Whilst the Maltese Islands are known for their stunning beaches, rich history, famous dishes and all that jazz, did you know they’re also home to lots of street cats?

Text and Photos by Christine Cassar

No matter where you go, you’re guaranteed to spot a cat or two or even a whole colony of them lounging around in village squares, gardens, parks and so on. What’s also so remarkable is the variety you come across. We’re talking majestic black panthers, beautiful tabbies, sassy calicos and torties, and of course the ever so affectionate ginger cats.

Some may run away when people approach them, whilst others may choose to interact with you. They’ll sniff around for treats and if you’re lucky, they may even let you give them a good old belly rub.

Don’t be alarmed see cats who have their ears clipped. Put simply, ear-tipping gives feeders and vets a better indication on whether a cat has been neutered or spayed. This procedure is done to feral cats (free-roaming, stray or community cats) as part of the trap-neuter-release programme. This is an essential step that needs to be carried out in order to manage feral colonies more effectively.

Perhaps it may be upsetting to some to see so many cats running around in the street. Let’s face it, these poor things don’t have the same life as domesticated cats do. They may not always have enough food and sometimes, it’s also hard to find proper shelter to battle the elements. More importantly, they don’t have a family that will love them till the end.

However, there is a silver lining here. Malta is blessed to have a number of NGOs that are trying their best to help all street cats live a happy life nonetheless. Some of these include the H’Attard Stray Animal Support Group, CLAWS (Cat Lovers, Adoptions, Welfare and Support) CSAF (Carers for Stray and Abandoned Felines), Animal Protectors Malta, Animal Guardians Malta and so many others.

Over the years, they’ve taken in hundreds of abandoned cats, pregnant cats and others who have been found in bad shape. Whilst resources are limited, they still care for these cats.

All volunteers have a part to play here. Some offer to do the food rounds and trappings, some build kennels and shelters for them, whilst others make sure that all cats that are in their care are neutered when the time comes. On top of that, lots of kind-hearted individuals offer to foster cats and kittens in their own homes until they are ready for a for their forever home.

Truth be told, some street cats are destined to stay at a shelter for a long time. In particular, senior cats aren’t always lucky when it comes to adoptions. Nevertheless, all volunteers still love them as their own and give them anything they need while they are in their care.

Needless to say, vets also deserve recognition here. It’s definitely not an easy job especially when one has to deal with serious cases. Regardless, several vets on this island still chose to dedicate their lives to animals, including stray cats. With their stellar work ethic, precision and the love they have shown towards all animals, they have saved many lives throughout the years.

All in all, these street cats don’t have a bad life. Whilst not all of them can be saved, it’s great to have so many good souls who are contributing towards their care. So, if you see a street cat during your visit to Malta, don’t be shy…say hello! And make sure you’ve got some treats in your bag!

Article taken from the June 2021 edition of Il-Bizzilla. Read more here.