European Cats – From Portugal to Greece
Who doesn’t love cats? And for some reason European cats seem to be the most photogenic! So, it’s no surprise when I asked a few of my favourite travel bloggers where they’ve stumbled upon cats on their travels they came up with a wide array of places, from Morocco to Bali, and of course Europe! Come along as we meet a few European cats and the stories behind these enchanted encounters.
Venice, Italy – Me!!
One of my favourite places to find cats is in Italy! It’s a pretty tough race for the cutest European cats, and I’d say it’s between Greece and Italy. But some of my fondest memories of encounters with European cats in definitely in Italy.
Venice is one of those magical cities, and one I have a love affair with. And on one of my visits I was doing one of my favourite things to do in the city on the water, getting lost. Winding my way through the endless alleyways, I stumbled upon a beautiful black cat, with startling green eyes, perched in a window. I could barely look away. And even as I finally broke free from his grace I kept turning back to catch a glimpse of his perfect silhouette.
Albufeira, Portugal – Heather Hudak from Wanderlust Wayfarer
On my first night in Albufeira, I was sitting on the balcony in my hotel room staring at the stars. From the corner of my eye, I saw a four-legged creature scurry along the sidewalk below. I cringed–were there rats on the beach? I squinted my eyes and took a closer look. That’s when I noticed what appeared to be a doghouse and food dishes in the bushes and a few felines grooming themselves nearby. It was a cat colony.
I rose at the crack of dawn the next morning and immediately went to investigate the area. It turns out Albufeira is a safe haven for stray cats. In fact, there are several city-run cat colonies throughout the community. Cats that belong to the colony are provided with food, shelter, and veterinary care.
It quickly became clear that the people of Albufeira take great pride in their cat colonies. Unlike other cities where strays are batted away with brooms, Albufeira cats are treated with respect. On more than one occasion, I watched while locals pulled treats from their pockets to feed the cats. Being a bit of a cat whisperer myself, I often found myself surrounded by friendly felines. They would walk beside me as I strolled the streets, mewing and cooing softly. As a solo traveler, I was happy for the company.
Santorini, Greece – Aleah Taboclaon from Solitary Wanderer
As a cat lover, I’m always on the lookout for cats when I’m traveling. Some cities (or countries) are friendlier to cats than others, and I found during my 70-day backpacking trip in Europe back in 2012 that Greece — Athens and Santorini in particular — are a haven for cat lovers. I saw lots of them in parks and on the streets, and I didn’t see any of them being mistreated.
I met this cutie while I was walking along the mostly empty streets of Fira in Santorini. She was with a few other cats, and while the others were playing, she remained aloof and apart. Though I wanted to pet her, I respected her privacy and just observed from a distance. My solitude (no other tourists in sight!) + the perfect view of the caldera + a cat = my idea of a perfect vacation!
Rome, Italy – Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren
It’s not a place you’d expect to find a cat sanctuary. Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Rome is a place where cats live amongst ancient Roman ruins. Around 250 cats live at the shelter and walk freely around these historic ruins.
There’s a visitors center where you can meet and greet several of the cats, primarily those who need extra care and live indoors. People are also welcome to walk around the perimeter of the ruins, stopping to discover a cat here or there. It’s surprising to many that stop to admire the ancient structures to discover several cats wandering around them!
The cats at Torre Argentina are up for adoption and seek forever homes. You can also donate to the cat sanctuary when you visit. Travelers can even apply to volunteer at the sanctuary if you’re staying in Rome for a while. For cat lovers, stopping for a visit at Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is something you must add to your bucket list.
Pyrenees, France – Cathy from Roar Load
Wherever we travel we seek adventures, street art and cats, all my favorites! We found all that and more in the French Pyrenees. The best way to really get a feel for an area is to explore on foot. From our bed and breakfast we drove up a hill with many hairpin turns and we parked the car to wander a small town that doesn’t allow any cars but those that live there. This quaint little town, Artigue, had more sheep than people, even with signs asking visitors not to hug the sheep! Farm dogs drove by in the back of a truck ready for a day at work on the farm. I was on the look out for cats though! There on some sunny stone steps sat 3 pretty cats, they were too shy to visit with so I snapped a photo and left them to enjoy their cat nap in the sun. The cats in this cute town were numerous but most seem to be outdoor farm cats, none let me do more than photograph them. “Cats have it all – admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.” – Rod McKuen
Kotor, Montenegro – Maria from Global Brunch
The Old Town of Kotor is famous for many things, including its cat population. You can buy cat-themed souvenirs or even visit the cat museum.
As I was strolling through the center of the Old Town I noticed a little square with a dozen or so kittens playing on the grass. I walked over to find a little cardboard box in the corner of the square with a litter of cats so tiny that you could fit them on the palm of your hand. Suddenly a young woman walked up to the box armed with a big bag of food, newspapers and water. She spread out the food on the grass and grabbed the little kittens one after another to place them around the food.
I started chatting to her and found out that she had just arrived in Kotor. With a background in animal welfare it didn’t take her long to realise that these kittens desperately needed some TLC. She told me that most of them had parasites and some were severely underweight or even sick. One of the kittens looked particularly bad and had little chance of surviving. She picked it up, put it on her lap and said to me: “Nobody else is going to give him any love”.
This young lady from New Zealand truly inspired me and showed me just how easy it is to do good. All it took was 30 minutes of her time to buy some food and give these little fur balls some love.
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Karen from Wanderlusting K
The Netherlands is one of the BEST places for meeting new feline friends. The Dutch are very cat-friendly and most cats you’ll meet belong to owners who believe in letting their cats enjoy the outdoors before coming home to eat/sleep. Although there are cat cafes in Amsterdam, I personally love visiting the many cafes, museums, shops of Amsterdam where you’ll meet many beautiful cats. My favorite cat spotting spot in Amsterdam is at Museum van Loon. This historic canal house museum belonging to one wealthy Dutch family has a beautiful Maine Coon that roams its gardens that is prohibited from entering the museum, but still manages to charm all its visitors. If you’re a cat lover, you need to visit this museum to pet this beautiful silky cat. (Hint: he loves playing with headphones…)
Outside of the museum, you’ll be able to walk along the historic canals, get into the biking culture of Amsterdam, and try various Dutch food/sweets. This museum is located in the heart of the touristic part of Amsterdam: Centre, but residential neighborhoods (read more here about the best neighborhoods in Amsterdam!) are often the best places to meet friendly cats as you enjoy the beautiful architecture although you’ll still see many cats in the windows! Be sure to step into some brown bars as many have friendly bar cats. (Hint: The word for cat in Dutch is poes or kat for calling new friends over!)
Hydra, Greece – Brianne from A Traveling Life
I found this kitty and his friends lounging in the shade on a wall overlooking the Aegean Sea. I was taking a late afternoon stroll around the island of Hydra, Greece, where my group and I had stopped for a night while on a week-long sailing trip. There are no cars on Hydra, so the animals (and people) lead a very peaceful life.
Puglia, Italy – Victoria from PostcardZ from Victoria
As a passionate cat owner and lover, whenever and wherever I travel, any feline will capture my attention and, if they are of a mind to pose, be captured by my iPhone!
While pausing for a leisurely aperitif one afternoon in Polignano a Mare, one of my favorite seaside towns in Puglia, Italy, this neighborhood regular nonchalantly paused for a quick rest nearby.
I was quite taken by the beautiful and quite striking composition of the cat against the background of the closed shop door. And, I was delighted to witness and capture this aesthetically and artistically pleasing moment of purr-fection.
Of course, all cats are pure purr-fection, si?
Reykjavik, Iceland – Shannon from Sole Seeking
On the sunniest afternoon I had seen on my trip to Iceland back in August 2013, I went to visit the Botanic Gardens in Reykjavík. I seemed to be the only one there, and enjoyed wandering around admiring the ducks in the ponds and the collections of pretty flowers. I moved into the area catching the most sunlight and looked around, amazed that nobody else was here. Then suddenly, a black cat with a white chest appeared out of nowhere and strolled casually towards me, meowing a greeting and rubbing itself against my leg affectionately. After petting it with a few strokes, I went to take a seat on a nearby bench, assuming the cat would wander on. Instead, it followed, jumped up and took a seat beside me. We spent the next 20 minutes basking in the sunshine together.
At that time I wasn’t a huge fan of cats, and I don’t really associate Iceland with them; I think more of whales and puffins – animals that are used to being active in the wet outdoors, not cuddling up by a fire. But this little puss was lovely company for a little while. The cat seemed to reflect Icelanders in its nature: quiet, but always wanting to make visitors feel welcome.
Paris, France – Lyn from A Hole in My Shoe
A short walk away from the busy Place de Clichy, not far from Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge is Montmartre Cemetery. Wandering around the cemetery is quiet and serene despite being under the busy traffic bridge on Rue Caulaincourt. There is a map available to navigate our way around, but we decide this solemn place is a good place to simply wander. We enjoy the solitude, investigating tombs and graves that catch our eye. But wandering around the maze of mausoleums and tombstones we are not alone. Montmartre cemetery is full of life.
As well as a few local mourners and staff tending the cemetery, we are amongst a large group of cats. We are followed, watched and seemingly judged by dozens of cats who are guarding those laid to rest. One of these cats seems to be on patrol, keeping a keen eye on us, leading us here and there. He stops along the way and waits, looking back, as if to make sure we are following. The cemetery is a charming, leafy and idyllic resting place and many cats enjoy sunning themselves on the marble tombstones. There are a jumble of mausoleums and graves, many of which are quite stunning and very moving. Walking around, enjoying being led by the big grey cat’s feline grace we find it beautiful and tranquil. Most of the cats in the cemetery scamper off when they see us coming, apart from this large grey cat who jumped down from a grave to be our guide. To pay homage to the greats that lay here under the unfaltering gaze of the Montmartre cemetery cats is a peaceful mix of reflection and awe.
Cadaques, Spain – Shara from SKJ Travel
While staying in the seaside town of Cadaques, Spain, for several days with a primary mission of visiting the nearby Salvador Dali museums, my husband and I were delighted to find cats sleeping, playing and soliciting petting all along the cobblestone streets and sidewalks in the center of town. At first, we thought the residents, as in many towns we have visited in the world, simply were very tolerant of strays. Then we noticed many of them had clipped ears, which indicated having been “fixed,” so somebody was definitely actively involved in their care. One afternoon, we noticed bowls of cat food and water sitting just outside an open door. We peeked in and saw loads of cats lounging around on couches and chairs in what looked like somebody’s home. We walked around the corner and saw this line of cats waiting patiently on the windowsill for their turn at the food bowl. An article taped to the window explained that Dali, who made his home in Port Lligat just down the road, was a lover of cats and that, in his spirit, this cat sanctuary took care of all the town’s stray kitties. There was a donation box on the wall for passersby to help pay for the expenses … which of course we contributed to!
Have you met any European cats? If so, where?
Pin this image for later!