Today, the Ides of March (15 March), has put me in mind of a remarkable visit I had to the archaeological ruins of the Forum in Rome where Julius Caesar was killed on this day in 44 BC. Today the ruins, now called Torre Argentina, are inaccessible to tourists, but are inhabited by hundreds of homeless cats. Roman ruins often house wild cats, but this one is special – a group of highly dedicated people have established a cat sanctuary there.
I had been walking the streets of Rome, and sat down on some stairs running to the side of the ruins for a rest. A huge one-eyed cat suddenly leaped into my lap, saying, ‘Pet me. Now!’ ‘Yes, sir!’ I said, and pet him until he was satisfied and jumped off. Then I noticed a sign on the wall reading, ‘Save a Roman cat’. I went down the stairs and discovered, in an area beneath the road, a group of women who care for the hundreds of Roman cats in these ruins. I ended up spending a few afternoons of my holiday helping them, by feeding the cats, cleaning out cat cages & litter trays for those who were ill or recovering from being neutered or spayed (which they did for all the cats there), and cuddling the lonely cats. These cats had been abandoned by people who no longer wanted them, and these women cared for them all of them with the few donations they received from passing tourists. Whenever possible, they find people to adopt cats and give them a forever home.
The one-eyed cat who had first greeted me was named Admiral Nelson, because when they had found him, he was injured with a bullet in one eye – someone had thought it fun to take a shot at him. A vet removed the damaged eye, and now Admiral Nelson was the king of all the cats in the Forum.
I went back again some years later and was pleased to find that they had expanded their operation with good new cages for the poorly and recovering cats, lots of volunteers, and even a tiny gift shop which sold a children’s book about Admiral Nelson. Nelson had finally crossed that rainbow bridge at the end of his life. But when he had become a venerable old cat and had lost his dominance amongst the other cats, a couple had finally adopted him and gave him comfort and love in his final days.
If you are interested in reading more about the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary, have a look here: http://www.romancats.com/torreargentina/en/introduction.php
And if you are ever in Rome, drop by and see their fine work. And take a moment to cuddle a Roman cat.
***I know this post has nothing to do with ‘Writing’, but I couldn’t resist!***