Neighborhood Cats

Four black cats staring at the camera.

Anyone who has been to Athens knows that Athens is the city of cats. Nowhere else in the world have I seen this many street cats.

It is striking that the cats usually look neither emaciated nor unkempt. This is because the cats are regularly fed by the residents of Athens. If you walk through the streets of Athens, you will often see bowls with cat food in front of the houses. Sometimes even small pillows and blankets that serve as cat beds. Thus, most cats in Athens are a mix of street cats and house cats. Although they live on the street, the Athenians not only tolerate them, but also feed them cat food, leftovers or kitchen waste.

There was also a small gang of cats in the courtyard of our Airbnb, consisting of four black cats that could not be distinguished from each other. When Christoph and I opened the balcony doors and windows of our apartment in the morning to let the sun into our study, we were greeted with four reproachful mews. The four cats made it absolutely clear to us that they hadn’t been fed today and kept their eyes on us. While we packed a lot for our stay in Athens, cat food was definitely not on our packing list. At the same time, we were a little reluctant to just feed the cats any food from our fridge, since we couldn’t imagine making the cats happy with feta and olives. So, undeterred by the piercing gazes of the cats in our yard, we went back to our desks to get on with our work.

The warm, sunny weather in Athens made it possible for us to work with the balcony doors and windows open every day. Suddenly in the morning we heard a loud “SPLASH”. Christoph and I looked at each other confused. What was that? A look into the inner courtyard explained the situation. That’s where our black cat gang was eager to eat the ham strips lying in the inner courtyard. The cats had apparently softened the heart of the Greek grandma who lived above us with their pitiful meowing, who now threw the cats one slice of ham after the other. These landed with a loud “splash” on the concrete inner courtyard.

From that day on we heard the mysterious splashing sound more and more frequently, but we were able to place it in the meantime and were happy that the cats no longer meowed at us reproachfully!

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