We are all familiar with the wonderful deeds of Mother Teresa and think just how can someone be so generous and giving of their time. Well, we are lucky to have just such people right here in Dubrovnik who are equally giving. Whilst it would not be appropriate to compare their work to that of that amazing lady in India, it is fair to say that they display on a daily basis the same type of selfless devotion and love. They relieve the suffering of the homeless and abandoned cats of Dubrovnik.
As we all know, the city has more than its fair share of cats and unfortunately an ever increasing number end up on the streets. Due mainly to the selfish and heartless acts of their owners.
This is one of the great ironies of this town as it is the cats who made a major contribution towards ensuring that the city in its former mode as Ragusa, survived the centuries of plagues which ravished the city. Spread by fleas living on rats these plagues were the curse of all medieval cities with their confined living spaces and nonexistent sanitary systems. The cats were the front line shock troops in the battle to contain the spread of disease. Ragusa had a particularly bad problem in that it was at the hub of international trade between Europe and the Ottoman Empire and welcomed trading boats from all the major cities around the Mediterranean. By 1377 the problem was so bad that the city became the first in the world to implement quarantine legislation and in 1390 it established the first recorded permanent health office to enforce these new laws. At the core of this were lazarettos or quarantine stations which were first established on nearby islands and by 1466 a lazaretto was built a Dance near the old town. The problem of plagues extended to 1691 when the last urban plague struck the city.
As a city which relies on tourism most locals forget the contribution cats make to its continuing success. There is no greater turnoff for a visitor than a seeing a large rat run between restaurants! Given the noble role cats have played, and continue to play, in the city's history one would expect that they would be given a great deal of respect, but alas this is not the case as it is in other cities. Take for example Istanbul. In medieval times it as Constantinople, together with Ragusa, were the greatest trading ports and relied heavily on its cat population to control rats. Today with a population of over 20 million and a cat population to match you might expect that the cats of Istanbul would be in dire straits. But to the contrary they prosper. Why, because they are respected and every second household leave food out for the feline population, many of whom look positively over fed. The respect they get for their useful contribution is enhanced by the old Muslim belief that Allah’s life was saved by a cat. The story goes that Allah was asleep and about to be given a lethal bite by a scorpion before a cat intervened and kill the scorpion.
There are a lot of stray cats in Dubrovnik - hundreds and hundreds and there only source of comfort comes from the ladies who go out in all weather to feed them. They do this using not only their own time but their own money and often have to take second jobs to pay for the daily food. How has it come to this? Because too many people in this town think that it is alright to simply drop a kitten or a cat on the street and, if they are lucky else try to look after it. The angels I describe simply can't cope anymore, there are too many cats out on the streets and it is time for people to take responsibility for their own pets. This extends to taking kittens to a veterinary hospital to have them spayed so the current situation can be brought under control.
The cats of Dubrovnik didn't let the city down in its time of need so it's time that we all take on the spirit of the Angels of Dubrovnik and stop abandoning these helpless animals.