hardly eat due to toothache. He has developed into a magnificent tomcat:
Emaciated, mangy cats at the garbage cans, dubbed as “feeding site 1”, in April 2017 and well-fed in December 2018:
Rena in July and November 2017:
Liane in July and November 2017:
Star in April 2017 and in January 2018 (shortly after eye surgery):
Miro-Vincent and Pitchko in June 2018 and only 4 months later:
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 human settlements mean more easily accessible sources of food for cats.
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 female stray cats on Andros give birth to litters of kittens in the spring and fall, and sometimes additionally in July. This is due to warm winters or the first litter dying. That makes for three litters of kittens per year.
The effects of high infection pressure, 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 species-appropriate food. There are now several feeding sites which are maintained by locals continuously. Several times a year, cat food donations are sent to Andros in their support.
Our member Sandra from Cologne organizes solidly and reliably the logistics of the pallets full of cat food. Passion for the cats and a few lucky coincidences had a hand in establishing this assistance which has become an important pillar for our project on Andros.
But none of this would amount to anything were it not for the help from our Greek partners. Sending pallets of cat food to Andros is one thing, but it needs an address to be delivered to and a spacious place to be stored. It’s not an easy task on Andros. Many houses are located on hillsides, accessible only by narrow carved in stone steps or small streets that are not designed for cars, let alone delivery vans.
And addresses are in short supply on Andros, even the veterinarian hasn’t one. Luckily, our Greek friend and partner S. agreed to store the arriving food in his own garage. For S. this is also means quite some effort. Sometimes S. stands in the yard with a few hundred kilos of food, left to carry it bit by bit into his garage.
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.