Sunday, 20 January 2013

I GATTI DELLA SABINA - The Cats of the Sabina

One of the very few downsides to being away from home for a long time is worrying about our cat Smokey... I don't really worry about him. I know that he is healthy and that Richard's nephew Geoffrey is looking after him well, taking care of his cat box, keeping Smokey fed, watered, entertained, etc. and that our neighbours will look in on him while we are in Italy... but I must confess I miss Smokey while I am away. 

It is no wonder then that both Richard and I took a lot of pictures of cats while we were in the Sabina. The Cats of Rome, of course, are famous... meriting their own calendars, post cards, fridge magnets, etcetera... They even have their own tourist attraction, the Cat Sanctuary of Torre Argentina, which recently has become even more of an attraction because recent findings from a team of Spanish archaeologists indicate that it is the location where Julius Caesar was assassinated

Legend has it that the first cats brought to Rome arrived there with Cleopatra. Whatever the truth is, it is estimated that today there are about 300,000 feral and semi-feral cats living in 2000 colonies in the Eternal City. I don't know how many there are in the Sabina, but it seemed that everywhere we went there were cats... And that made me happy.

A handsome, vigilant Tom in Bocchignano, Comune di Montopoli in Sabina

Of course, like in Rome, some some of these cats were feral or semi-feral, but many were well coddled pets. 

Mao Mao, on the road to Casperia's Cemetery
There were lots of times when we came across cats that we thought were wild but later found out that they weren't. Some of these cats survive by their skills and wits alone, but many of them are looked after by the townspeople who leave out food and water for them daily. These are the portraits of the cats we met in Casperia in 2009.

Kimbo resting on the cobbles. Photo courtesy of Luca Bellincioni
These are the cats we met during our last visit to the Sabina in 2012:

A well planted cat in Bocchignano, Commune di Montopoli in Sabina
 And the cats of Catino...

Gatto Catinese courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

Do you see the Cat in Catino?
I am not sure if this door sign in Poggio Mireto refers to the cats in the following picture...

The cats have found their favourite place to enjoy the sun...
The same cats in the same position weeks apart, taken by Alessandra Finiti
These cats live at Farfa Abbey...

These cats are from Fianello in Montebuono... Both of these photos are courtesy of Alessandra Finiti.

 This photo is from our visit to Tarano in 2009. Can you see the guardian of the garden?

He's to the left...
Italian cats like bird baths as much as Canadian cats...
And who can forget our visit to Poggio Mirteto? This next photograph was the first picture from our 2012 Italian holiday to be posted on Facebook. We believe her name is Principessa. Grazie Alessandra!

Photo courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

The feline welcome wagon in Poggio Mirteto
Certain cats though, stand out... One is this cat... We call him Casperia's Welcome Wagon... although we have recently learned that his name is Cicciopalla which translates as "Chubby ball"...

This cat owns the main gate of Casperia. Cicciopalla lives in the open, rejecting offers of a regular home... He prefers to live out near the main entrance of town and gives each who enter his own particular greeting. I believe he may be in the employ of the Casperia Pro Loco.

Cicciopalla earning his keep as the ambassador of Casperia
Bravo Cicciopalla!
But one Asprese cat stands head and shoulder above the others we have met. This is Mao Mao. Mao Mao shares a home with our good friend Nicoleta, who works at Friends Caffe'. When we first met Mao Mao, Richard and I were heading for a visit to the Casperia Cemetery. All of a sudden, this beautiful long hair silver tabby appeared by the side of the road and demanded attention.

This cat was extremely friendly. It loved to be patted and responded to our attention with cheek rubs and head butts.... the cat got so blissed when we patted her (it was obvious that she was a girl) that she actually drooled. In later descriptions of her in our Facebook posts we dubbed her "The Drooler".

It was only later that we found out that this very friendly cat was actually bonded to and lived with our friend Nicoleta Stoichescu who works at Friends'. 

Tita, who prowls Via Massari close to the Palazzo Forani

And I mustn't forget these cats, the lords and ladies of Gusto Al Borgo...


Every time we connected with one of these Sabine Felines it felt like we were meeting a messenger from Smokey. Each of them was telling us, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Since we returned to Canada, more cat photos have been posted by various friends in Casperia, Tuscania, Catino and Poggio Mirteto. It seems that Smokey is working to set up the Sabina Feline Welcome Wagon for 2013. We look forward to reconnecting with our old furry friends during our next visit. We also look forward to making the acquaintance of new ones... like this welcomer in Stimigliano...

Photo courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
and of course Boh and Romeo back in Casperia... 

Photo of Boh (or Romeo) courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella
Cicciopalla and Boh, courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella
So Cicciopalla and Mio are one and the same cat... Interesting.... courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella
This post is dedicated to Mao Mao (The Drooler) and her fabulous human, Nicoleta Stoichescu. Apparently Mao Mao has been diagnosed with diabetes and has some other health issues as well. Our hearts go out to sweet Mao Mao and to our dear friend Nicoleta. We hope Mao Mao is feeling better soon.

Nicoleta and Mao Mao - Photo courtesy of Nicoleta Stoichescu

If you are interested in learning more about the cat sanctuary of Torre Argentina in Rome, here is a link. 

The feral cat colony is cared for by a corps of dedicated volunteers. The global financial crisis has had a major negative impact on the number of visitors, as well as the amount of donations received. Lack of funds has slowed the sanctuary's sterilization programme. If you are interested in helping these people in their work. Here is a link. 

A.S.T.A. (Associazione per la Salute e la Tutela degli Animali) is the Italian version of the S.P.C.A. Here is a link to their website.

There is also an organization called the Anglo-Italian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

Smokey thanks you for taking the time to read this blog and for your support and care of his feral brothers and sisters in Italia. 

Smokey vuole ringraziare tutti voi chi ha preso il tempo di leggere questo blog e per il vostro sostegno e la cura dei suoi fratelli e sorelle selvatici in Italia.


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