Gatti Italiani e Buon Natale!


I am writing this post from the beautiful, romantic country of Italy.  Specifically, we are in Sicily, not too far from Mount Etna.  I’ve been enjoying the company of my maternal family and six cats – yes, I said six.  All of them are outdoor cats, and most of them are quite skittish, but they inspired me to write a post here about how cats are viewed in Italian society.  If you compare cats in Italy to cats in, say, Algeria, they have it much better here.  Unfortunately, the overpopulation of cats in Algeria is so badly handled that people actually shoot them on sight.  Because they do not have a proper system of spaying, neutering, and rescue, many cats perish this way.  But in Italy, things are a bit different.

It is true that you see cats roaming the streets here, and while not all of them are abandoned, they get along just fine.  People are quite kindhearted, and while people make the situation out to be horrific (see this article for information), it’s not as bad as most think.  Cats, as they are in the States, are kept inside as pets, but lots of people keep cats as outdoor mousing animals.  They are fed well, and probably fed overmuch, and have the run of the property.  While they run around everywhere, they usually return home.  There are shelters for them, and they are protected and cared for.  The six my family keep here, for example, also keep harmful critters away from the chicken coop, and keep pests away from small greenhouse crops and citrus trees.  There is a huge billboard just outside of Catania that currently boasts a sweet photo of a small, fluffy black-and-white kitten with a Santa cap, and telling all about animal beneficiary organizations in Sicily and all over Italy.

Of course, if the overpopulation problem is really horrifying, it is not in the general area I am visiting.  In larger cities, for example, cats can be badly neglected and abandoned.  Generally, however, cats are viewed as good luck and sweet pets.  Just as in the States, Italian culture tends to view animal cruelty as criminal and despicable.  Here, in fact, is an excerpt from the Animal Cruelty Wikipedia page:

Acts of cruelty against animals can be punished with imprisonment, for a minimum of three months up to a maximum of three years, and with a fine ranging from a minimum of 3.000,00 Euro to a maximum of 160.000,00 Euro, as for the law n°189/2004.[24] The law was passed mainly to crush the phenomenon of dog fighting, which in Italy is a clandestine blood sport fully controlled by organized crime.  (CREDIT WIKIPEDIA)

Spaying and neutering here is a difficult thing for me to gauge.  More or less, cats kept outside are not fixed.  My family, for example, tends to let them have kittens so that they can have more mousers, and to refresh their “farm” population.  The property specifically is not a farm, it is a large piece of land fenced in with a house, pool, tennis court, gardens, trees, chicken coop, dog pen, and outbuildings, plus a greenhouse.  It is an expansive property, and very beautiful, and something that most Americans would not have in this particular style.  So here, the cats have plenty of shelter in bad weather, and many places to hide themselves if they feel threatened.  Generally, my family in itself is an animal-loving one, and thus I get my enjoyment for the company of animals in general.

Today is Christmas for us here in Italy!  We are celebrating in the best Italian style:  Food, food, more food, presents, and more presents, and lots of company, family, and conversation.  So, I must leave you with a warm benediction:

Buon Natale, Auguri a tutti!


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