Le Gattare: Caretakers of Italy’s stray cats

 

4 april 10

Photo by Xiquinho Silva via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you’ve been to Rome, you may have noticed the stray cats hanging out in the Colosseum or the Forum. Maybe you even visited the cat sanctuary located in Largo di Torre Argentina (photo above), where cats have called home since its excavation in 1929. Look for the cats, however, and you may spot a gattara, or volunteer cat caretaker. Historically older women, the gattare have been around as long as the stray cats, and I’ve noticed that recently they seem to be getting more positive attention, and not just in Rome. 

 

In the city of Monza, outside of Milan, a new course is being offered starting May 12th, to teach potential new gattare – or “feline colony tutors” – what and when to feed stray cats, how to treat an illness, and who to contact if the cats get sick, among other things.

 

The city of Genoa actually does a cat census, and estimates that there are tens of thousands of stray cats in the city, and 700 volunteer gattare. This article explains (in Italian) that the city thinks it’s important to care for stray cats since their health or illness affects that of both animals and people in the city.

 

And, for Italians living near stray cats but not near a course offered on how to care for them, they can buy a Manual for Gattare (in Italian). 

 

It’s noticing details like this that I think adds a level of richness to a visit to Italy, so keep your eye out and see if you can spot a gattara on your next trip!

 

Photo of Torre Argentina by Xiquinhosilva

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