Italians love cats. Most of the stories out there about this have to do with all of the stray and feral cats in Rome. But on the western coast on the island of Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy, there is another colony of cats. They live at Su Pallosu, as small village with only a few residents. As the story goes this colony of kitties has been there for almost 100 years. Now this peaceful little backwater of life has become a hot tourist destination.
Fishermen originally brought cats to the island to deal with a serious rodent problem in their barracks. The tuna business here dropped off over the years and in the 1980s the barracks were torn down, but the cat remained. The residents (now a population of six) continued to feed the cats. Many of these cats are the descendants of those original cats. There is no word on where other cats may have come from, but strays have probably been added to the population over the years.
While these cats are technically homeless and stray, they have formed their own colony made up from a wide variety of kinds and colors. While they are all free roaming they are also quite tame and enjoy the company of the many tourists that flock there to visit them.
The frisky felines live along the beach of Su Pallosu, digging in the sand, playing with the water, lounging in the sun, chasing whatever critters happen their way. They are happy, healthy, and utterly charming.
In 2011 a non-profit organization, I Gatti di Su Pallosu, was created to care for the cats by Andrea and Irina Atzori. A nearby veterinary clinic looks after their health and spays and neuters the animals as well. The organization is run by volunteers and is funded entirely by private donations. Naturally the organization also makes some money selling cat souvenir merchandise to the tourists. Sanitation in the area is also key since the cats are essentially living in the giant litter box of their dreams.
While the photos and video show the cats playing along the beach in the sun, they also have a designated feeding area and living quarters. Tours of the area are free, but it is advisable to book your tour well in advance. This is a popular destination these days. After all 11,000 people have visited this beach over the past three years.
No new cats are accepted at this cat sanctuary. The organization doesn't want Su Pallosu to become some sort of dumping ground for unwanted cats. There are a total of 61 cats living there with 40 of them completely free and another 21 being kept in an enclosed area while they are receiving veterinary care. This means that the cat population outnumbers the human population by ten to one.
If you choose to visit the cats you will also have the chance to visit a local turtle beach and a small geology museum. Visitors are admitted in groups of ten for a half an hour to make sure that the cats are not overly stressed by the visits.
Okay -- Italy, sandy beaches, and cats. What's not to love? Well, a lasagna and spumoni stand nearby would really put it over the top for me. I have added this destination to my bucket list, right along with Japan's Cat Island. What can I say? I am a crazy cat lady after all.
Images via Daily Mail (and Cambridge Evening News)