"Cats may not vote," Ms. Viviani observed, "but cat people do."
November 26, 2012 6:39 AM   Subscribe

The Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary has been taking care of the multitude of felines that haunt the Largo Argentina archeological site in Rome since 1995. Their website has a page about its history, videos of their cats, and all the things you find on cat shelter websites. But they also have a blog dedicated to their fight with local authorities. Italian archeological administrators have demanded that the feline sanctuary be evicted [NYT] from the location of Julius Caesar's assassination, but the cat shelter is fighting back. In the blog of the New York Review of Books, the almost certainly pseudonymous Massimo Gatto points out that the archeological site is a hodgepodge of actual ruins and bad reconstructions dating back to the Fascist era.
posted by Kattullus (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Some of the videos are too adorable to bear. While watching this one my eyes became a magnet for every speck of dust in the immediate vicinity.
posted by Kattullus at 6:44 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Aww, squee vote for our Roman cat overlords!

Too bad Penelope went over the rainbow bridge though. Also, Obama the cat? They can't be serious.

"This is the most recent temple, which was circular. Six columns, the original flight of steps and the alter are visible. Behind temples B and C are the remains of a platform built of tufa blocks."

A network of concrete pylons, and a glassed-in portico to boot? This sounds like the perfect (must resist punning here) place for a cat sanctuary, actually.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:37 AM on November 26, 2012

David Attenborough: Pussies Galore: "Rome is home to over two thousand colonies of cats."

And this kitten, once upon a time.
posted by pracowity at 7:40 AM on November 26, 2012

But if the cats go away, how will I get my kid to visit Roman ruins anymore?
posted by corb at 8:10 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know how these people got their cats stuck in their city.....
posted by lalochezia at 8:12 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was staying in Rome earlier this year in an apartment that was just a block away from the cat sanctuary. Every morning, I'd stop by and watch for a moment on my way out. They definitely are treated like our feline overlords.

I'd always assumed the cats had been squatting the place much longer than since 1995 though. It has that feel of a long standing institution -- and how else does a cat sanctuary capture prime real estate in the centre of a major European city?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:14 AM on November 26, 2012

What better place for cats to congregate than where Caesar was assassinated? That seems incredibly appropriate, given the deceptive and murderous nature of cats.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:43 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

and how else does a cat sanctuary capture prime real estate in the centre of a major European city?
Some sort of advanced mind control technology for sure. I mean they had friggin' Jetpacks back in 16th century Germany.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:01 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great post! I got an awesome kitteh cat there a long time ago. The cat ladies (and men) do such a wonderful job.

Previous related post.
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:07 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Last week, Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, who is up for re-election next year, weighed in on Twitter that he and his cat, Certosino, “are on the side of the cats of Rome. Anyone who touches them will be in trouble.”

(“Cats may not vote,” Ms. Viviani observed, “but cat people do.”)
And this is why the archeologists, despite their efforts, may well fail miserably.

If it gets bad enough, a whisper campaign of 'the archeologists will then kill the cats once we are gone' will make things go up in flames.
posted by mephron at 2:32 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hah! Kitay revolution.
posted by qinn at 10:48 PM on November 26, 2012

There should be no need for such shelters. The person who invents cheap, safe, edible contraceptives for cats, dogs, deer, etc., will be doing everyone a lot of good. We shouldn't have so many feral cats and dogs, and we shouldn't have guys running around with guns to control deer populations.
posted by pracowity at 1:48 AM on November 27, 2012

You can't be serious.

Although the thought of guys running around with offerings of contraceptive food pellets instead of guns in an attempt to curb the feral wild animal population is somewhat amusing.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:28 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't mean something crazy like giving each cat a pill every day. I mean something you can put in their food that will make them sterile a long time (or forever, for that matter) and that won't kill them if they eat too much of it. Put it out periodically (depending on how long it lasts). Any cat that eats it is sterilized. Warn people who want to keep their cats fertile that they need to keep their cats indoors for a few days or risk getting a sterile cat. If cats are forming unwanted colonies, make sure you particularly spread it where the colonies are. Do that for ten or twenty years and there will be pretty much no more unowned cats in town.
posted by pracowity at 3:44 AM on November 27, 2012

Do that for ten or twenty years and there will be pretty much no more unowned cats in town.

..but man, will you have a lot of rats! I'm not sure the idea of sterilizing animals that don't actually cause any real problems just because they're adorable and people think they threaten architecture is a great idea. Feral cats pretty much keep to themselves and kill the abundance of vermin that likes to live in our cities, which is why everyone started keeping cats in the first place.
posted by corb at 5:19 AM on November 27, 2012

.but man, will you have a lot of rats!

I seem to recall that happened at least once (somewhere in New Zealand, maybe?) when an entire colony of feral cats was removed or euthanized. Without the kitty predators, the rodent population exploded and all of a sudden there were rats everywhere. Oops! I, for one, would much rather have a bunch of kitties as pest control instead of rat poison.

I am actually in favor of Trap-Neuter-Return policies. Uncontrolled breeding does cause more cats than are sustainable, and it's breeding cat behavior (yowling, spraying, pooping, fighting) that cause some people to hate feral cats so much. Neutered ferals are, for the most part, quiet and unobtrusive, and, as Corb said, they do keep to themselves.

Maybe the archeologists can start thinking of the cats as working cats - they keep the rodents away from the antiquities and bring in the tourists and their money.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:47 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

..but man, will you have a lot of rats!

You have lots of rats now. There are 300,000 feral cats in Rome, but how many million rats are in Rome despite all those cats? I wonder how much effect these cats actually have on the rat population, especially compared to the number of birds they kill? Better to encourage owls, hawks, and snakes. Or terriers! Feral terriers!

In any event, if the city actually noticed a significant increase in rats, they obviously could always cut back on the cat contraceptives and keep enough cats around to control vermin in certain areas. It's not necessarily all or nothing.
posted by pracowity at 6:01 AM on November 27, 2012

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