Roman Cats

The Roman cats originated from Egypt. When the ancient Egyptian empire fell, the felines boarded sailing vessels and spread themselves around the world. Fortunate for Rome, some of them ended up here to help maintain the rat problem in the 1300's when the bubonic plague arrived in Italy.

At that time the Roman Catholic Church considered cats to be witches and began hunting them down. Soon the rat population exceeded that of the cats and the plague engulfed the entire country. The cats are back and here to stay, however they don't do too much about the rat population, since the rats have had seven centuries to grow quite large and intimidating.

There are estimated to be 300,000 feral cats living in over 2000 colonies. You might think that the city fathers would be alarmed by these numbers, but Rome's city council has recently come out in favor of the cat's existence in Rome by citing their ancient heritage.

This documentary is about the many cats living in Rome.
Part 1

Part 2

There is a deep-rooted affection for these cats who have an ancient bond with the city. The city council even went so far as to protect the cats, in 2001 naming cats living in the Coliseum, the Forum and Torre Argentina a part of the city's "bio-heritage."

In the Coliseum area alone there are over 200 cats, but the real cat sanctuary is Torre Argentina. It is one of the older temples in Rome (400-300 B.C.) and the historic site where Julius Caesar was stabbed by his rival Brutus in 44 B.C. Since then, 250-300 stray cats have found shelter here.

They Roman cats fed, spayed, and even given medicine by an international group of volunteers. They raise money by organizing raffles, dinners, flea market sales, as well as receiving private donations from tourists who sometimes seem more interested in the cats than the ruins. Anyone can volunteer their services at Torre Argentina by feeding and grooming the cats, or even better, by cleaning out their litter boxes.

Our youngest daughter loves the cats so much!

There are many "Cat Ladies", called gattare who take care of these stray felines. They feed the cats every day by themselves and with their own money. They can be seen in the mornings and evenings pushing around a cart with bowls of food for the Roman cats.

Since spaying and neutering are important priorities, the public veterinary service provides free sterilization of cats who belong to these feline settlements. Moreover, Rome's municipality, according to an Italian national law of 1991, bans the killing of stray cats and dogs, and protects the cats by giving them a bicultural patrimony label.

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