Cyprus, the Mediterranean island known for its turquoise waters and rich history, is also famous for another inhabitant – cats. With more cats than humans on the island, the feline population of Cyprus is out of control, estimated at 1.5 million stray cats compared to 1.2 million people. The city of Limassol, in particular, is filled with homeless cats, living and sleeping anywhere they can find shelter. Photographer Yuko describes the cats of Limassol as “something special” and “all different,” each with their own life and corner in the world.
Surprisingly, the rise of cats in Cyprus dates back to AD 328 when Roman Empress Saint Helena shipped hundreds of cats from Egypt to Cyprus to chase snakes from the St. Nicholas of the Cats monastery. However, a contradictory legend claims that Queen Cleopatra brought the cats to exterminate snakes. Archeological evidence shows that cats and humans have lived on the island for thousands of years, with the earliest known burial of a human and a cat together dating back to 7,500 BC.
Despite their long history on the island, many Cypriots attach little value to their cats, which are often considered vermin. The presence of stray cats is seen as a nuisance by shopkeepers and hotel managers, and sadly, many people in Cyprus refuse to take care of them. As a result, countless cats are malnourished, injured, and in need of help. However, things are slowly changing. In recent years, numerous cat feeding stations have been established all over Cyprus, and many towns have volunteers who feed and take care of strays.
One of the most well-known cat rescue organizations in Cyprus is the Malcolm Cat Protection Society near Limassol, named after its founder, Malcolm C. P. Stevenson. The sanctuary houses approximately 200 cats, most of which are affectionate and well-behaved. It is a safe shelter, with an outdoor area for the cats to play, and they are taken care of twice daily by volunteers who also give them love and attention. The famous St. Nicholas of the Cats monastery is nearby and can be visited along with the sanctuary.
Another cat sanctuary worth visiting is The Tala Monastery Cat Park, located in the small village of Tala in Paphos. This sanctuary cares for nearly 1,000 stray cats and provides fresh food and water for cats in need. They also bring seriously ill or injured cats to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment and spay and neuter ferals to prevent the homeless cat population from growing. They seek suitable homes for those cats that are ready to leave the streets.
Despite the valuable work of these organizations, there are still too many stray cats in Limassol and Cyprus in general. Everyone must take responsibility for helping to control the cat population while keeping the cats’ well-being a top priority. Donating a small amount to one or more cat sanctuaries in Cyprus is an excellent way to help. A donation of just $25 can make a significant impact by providing medical treatment and food for a cat in need. Some organizations even offer sponsorship programs for specific cats or sell cat calendars and homemade Christmas cards that feature the cats of their sanctuary, with revenue from these purchases going directly to the cats.
For those thinking of giving a stray cat from Cyprus a forever home, cat sanctuaries like Cyprus Cats, The Tala Monastery Cat Park, and Malcolm Cat Protection Society regularly have cats in need of a new home. Adopting a cat from Cyprus is possible, with the sanctuaries organizing travel and paperwork for cats leaving the country.
In conclusion, the cats of Limassol, Cyprus, are a significant part of the island’s culture, and while their population is out of control, steps are being taken to help them. Donating to cat sanctuaries, sponsoring a specific cat, or adopting a stray cat from Cyprus are all ways to help make a difference in the lives of these adorable feline residents.