When in Greece, you will see Greek cats everywhere! Here is everything you need to know about cats in Greece, including some facts, photos and trivia.
Cats of Greece
If you visit Greece, you will soon notice that there are cats wherever you go. Cats are a trademark of Greece, and most visitors aim to get a few cat photos at iconic Greek destinations, such as Santorini or Mykonos.
So, why are there so many cats in Greece?
Generally speaking, most cats in Greece are feral, and many of them were born out on the street. While some of them are neutered or sprayed, this doesn’t always happen. As they are free to reproduce, they can have many kittens every year, and these kittens will also stay out on the streets.
These cats are usually taken care of by cat lovers, and often by the whole neighbourhood. It’s very common to see outdoor areas where people have placed cat food and water to support the stray cats in the area.
Additionally, there are many cat shelters all around Greece, most of which are run and maintained by groups of passionate individuals. Many of these groups, especially on the Greek islands, have been founded by expats who moved to Greece.
Sadly, the role of the local authorities in the support of the cats remains minimal in many areas of the country.
Fun fact: Female cats can give birth two or three times a year, with each litter usually consisting of 4-6 kittens. And as the female cat’s reproductive system is quite unique, kittens in the same litter can have many different fathers! This explains why kittens from the same litter can look so different to each other 🙂
What do cats in Greece look like?
The only native variety of cats in Greece are a naturally occuring breed called the Aegean cats. This type of cat originated in the geographical region around the Cyclades island and Western Turkey.
Greek cats vary a lot in color. Their fur can have a combination of colors including white, grey, beige, red and black. They often have stripe patterns, such as a brown tabby or a silver tabby.
The Aegean cats are medium-sized, with a long and muscular body. They usually have green eyes, but their eye color can also be blue, gray or golden. They might even have two different eyes.
Fact: The International Feline Federation and other similar organizations do not recognize the Aegean cat as an official breed. This is probably due to the fact that systematical breeding of the Aegean cat only started in the early 90s, and there are very few Aegean cats outside Greece and Turkey.
Should I feed the cats in Greece?
While Greek stray cats can be found everywhere, they generally prefer places where they can get food. For example, it would be difficult to imagine a meal at a Greek taverna without a few cats asking for food.
And who could resist giving these mysterious, independent animals a little bite to eat! It’s hard when they stare at you with their big eyes!
Before you feed the cat, however, please check with the waiter. Some taverna owners prefer to feed the cats at designated areas, which are not close to the customers.
Fact: If you want to give some of your food to a cat, it’s best to stick to cooked fish, chicken and meat. You should absolutely avoid bones and fish bones, as they can penetrate their cat’s digestive system.
Can I bring a stray cat back from Greece?
While cats are well looked after by many people in Greece, sadly not all cats have a great life. As an example, many cats die in car accidents, and others are neglected, mistreated, or even deliberately fed with poisoned bait. And while there are strict penalties in Greece for people abusing animals, unfortunately they are not always enforced 🙁
So if you wanted to adopt a Greek stray cat, you’d probably be doing it a favor.
The best way to go about it is to get in touch with cat welfare organizations in the area you are located. They will be able to give you guidance on how to adopt a Greek stray cat, and the procedures you will need to go through.
In Athens, you can contact one of the numerous non-profit organisations that help stray animals in Greece, such as SCARS or ZEIL. They welcome donations, and would also appreciate other help if you are staying in Athens for a while!
Tip: Before you embark on this procedure, check your country’s rules when it comes to importing animals from abroad.
Meet some Greek feral cats
And now, let’s have a look at a few Greek cats!
The cat below lives on the street, right next to a taverna in Athens. The owners feed him quite frequently, but they haven’t given him a name. Beef patties are his favorite meal.
This one lives in the garden of the cafe of the Numismatic Museum in Athens. Her name is Athina and she is very friendly towards the staff, clients, and even passers-by!
Black cats are not so common in Greece, but you can still meet some if you visit. They love wandering around green areas, even in the cities.
Possibly the most common colour for a Greek cat is a mix – a bit of grey, a bit of beige, and a few dark stripes. Some Greek cats look a little like tigers! I found this one inside the archaeological site of Delphi.
Greek cats can be domesticated
Sometimes, people pick cats up from the street at a very young age. Yet, even if they are domesticated, they are very independent. They like owning their space and doing exactly what they want.
Overall, the Aegean cats are active, friendly, curious and social. As they are a naturally occuring breed, they are healthy and rarely get diseases.
Contrary to most other breeds of cats, they like water. In fact, given that their origins are on the Greek islands, it shouldn’t come as a surprise!
The cat below is called Thruppence. She lives in my friend’s apartment, but she loves wandering around the garden. Sometimes she takes a stroll outside the garden too, but never disappears for more than a couple of hours.
Here is another domestic cat, Pitsi. She is rather lazy and loves spending time in the house. In fact, her favourite part of the house is the bedroom.
My friend’s cat Nounou loves exploring and getting in any type of container. Look at this incredible eye color!
I found this cat taking a rest right on our bed in a hotel room in South Crete. He seemed to feel at home and couldn’t be bothered to move!
FAQs about Greek cats
Here are a few more FAQs about the native Greek cats:
Does Greece have a cat problem?
Unlike most other countries in Western Europe, Greece has thousands of feral cats. Locals are used to them, and they often treat them as community cats. However, if you are visiting Greece for the first time, you may perceive it as a problem.
Can you feed stray cats in Greece?
Many people feed stray cats in Greece. If you are having a meal at a taverna and you want to feed the cats, please check with the waiter or the owner first. Make sure to give it fish, chicken or meat, and be extra careful not to give it fish bones.
How common is rabies in cats in Greece?
Rabies is not common in cats in Greece.
Do Greeks like cats?
Much like squirrels in the UK or cows in the Netherlands, cats are a trademark of Greece. It would be difficult to imagine a meal in a Greek taverna without a couple of cats asking for food leftovers. And who could deny giving these friendly animals at least a small snack or two!
How many lives does a cat have in Greece?
In Greece, we say that a cat has seven lives. In fact, we say that they have seven souls!
Find out more about Greece
Have a look at these other articles about Greece:
- Twenty things you should know about Greece before you visit
- Religion in Greece – Churches, Greek Easter and Christian names
- How to speak Greek – The Greek alphabet and 20 useful Greek words
- The coffee culture in Greece
- Interesting facts about the Greek flag
- The evil eye in Greece
For more amazing pictures of Greek cats, have a look at my Pinterest board!