The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue: One Englishwoman's Mission to Save An Island's Cats
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Numerous visitors to Mediterranean countries have found their holiday punctuated by trips to feed hungry feral cats. Some try to save injured and sick felines. Not many have gone to the lengths of Jenny Pulling with her one-woman campaign, Catsnip. Set against the beautiful and sinister backdrop of Sicily and its enigmatic people, the book charts Jenny’s journey as passionate defender of the island’s often abused and ill-treated cats. With no previous experience, she raises funds and organizes teams of British, American, and German vets to work in improvised and clandestine surgeries. On Jenny’s voyage of discovery she encounters the wonderfully eccentric gattare (cat ladies) who devote their time to saving colonies of feral cats; she challenges Sicilian bureaucracy and risks prosecution by the authorities, unwittingly transporting veterinary but illegal drugs from the UK; and she discovers an unknown Sicily, beautiful but scarred by years of domination. Lighthearted but often incredibly moving, this is the story of one woman’s mission to rescue an animal she loves, as well as an insight into a unique culture and landscape.
Tomasi di Lampedusa, confirmed in the voice of the Prince of Salina: The Sicilians never want to improve for the simple reason that they think themselves perfect; their vanity is stronger than their misery; every invasion by outsiders, whether so by origin or, if Sicilian, by independence of spirit, upsets their illusion of achieved perfection, risks disturbing their satisfied waiting for nothing. Mario passed me the plate of dolce and I took a cannoli – a kind of cream horn. Then I regretted
to do the translation. ‘I think it’s a great idea,’ Jayne at Animals’ Voice enthused. ‘We take wildlife into schools and talk to the children about their welfare. I’ll pass it on to the others.’ A few days later she called and said the magazine would sponsor my booklet, so off I went to the printers. Then Elke called me from Italy: ‘There’s another problem. I’ve been trying to get the permesso for Letojanni but there’s a lot of talk about mobile surgeries like Dorothea’s being illegal. Yes, I
too, so if you have any sick cats…?’ I met Maria’s eye and wondered how she saw me. Our worlds were very different – a wealthy benefactor from Northern Europe, perhaps? I was hardly that, but it was my turn to feel embarrassed. Valeria spoke rapidly in the local dialect and Maria led the way to the back of the building, where there was a large stretch of waste ground littered with rubbish, old bicycles, oil drums… all kinds of things. Cats gazed at us inquisitively, then ran away. It seemed to
with Don Ciccio, who told her: ‘Signorina, if there is any individual displeasing you, you have but to let me know.’ She described him as ‘quick moving, sunburnt, shabbily dressed. A scar over one eyebrow and drooped eyelid made him hold his head back and up and added to the general impression of ferocious arrogance’. A nod from him meant she was protected. But she explained this was nothing to do with the Mafia in all its ruthless drug-ridden manifestation. ‘Don Ciccio was different. If the
over. ‘However, after twenty years of working in the field here, I feel under-valued and limited in what I can do. I have discovered many things but the first and enormous lesson I have learned is that more than 50 per cent of animal owners in Sicily are ignorant and a threat to their animals because, at the very first hurdle, particularly economic, they are ready to abandon them. It would need the vet’s presence in schools to teach children that animals merit respect; they are not toys that one