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Salvatore feeding two strays in PalermoThis month I want to tell you about an unsung hero of the Sicilian cat world. As a rule, the majority of people who care for these felines are women but of course, there are men, too. One of them is Salvatore Randagio, a true cat gentleman. This modest, semi invalid lives alone in a suburb of Palermo, abandoned by his family after a divorce. What little money he has, he spends almost entirely on the many rescued cats in his life.

I first ‘met’ Salvatore on Facebook, at the beginning of 2018. I was soon following the almost daily videos of his work with felines. Another friend, Claudia, filled in more details. She and a few friends try to help him pay rent for his council house, which he risks losing. They also send him consignments of cat food and medication. I looked at my Catsnip budget and decided to send Salvatore a humane trap and special cage, which allows him to transfer a captured cat from one to the other. Later, I was able to fulfill a long-held wish by sending him Metalcote’s amazing constrainer cage, which allows a cat to be given injections without risking its clawing one to pieces.

Later this year, I plan to meet Salvatore in person. Meanwhile, here is Claudia’s account of her visit.

‘Today I finally met a person who, over time, I have learned to appreciate. Never would I have thought that, on Facebook, where everything is often amplified would I see only a very small part of all that he does every day for his beloved cats, caring for them as if they were his children. It doesn’t matter whether they are in the house or outside in a colony. Every one of them has food, caresses, treatment, attention and protection. Each has a name, dignity and a place in his heart.

stray cats that Salvatore feedsSalvatore is a gattaro (a cat gentleman) of almost another era: he walks for miles to do his shopping, returning home weighed down and breathless with a piece of bread under his arm (it’ll be his lunch because everything else is for the cats). I have seen what he does for his feline charges, also how he gazes at them, his patience and his ability in caring for illnesses and administering therapies, his almost manic fixation for cleanliness and his total conviction that neutering is the only way forward, to the extent of finishing  his scant savings for this. In a land where, as we know, it is anything but easy, this is a fight, which begins as soon as you come downstairs in the morning. A fight, for the main part, against windmills. Salvatore Randagio is, in his way, a hero, who battles with daily major difficulties; an unrecognised hero because, when one lives in a degraded environment, narrow minded people try to convince you you’re mistaken, strange.

Instead, seek out the ‘odd’: dreamers, cat lovers, poets and feral animals. Fill the heart with their stories.’

Jennifer Pulling is the author of 'The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue' and 'Monet's Angels'

 

The Very Best Toy for Cats

"Of all the [cat] toys available, none is better designed than the owner himself. A large multipurpose plaything, its parts can be made to move in almost any direction. It comes completely assembled, and it makes a noise when you jump on it."

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