The Greek government is in the process of drafting a new framework for the care and protection of pets and strays and if its legislators are looking for some inspiration, Syros may be a good place to start.
Here, apart from the customary cafés, you will also find “cat cafés” – that is 10 spots in different parts of Syros that have been cleaned and equipped with shelters and feeding bowls for the Aegean island’s stray felines.
“You could argue that similar corners exist in many other parts of the country,” says Manos Vorissis, the veterinarian behind the initiative. “The difference here is that we spruce up the surrounding area where the feeding stations are placed. Volunteers plant trees and flowers, and clear away trash and debris so that passers-by see something that it is pretty and civilized. That is the major difference: It is not enough just to care about feeding our four-legged friends, but it’s also important to do it in a way that shows respect for public space, that also prompts citizens to consider doing more than just leaving scraps on a piece of tinfoil on the sidewalk.”
A vet who views himself more like an official serving the public good than a private professional, Vorissis has been instrumental in changing local mentalities about the issue of strays. An Athenian who moved to the island and put down roots many years ago, he decided in 2018 to establish a veterinary clinic and public benefit organization called We Live Together.
“We are not a veterinary practice where someone can bring their pet for free checkups and treatment. What we do, as a cooperative, is ensure a regular revenue stream that covers payroll and operating costs, with the remainder going toward our spay and neuter program for strays,” Vorissis explains.
Syros has a human population of around 25,000 and some 7,000 stray cats.
“It takes a consistent and well-organized spaying campaign, especially in colonies,” says the veterinarian.
“One litter of three to five kittens may be an absolute joy to see, but imagine what happens when 10 females have such litters at once. Most of the kittens will come to a bad end or have a very poor quality of life. We have already spayed hundreds of cats and expect to pick up the pace by the end of 2021.”
The program is also supported with donations from private agencies and individuals, while We Live Together has expanded to Tinos and plans to set up a similar clinic on Spetses.