To anyone who knows me or follows this blog regularly, this will come as no great surprise: I love cats. I like dogs too, but I’m definitely more of a cat person. Wherever I travel around the world, from the deserts of Petra to the Roman ruins in Paphos, I always seem to find a cat. And if not just one, I make friends with a whole clowder of kitties (yep, that’s the collective noun for a group of cats, according to the Oxford Dictionary).
One might even go as far as saying I’m a Crazy Cat Lady, as I have three little cats of my own at home:
There’s Tilly the tabby, Lola the tortoiseshell and Maybelle (pronounced “Mabel”) the Siamese.
Like any mother, my girls are my pride and joy; I couldn’t imagine life without them. They’re there when I come home from work, running up the garden path, so happy to see me. And they’re there when I go to sleep, most likely squashing my bladder and making me need to get up in the middle of the night for a wee, or fighting each other over who will get the prime position on my tummy.
But when I’m not cuddling up with them on a night to watch a film, taking videos of them playing fetch or uploading pics of them to their Instagram account, it’s usually because they’re being “cat sat” by my mum while I gallivant around the world. She loves her “grand kits”, spoiling them rotten with treats and toys galore. So I know she doesn’t mind when I suddenly text her with three days notice to ask if it’s ok for her to look after them while I jet off to Barcelona or head to Berlin for the weekend.
I do miss them heaps while I’m away. I even resorted to getting mum a smartphone and setting her up on Whatsapp so the cats and I could video call while I was in Colombia for nearly four weeks. However, wherever I go in the world I’ve never been short of cat company. And I cannot help but take plenty of pictures of my new-found pals – many pictures of which never see the light of social media, for fear of more Crazy Cat Lady jibes.
But today, on Tuesday 8 August (aka International Cat Day) I’ve decided that all paw-some cats everywhere should be celebrated, so I’m sharing some of my favourite snaps of cats (Snapcats?) that I’ve encountered on my travels. Without further ado, here’s my fluffy, feline journey around the world…
Cats in Morocco.
One country where I couldn’t get enough cats was Morocco. There are so many wonderful things to see and do in this cultural and historic country, but what caught my attention the most was the kitties. They were everywhere I looked.
The cities of Fez and Marrakesh, are loaded with hungry, dirty, disease-ridden street cats. But they are not feral. In fact quite the opposite; they are sweet, friendly, like attention and to be stroked. If they weren’t walking the sidewalks among the locals, I found them asleep, curled up in a special place like a dry fountain, a planter or an ancient garden.
Seeing all these, malnourished, mangy little creatures broke my heart, and I wanted to bring them all back to the UK. I began dreaming, like I so often do, of setting up my own international cat rescue charity like the RSPCA. I’d love to run some kind of re-homing programme for cats, to help find loving families for all the hungry strays. Like this guy, who I snapped wading through a massive pile of rubbish, looking for food and/or mice:
On my first night in Fez I got in big trouble at an outdoor restaurant by sharing my dinner with dirty Lola-lookalike. The restaurant owners consider cats to be pests, and I was being disrespectful by chucking him little bits of food under the table. The way I saw it though, that cat needed that little tidbit way more than I did.
Oh how I wished I could have taken him back to my riad for a bath and cuddles:
Some of the cats I came across in Marrakech were absolutely gorgeous, like this big fluffy ginger tom I met in Jamaa el Fna, who looked like the kind of kitty that people pay a lot of money for as a pet in the UK:
Then there was a clowder (there’s that word again) of tiny little cats outside the Bahia Palace that I spent longer photographing than I did the actual palace…
Cats in Jordan.
Morocco isn’t the only Arabic country where I’ve made friends of the furry feline kind, though. When I was in Jordan earlier this year, I came across this skinny little fella while visiting the ancient city of Petra:
Crying loudly, he was so dehydrated and hungry, we gave him some water and fed him some oatmeal cookies (as that’s all we had on us, unfortunately). He was so malnourished and underweight – especially compared to this big, sad-looking fluffball:
I found him staring at me from a pet shop window. With his weepy eyes, bent up whiskers and greasy fur, it took everything in my power not to give the pet shop in Amman the 20JD (about £21) they wanted for him, just to get him out of that hell hole.
I think animals being kept in pet shops is cruel, especially when I see them cooped up in tiny glass tanks, all crammed in, walking on their own pee and poop. I know that cultures and what is and isn’t deemed acceptable varies from country to country, but I think this is animal cruelty, whatever country you’re in.
Years ago, on a trip to Paris with an ex-boyfriend, I spent half an afternoon crying because of all the puppies in the pet shop windows that we strolled passed down one avenue. They were all barking and fighting with each other, pawing at the glass window. I just wanted to set them all free. Crazy Cat Lady, or Caring Cat Lady…
Cats in Turkey.
When I visited Istanbul in October 2015, I could immediately see why the Turkish city is nicknamed “Cat-stantinople”. Cats were everywhere, lounging in the warm autumn sunshine. Some of them really captured my heart, including this charismatic little chap:
Then there this beauty, who at first glance, had me believing he was a soft toy. It wasn’t until I got really close and saw him softly breathing in and out that I realised he was real. He was so clean, healthy and happy, just dozing on a stack of embroidered cushion covers:
They weren’t all as lucky as this though. Not so clean, not so healthy and not so happy looking was this ginger tabby, with his dirty mustache. I would have still taken him home if I could though, he was so affectionate and playful – we even got a silly little selfie:
That little one followed me for a good while when I was walking down the street. Am I cat-whisperer? Maybe not insofar as a career choice, but I do seem to be perpetually followed by cats, wherever I go.
The other thing I saw a lot of in Istanbul was mummy cats with kittens. Out in the streets, in the middle of busy pavements, undeterred by people walking so closely to them. Some of the kittens were older, jostling with their siblings, but one was so tiny, it could have been but a few weeks old:
Cats of Egypt.
From Turkey onto Egypt, an Arabic country that is believed to have been one of the first to domesticate cats. Thousands of years after those first wildcats were brought in as pets, the people in what would later be Upper and Lower Egypt began to worship many species of animals, including cats. Praised for controlling vermin and their ability to kill snakes, the domesticated cat became a symbol of grace and poise.
In fact, the Ancient Egyptian cat goddess Bast was originally depicted as a fiercely protective and war-like lioness, but over time became the deity representing protection, fertility and motherhood. Here are some snaps of the cats I found on my travels up and down the Nile back in 2013:
Cats of Colombia.
Not all the cats I’ve encountered on my travels to 30 countries over the last 30 years have been unhealthy or mangy. The little family of feral cats I found on a farm up in the mountains in Buga in Colombia were clean, a good size and loved by the owners of the farm. Though they weren’t pets (ie, they weren’t allowed in the house or used to being cuddled and petted), the owners of the farm did feed them occasionally.
“They don’t have names – they protect the farm from mice and rats” said the owner, when I asked if he’d named the little baby that was lurking in the rafters.
It’s really interesting to learn how other countries value and treat animals, both domestic and non-domestic. These cats in Colombia were very clearly wild, but the owners of the farm didn’t mind them being there.
Cats in the USA.
I’ve only been to the states of New York and Florida in the US, so haven’t got much to go on, but when my parents and I visited Florida back in 2009 (hence the very young, very blonde picture of me below), we made friends with the cutest little tabby cat. She followed us from the car park to our motel room, then proceeded to sit on the outside windowsill staring in on us while we ate our dinner. Of course, I couldn’t not share my food – she loved Ritz crackers and squirty cheese from a can. A girl after my own heart.
Cats in Cuba.
When I visited Cuba last year with my (now ex) boyfriend, we found the teeniest, tiniest kitten hiding in a bush in the hotel gardens. I named her Tia the Tiny, because there was no way she could be older than about five weeks. I was so worried about her being out on her own, with no sign of a mum or siblings. But unfortunately as quick as she appeared, she vanished again.
Cats in Puerto Rico.
While I’m over that way on my feline tour of the globe, another Caribbean country that had hundreds of cats was Puerto Rico. I’ve actually written a whole post about the cats of San Juan and the wonderful work that the Save a Gato charity does. The “Trap. Neuter, Release” programme the charity runs would definitely be beneficial in many other countries I’ve mentioned here.
Here’s just one of about 50 beautiful cats I found in Puerto Rico:
Cats in The Netherlands.
Ok, so a bit different to the cats I usually find roaming the streets, but when I went to Amsterdam back in December 2016 I paid a visit to the Kattenkabinet, a museum dedicated to all things cat. I was in heaven, and spent ages looking at all the artifacts and displays. There was also this pretty tabby, snuggled up on the top of a radiator:
Cats in Cyprus.
When I was in Cyprus a few months ago, I visited a tiny little town called Kouklia. Kouklia is home to Aphrodite’s temple and about 20 feral cats. There will be a full post on these frisky felines coming soon. But here’s a little sneak peek for now:
Cats in the UK.
To end, here’s a pretty ragamuffin I met a few weekends ago. She belongs to the owner of Rainors Farm up in the Lake District, where my friends and I spent a long weekend “glamping”. On the last day the little beauty joined us in the sunshine in the garden. Obviously I couldn’t resist giving her a cuddle, and even half joked/half threatened to take her home. Isn’t she gorgeous?
It seems no matter where I go in the world, near or far, I will always find cats. Maybe I should set-up a separate site “Alwayscattyon”? That would definitely cement the Crazy Cat Lady title.