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There is a superb book, The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue, written by Jennifer Pulling which explains about her work with sick and injured Sicilian cats and also the organisation she is involved with Catsnip, which began in 2002, to neuter cats then return them back to the colonies where they were found.

Having read Jennifer’s articles on TDM I was looking forward to my second visit to Sicily.

May 2018 we were stopping for the day in Giardini Naxos, a maiden port for Queen Victoria, the cruise ship I was on. This was a stunningly beautiful bay and as the dock was small, we were tendered ashore by survival crafts (previously known as lifeboats!). I had pre-booked an excursion as I am a little nervous of independent travel in ports I’ve not stopped at before. But I was aware of Jennifer’s work, so I had stocked up on kibbles and stuffed into my rucksack a tub of chicken. I was locked and loaded, a tourist on a moggy-mission!

I am convinced that during my trip the cats of Sicily must have taken a day off!

I was aware I was being watchedFirst, I went up to Castlemola, founded in the 6th century BC. A small hillside village which has the most incredible panoramic views and a little paved square Piazzetta del Duomo. I hadn’t seen any cats as I strolled round all the ancient little lanes of the village, but in the Piazzetta, I became aware that I was being watched. I looked up. There, high up in a tree to the left of the church by the table and chairs of a cafe, just like the Cheshire Cat, was a cat. Curled up and quite comfortable the cat just looked round at village life carrying on beneath it. I proffered some goodies, but the cat was far too entrenched to be bothered to come down!

The excursion then took me to Taormina, somewhere I had always wanted to visit. It was rammed with locals and tourists. Lots of shops with the most delicious gourmet Italian foods to stock up on, gelataris selling mouth-watering ice cream and cafes for a sit and an cappuchino, rest those weary legs. 

There wasn’t time to visit the amphitheatre, sadly. However, I did find the Roman Odeon which was interesting.

taking the raysAgain, the cats in this town must have been having a rest day. I saw only one, and he certainly wasn’t a stray. There is a square Piazza IX Aprile and San Giuseppe on the Corsa Umberto with fabulous views over the Ionian Sea. To the left of the clock tower is a little shop selling Italian herbs, soaps etc at fancy tourist prices and that’s where I met this chap. He looked like he wouldn’t get out of his cat crib in the morning unless tempted with slivers of the finest Parma Ham! He was flopped out against the wall, tummy exposed to the sun as he just ignored all the hub-bub around him. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be interested in my goodies!! He let me tickle his tummy, yawned then went to lie down in the shop entrance so that people would have to step over him to get in!

Back down in Giardini Naxos, I wandered round the seafront. There was a supermarket where I could stock up with sparkling water (500ml X6 for 4 Euros) Again, not a single cat. So not wanting to waste what I had in my rucksack, on the way back to the ship I sat on a wall with a bottle of water to cool off.  Although there was a very strong ‘essence de feline’, there was no sign of them. I tipped out my treats under a shady area and hoped that they would be found and enjoyed after I'd sailed away.

I really enjoyed my day in Sicily. I would love to go back to Goardino Naxos, and also Catania where I visited two years ago. Here I did find cats, lots of them in an amphitheatre on Piazza Stesicoro and they were extremely friendly and out to mug me for titbits!!

When I do return, maybe I will hopefully bump into Jennifer and thank her for all the incredible work she does for the Sicilian cats.


Carol Lake

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