Volunteers Call for Help to Control Cat Overpopulation in Cyprus | World

Every day, at dawn, as Dinos Ayiomamitis’ small truck slowly navigates down the path of a cemetery, cats silently emerge from between the headstones.

“Here you go, Bourekka mou,” he mutters using a Cypriot term of endearment, as the animals circle between his legs and wait for him to grab food from the back of his truck to eat.

Ayiomamitis is one of several volunteers struggling to feed thousands of stray cats on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

“There has been no official count, but based on our own assessment, we can say the number of cats is equal to the island’s human population, to say the least. They could approach a million, which is a rough estimate,” said Ayiomamitis, who feeds up to 200 cats daily at various locations around the Cyprus capital, Nicosia, and is president of the Cat PAWS society.

“If there is no serious intervention to control the population, we will have a big problem. It’s already a big problem. There are neighborhoods where some feed, others may not want to, throw poison, fights break out between neighbors, that’s not right, there are ways to deal with it, the first and most important is what I said, that there is a state sterilization program “, said.

Cyprus’ affiliation with cats goes back thousands of years. In 2004, French archaeologists reported what was then described as the oldest historical record of cat domestication, in a 9,500-year-old cemetery.

In 400 AD, Helen of Constantinople would have sent boats full of cats to the island to hunt poisonous snakes.

At a cat sanctuary 50 miles from the capital, volunteers find stray cats and kittens are thrown outside the fence virtually every day.

Malcolm’s Cats, a sanctuary named after its founder Malcolm CP Stevenson, is home to around 200 cats. Here they are kept in a safe and clean environment with access to food and veterinarians.

About 100 are relocated each year, but arrivals easily outnumber departures.

“Lots of unneutered and spayed cats means too many kittens each year. People are constantly calling us, playing cats outside. There is a limit to what we can do to help these cats,” said David Fender, operations manager and president of the Malcolm Cat Protection Society.

In recent years, the state has set aside 75,000 euros (just over R$440,000) annually for cat sterilizations. This year’s program began June 1, but with an expanding cat population, both Fender and Ayiomamitis considered it a drop in the ocean.

The Sanctuary sits on the edge of a sprawling peninsula on the southern tip of Cyprus, which itself has strong animal links. A nearby monastery is dedicated to “São Nicolau dos Gatos” and has been said to have two bells; one to call people to prayer and a second to call cats.