The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue by Jennifer Pulling

Jennifer Pulling in Sicily Jennifer Pulling is a successful writer and playwright.  While writing a novel in Sicily, she encountered a cat with appalling injuries, and as no one seemed concerned, she too matters into her own hands.  The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue was born.

Jennifer has kindly agreed to write of her experience of her rescue work with the beautiful feral cats of Sicily.

older catI still remember Katy Kitten who came to live at my sister’s house when she was seventeen years old. Her elderly owner had died, and no one wanted her. It had seemed she, too, would soon be crossing the Rainbow Bridge. Katy lived for another three years, an eccentric old lady who enjoyed sitting on someone’s lap, seeming to understand she’d been given a second chance and full of love and purrs.

Mature cats offer so many advantages and yet they are too often overlooked in favour of a cute kitten. They are calm and experienced, wise in the way of litter boxes and food likes and dislikes, content to rest quietly while you’re away from home. Kittens, adorable as they are, are livewires on four legs and it takes time to teach them how to behave.

With an older cat you know what you are getting. As we feline slaves know, every cat has a distinct personality and there could be a potentially docile sweetie and a ‘difficult’ kitten in the same litter. One might grow up bold as brass, another shy and disliking any company but you. A mature cat, which has usually lived among humans, will have her history and be settled into her personality by the time she comes into your life.

A cat that has entered her teens is the perfect companion for those who are less mobile or enjoy the quiet life and the pleasure of giving these animals gentle love and attention. Not to mention seniors will be far less destructive and demanding than a tiny ball of fluff and mischief. While kittens are probably the prettiest things in creation, lovable for their antics, the bond between an older cat and her human is so often incredibly strong. These easy-going seniors will offer loads of love and devotion in return.

If you are thinking of adding a cat to a house that already has older animals, a more mature cat will be a wise choice. Introducing a kitten into such a ménage may well result in resentment by your older cats when a boisterous youngster comes on the scene.

The only downside is that your time together will be shorter.  It's sad but true, instead of 15-25 years, you will only have 5-10 years with your cat depending on her age when you adopt. All the more reason to spend lots of quality time with her and enjoy the present.

Mature cats often end up in shelters after being made homeless for some reason: a house move, their elderly owner moving into a care home. These felines can suffer with the loss of their special human. As time goes on, they may face the threat of euthanasia. Anyone who offers them a forever home for their later years, as my sister did, will have performed a special act of compassion. They will be rewarded with cat love they may never have experienced before. Go on adopt one of these beautiful seniors today. 

Jennifer Pulling

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

She has also written a beautiful book called Monet’s Angels, which I can highly recommend.

Jennifer has a website on writing:








Sheba's Christmas Writer, Beatrix Potter loved animals, and cats feature in many of her books. My Christmas favourite is The Tailor of Gloucester, the story of a poor tailor and his black cat, Simkin, who ‘keeps house’ while his owner works until he drops from fatigue.

On Christmas Eve, Simkin hears the Cathedral clock strike twelve and wanders out into the snow. True to the legend that dumb animals can speak for an hour between Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the bewildered and hungry Simkin hears a multitude of birds talking. Then, peeping in the tailor’s window, he sees that a group of little mice are finishing the elaborate waistcoat that the weary man could no longer see to do…until they run out of twist.

Rereading the story made me ponder the conversation I might have with my cat Sheba at that magical hour. To be honest, it wouldn’t be a tremendous leap as, over the years we have ‘kept house’ together, she has evolved a language of sounds and facial expressions. An urgent ‘meow’ announces that the bathroom door is closed, and she must be admitted AT ONCE in order to be combed. Loud discordant meows tell me that, having made a sudden mad dash through the cat flap, she has been spooked by something (what?) in the garden. Baby cries are employed when I take more than a second to decant a pouch onto a bowl. Then I am treated to the big pupil stare when she spots I have sat down on the sofa and is planning how to take up her rightful position on my lap.

However, I still wonder how our Christmas Eve conversation might go.

ME:  When I call you in from the garden, sometimes you respond and sometimes not. Do you really know your name is Sheba?

SHEBA: Of course I do, But we’re not dogs, they’ve been domesticated much longer than us. We don’t feel we have to respect humans or respond to them all the time, only when we feel so inclined.

ME: I bought you a comfy cat bed and you slept in it for a few months. Then you decided to sleep on my bed. This year, you’ve spent several weeks taking over my office chair but now you’re downstairs sleeping on a chair near me. 

SHEBA: It goes back to when we lived in the wild. The worst thing you can do is stay in the same place, so enemies learn where you are. If you were me, wouldn’t you keep changing your sleeping place?

ME: Hadn’t thought of that. Now, sometimes you just sit and stare at me, why?

SHEBA: That’s an easy one. I like you and I’m trying to show you the bond between us, that I feel relaxed and safe. All you human faces look much the same to me but I can tell by your expression if you are happy or sad,

ME: Let’s turn to your Christmas. Have you any special wishes?

SHEBA: Oh yes! There’s the question of Dennis.

ME: Dennis?

DennisSHEBA: You know that great brute of a black and white cat.  Lives at number twenty-three. He’s a bully and a greedy so and so. If you forget to shut the cat flap he’s inside and scoffing all my food. I know it’s him because he licks the plate clean, which I DON’T do. I’m not that keen on seagulls but Dennis steals their food too. I wish someone would do something about Dennis.

ME: Hmm, well.

SHEBA: Then there’s Pearl, the little tabby. Don’t know where she lives because she’s always out in the road.  I just wish her human would give her a bit of love this Christmas.

ME:  I try. I stroke her every time I see her

SHEBA: OK but watch your step, stroking other cats. I haven’t forgotten last Christmas when you let that fluffy grey cat into the house and she stayed here all night long, until her human called you from Yorkshire and said she was a wanderer. That was going a bit too far, in my opinion.

ME:  Oh jealous, Sheba?

SHEBA: I don’t want anyone living here except me, understand?

ME:   You made that very clear with Bruno, remember? You were so territorial, he pee-d over the sofa and we had to find him another home. Oh, just one more thing, what would you love to find on the tree?

SHEBA You know the answer to that: Dreamies and more Dreamies,

ME:  As if I hadn’t guessed!

For a lovely Christmas read and if you haven’t come across it before, I recommend The Tailor of Gloucester to all at the Daily Mews.

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

She has also written a beautiful book called Monet’s Angels, which I can highly recommend.

Jennifer has a website on writing:







CasparCaspar’s story began when I received an email early last July. A couple were trailing their caravan along a country road in Abruzzo, southern Italy, when they saw the tiny kitten sitting in the middle of the road and narrowly missed hitting it. Wrote Lola: ‘I got out to move it, and the guy from the house in front came out and told me no, it wasn’t from there and I had to take it away. I saw what I assume was the mother cat looking for it, but he told me no it wasn’t the mother, and it wasn’t his cat, so I couldn’t leave it there.’

            The kitten with its blue eyes and seal pointed pale coat looked remarkable like a Siamese He journeyed on with the couple as they crossed the Straits of Messina and arrived in Sicily. On my advice, Lola took him to a vet who prescribed treatment for his eyes. Like so many cats in southern Italy he was suffering from an upper respiratory infection, which manifests in oozing from the eyes and can result in blindness if untreated.

Caspar and best friend            The emails increased. Lola told me she had no intention of keeping the kitten, they would shortly be moving on and insisted I find someone to take it. Animal rescue in Sicily is a tough assignment; there is a scattering of people and a few shelters, some of which are dubiously run. I put out an SOS on my Facebook page and was delighted when Alessandra replied. She agreed to pick up the kitten and take it home to Messina, a near by town. Meanwhile, Lola had sent me the first photographs of the little creature, which showed that he looked definitely like a Siamese.

            What impressed me at that point was the incomprehension of many tourists in Sicily of the dire situation of its feline population. They appear to think the procedure is the same as might happen in the UK, i.e. good refuges where they could be taken. In this case, I was SO lucky to find a solution.

            Alessandra picked up the kitten and called him Caspar. As a volunteer for one of the few associations for animal welfare, she only fosters rescued cats until she can find them a good forever home.

Caspar and best friend             What happened next was heart warming. Caspar and another rescued ginger cat became friends. At first they played together but then they became inseparable, as you’ll see from the photographs. They sleep together, curled in each other’s arms. Over a few weeks and with Alessandra’ care, Caspar has grown into a healthy and rounded little kitten. His blue eyes gaze at the world with such innocence and trust. He has had all the necessary inoculations and been wormed. When they are not sleeping, the two cats play and roam in Alessandra’s beautiful home and patio garden. As she told me, she is determined not to separate them and is in no hurry until she finds them a lovely family who will take them together.

            I’ll finish with the advice I give to every tourist who asks me for help. Step one is to check whether there is a mother and never to remove them from their location until they are certain of this. Another interesting point concerns Italian law. Although it is illegal to remove any feral from where it is living, there is often a sad lack of care and attention to their nourishment and welfare. However, in Caspar’s case, he has become one lucky kitten whose story has a happy ending.

Jennifer Pulling

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

Jennifer has a website on writing:



Storm survivorA storm had been brewing over Casoli, a town in mainland Italy’s Abruzzo. Then the heavens opened.

            ‘Listen,’ cat lover Rita urged her boyfriend Giles, ‘isn’t that a kitten crying?’

They plunged into the wild night and discovered a tiny feline, soaking wet, shivering and crying with fear. They waited for his mum to return but after an hour and still no sign of other cats, they decided to take him home. A bath and treatment for a bad flea infestation transformed the black and white kitten into a playful, happy little chap.

Australians, Rita and Giles were on a three-month trip and soon would have to move on. Did I know of anyone who might help? They didn’t want to have to put the kitten back on the street. They’d willingly deliver the kitten anywhere that was within a day’s drive. This was a difficult one as Catsnip operates only in Sicily and I had no contacts to call on. I posted an appeal on Facebook with little response.

Then I remembered Elena. Two weeks before, while staying on Gozo, I’d been standing in the street anxiously watching two kittens, which appeared to be stranded on a roof. I’d been joined by an equally worried Italian couple.

            ‘I’m a cat woman,’ I told them.

            ‘So am I,’ replied Elena.

She told me she lived in Naples and worked to save feral animals from the city’s streets. She also knew Dorothea Fritz, the German vet with whom I’d worked on neutering trips. It seemed to us both this meeting was more than a coincidence and we agreed to stay in touch.  Now I contacted her and asked if she could help Rita and Giles. Meanwhile, the couple had followed several other leads and drawn a blank.

Heart stealer            ‘I’m getting nervous,’ wrote Rita, ‘we won’t have a solution in time but have to remain positive.’

            I, too, had begun to despair and to imagine the kitten once more abandoned to his fate. Then Rita told me they had managed to speak on the phone to Elena.

‘We're taking the kitten to Elena and a volunteer friend of hers, Rosalia tomorrow in Naples. We've just organised to meet at midday so we'll set off in the morning and hopefully the little fella will be happily with his foster volunteer by early afternoon and then adopted out from there.’

            Fortunately, Squirm, the slightly odd name they’d given the kitten, was a good traveller sleeping throughout the long drive from Abruzzo to Naples. ‘Operation kitten drop’ was an emotional one as both Rita and Giles had fallen in love with the wee mite and found it hard to let him go. But subsequent photos showing the kitten playing with Rosalie’s dog and generally being a mischievous and happy feline convinced them they had done the best thing for little Squirm. It is sad to say that many kittens’ cry for help is ignored but this waif in the storm seems set for a rosy future.

Home and dryJennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

Jennifer has a website on writing:

safe and secure







Little miracle

The message is always more or less the same: “I am in Sicily on holiday, we’ve found a cat (or kitten) and have been feeding it. It seems to be quite well except it has problem with its eyes. Any advice or people we can contact?”

Since the beginning of the holiday season I have received a lot of these and always try to help. First, I need to identify exactly where they are on the island, it being a fairly large place. Hopefully, it will be somewhere where I have contacts. Also, I am in touch with several other cat people such as Sirilkit who lives in Germany. She is creating a very useful database of contacts so is my first resort.  If the tourists are any where near Taormina, then I can really help as my lovely vet, Oscar, practices in that area. However, I usually manage to find someone they can get in touch with.

This week a lovely couple called Guy and Jo contacted me.  They were in Scopello, near Palermo and they reminded me of another tourist I helped a few years ago. On my advice she went to the local police for help and when they didn’t seem to be moving very fast, she sat on the floor of the station and wept buckets, which had the desired effect

I sent Guy details of vets saying ‘their’ kitten needed to have the eyes treated as she probably had an infection that, untreated, would cause her to go blind.

He replied with this: “if we brought her back to the UK would she need to be put into quarantine for 6 months after having a rabies jab? Or is it more simple nowadays?Is there a reputable business that you know can help to get this done if we can’t find someone to take her in? We are flying on Tuesday so I’m hoping we can at least leave her with the vet until we arrange this.”

Again, I was reminded of another couple, Sadie and Eddie, who finally brought a blind cat back to London. It is a course not to be taken lightly. The cat must have a series of inoculations including rabies. After this, it must remain in situ for 21 days before the necessary permission and documentation is given for it to be transported. Considering the slow wheels of Sicilian bureaucracy this is a daunting task. In Sadie’s case, she was continually told they had ‘run out’ of passports and it was only Oscar pulling strings that obtained one.

Initially, the couple was prepared to fly back for Katerina, the blind cat.  Eventually they found an agency in Rome called Relocat, which managed the whole thing for them. It did, however, cost an eye-wateringly amount of money.  Finally, Katerina arrived safely and now lives in a lovely home with a safe garden. Her blindness doesn’t hinder her from being very mischievous. But, as I said, not for the faint hearted.

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

Jennifer has a website on writing:


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Five Good Reasons for Having Your Cat Neutered

  • Reduces fighting, injury and noise
  • Reduces spraying and smelling
  • Much less likely to wander and get lost
  • Safer from diseases like feline AIDS, mammary tumours and feline leukaemia
  • Reduces the number of unwanted kittens

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