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The Cats of Rome

Updated on November 19, 2014
VladimirCat profile image

Vladimir is a former champion ratter (retired). His hobbies are bushwalking, birdwatching and nature studies

Abandoned Cats in the City of Caesars

It was in the Torre Argentina, in 44 BCE, that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death, but it is said his spirit lives on in the proud and haughty cats that roam the ruins of Rome.

Over 300,000 stray cats live in Rome, descendants of Egyptian cats brought there 3,000 years ago. These cats are not wild, but need human help to survive.

A much needed Cat Sanctuary sits in the very place that Caesar was murdered, and I hope the shelter continues to receive support and donations. In my own very small way, I'm trying to do my bit for them.

image : pantheon institute

Cats are considered as rodents

Under Italian law, cats are deemed to be wild animals, not domesticated pets, and they're treated in the same way as pigeons in the piazza - as monumental pests.

Most Romans consider the cats to be on the same level as rodents.

(You won't catch me moving to Rome any time soon)

A cat in Torre Argentina
A cat in Torre Argentina

The Cats of Rome aren't Feral Cats

The cats who live in the magnificent ruins are NOT feral cats (but they soon could be if no-one helped). They are abandoned cats, probably because they grew out of their kittenish appeal. A Christmas present, unwanted in February.

As well as the 'strays' turning up, many kittens are dumped in the ruins by callous people who can't be bothered to have their housecats neutered.

Abandoned in the Roman Ruins

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Cat Sanctuary in Torre Argentina

The Torre Argentina Sanctuary is staffed by volunteers seven days a week, some Italian and some from elsewhere, and they house and care for more than 250 cats.

The cats of the ancient ruins are vaccinated here but the main priority of the Sanctuary is to spay and neuter the cats they find

The ultimate goal with every cat that comes into care is to have a loving home with an adoptive family - many tourists call in the sanctuary to leave a small donation and find themselves drawn to one of the cats.

Some of the Torre Argentina cats have been adopted by people in Germany and as far away as the United States!

The Cats of Rome

Influential Felines

Every generation brings a few elite cats who rise above their species. Cats who make a difference.

One example, Isaac Newton was interrupted in his work by his cat wanting to constantly go outside and then come back in. Newton invented the pet door.

Extraordinary true tales of cats who broadened the world's understanding of science, history, art, and religion.

The most infamous, celebrated and just-plain noteworthy cats in history

Tourists flock to see the Cats of Rome

Torre Argentina
Torre Argentina

Most Italians consider the cats that roam the city a nuisance - but tourists flock to see the cats in the Colosseum.

Help is at hand

There is a Cat Sanctuary sheltered amongst the oldest temples in Rome (400-300 BCE)

Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

Tarek, a Cat of Rome
Tarek, a Cat of Rome

Tarek, Cat of Rome

This photo is of Tarek, one of the cats in the Sanctuary.

He's been there with his littermate since they were abandoned at about four months old.

The woman who feeds me wanted to adopt Tarek but Italy is just too far away and, frankly, we don't need another cat to take up any of my space.

Tarek doesn't want to be just one of the many black cats in the shelter, he hopes to obtain that special status of being adopted at a distance. We adopted him for two months. I hope he got a bit of tuna in that time.

What would you do if you had the chance?

How would you fix the problem of the Cats of Rome?

See results

© 2010 Vladimir

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    • DeniseandViolet profile image

      DeniseandViolet 4 years ago

      The first time I visited Rome, back in 2005, I recall seeing a spot on my map entited, "Area Sacra" (holy area) and being overwhelmed with curiosity. Upon reaching the site, Torre Argentina, I was intrigued and saddened by the hoards of feral cats populating the site. Being a cat lover all my life, I immediately inquired about the cats and was partially relieved to discover there were concerned people tending after the animals. This lens reminded me of that day, and the pleasant memories I have of my first trip to Rome.

      Thank you for this thoughtful lens. I hope it inspires people not only to visit Rome, but also to adopt or support the cats there or in their local area.

    • profile image

      RomeFan 4 years ago

      Good thing you brought this under the attention.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for bringing the plight of these abandoned cats to our attention; I never new there were so many stray cats in Rome. I have rescued a total of about 20 strays over the years and the first thing we do is spay and neuter them. Unfortunately, the majority of people where I live let their cats roam about and they are not spayed or neutered.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Olivia Felini is touched by the plight of these cats in Rome. She sends them a soft meow of encouragement. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I'm with you. I won't be living in a place that considers cats on a par with rodents. Obviously, anyone who thinks a cat to be rodent-like has never experienced the extreme intelligence and spirit of a feline. Shame on them! I've started volunteering at my regional animal shelter (where I adopted one of my wondrous cats). And, I had this exemplary animal welfare nonprofit added as a Squidoo partner very recently. Now, my commitment, in addition to volunteering at the shelter, is to create lenses to help raise support for adoptions, spaying/neutering, and education. I believe children are the key to a proactive stance on providing animals with the respect and care they deserve. This is an outstanding web page (as always). Thank you for being such an important advocate and champion for animals. I appreciate you!

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 5 years ago

      I lived in Spain for four years, and the same problem existed there. In fact, when I moved into a Piso I had rented, I had to clean cat 6 inches of cat droppings from the patio, which I had the only access too, but the neighbors above threw food to the cats. The neighbors loved the fact that I kept it clean and disinfected, and in return, they stopped feeding the cats! Thanks for a great lens.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      It is strange that the once so admired cat is now so looked down upon in Rome. Spay and neuter programs truly are the answer to end animal abuse.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 5 years ago

      Wow, I had never heard this before. I'd love to visit Rome.

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

      Lived in Rome for years. Love the city, love cats in general. Street cats are everywhere. They seem like a timeless part of the city's legacy to me. Some are probably descendants from Rome's earliest days. Not all Romans regard the cats as pests, but stray animals can (understandably) be a nuisance. cats lovers tend to be more tolerant :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I want to take all of them!!

    • Afteretc profile image

      Afteretc 5 years ago

      i have always wanted to visit!!!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I have visited there before and was surprised to see so many cats.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 5 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Get your feeder to accompany you to Athens - same situation over there. Blessed.

    • bames24 lm profile image

      bames24 lm 6 years ago

      its sad how humans think they are so much better than other creatures on earth...

    • mirage111 profile image

      mirage111 6 years ago

      this just tears my heart out to see cats treated like this

    • profile image

      JVALTERRA 6 years ago

      very informative lens, my wife and I want to go to Rome to see the Cats now!!

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 6 years ago

      Very informative lens. It is sad how they view cats there. I'm glad there is a sanctuary for them.

    • safereview profile image

      Bob 6 years ago from Kansas City

      Some stories are just fascinating and this is one of them! Incredible information I would have never known. Thanks.

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 6 years ago

      very interesting lens...congrats a ton!!!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      Interesting lens. Is there the same problem in every city / Italian city?

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      Interesting lens. Is there the same problem in every city / Italian city?

    • profile image

      candy47 6 years ago

      Very interesting and informative lens. Thanks for taking the time to create it.

    • profile image

      brilliantfireworks 6 years ago

      very noble

    • najem lm profile image

      najem lm 6 years ago

      such a nice cats! It is said that nobody take care of all those cats :(

    • BuddyBink profile image

      BuddyBink 6 years ago

      Except for three of my cats the rest were stray. The three others were born in the house before I could get their mother fixed. Most of the stray cats around my house know they can get something to eat and no one will bother them at my back door. I find it sad that these beautiful animals are so reviled when in fact they are so magnificent.

    • profile image

      Scanabella 6 years ago

      I have three beautiful cats. All were strays said to be feral, NOT true. Humans use the word feral because they simply are ignorant. Because an animal shows signs of caution or If you corner an animal or human for that matter it will defend itself. Donations to local Humane Societies & Organizations you know will help keep the cost of Spay and Neuter affordable which is the best solution,unless you are planning to breed.

      While certain breeds are one-owner types, others are cautious and rightfully so.

      People that refer to them all as Feral DO NOT KNOW how to approach them nor should

      they be working around them. The GodFather's pet was a Cat!

    • profile image

      grannysage 6 years ago

      I must say it was the intro photo that drew me here. I had no idea Rome had so many stray cats. We'd like to adopt them all too, but alas, only room for two cats in our RV. Thanks for letting us know about this Vladi.

    • Churchmouse LM profile image

      Churchmouse LM 6 years ago

      Just super - I have seen the cats of Rome for myself and it nearly broke my heart. Excellent work - I am sure you ARE making a difference

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Very nicley done on your Roman cousins (visit Athens for similar): Angel Blessed.

    • Sue Dyson profile image

      Sue Dyson 6 years ago

      This was interesting. I had no idea! Nice lens.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      We have street cats by the tons in Kuwait, too... they are also not feral.... but they aren't house cats, either. They do breed very fast, and some people feel that it's unethical to spay and neuter them.....for religious reasons.

    • patriciabruce1 profile image

      patriciabruce1 6 years ago

      As a cat lover, I loved your lens! Very interesting and educational...

    • mulkurnia lm profile image

      mulkurnia lm 6 years ago

      Poor cats....hope that their welfare will be properly taken care of.

    • LadyCharlie profile image

      LadyCharlie 6 years ago

      Interesting lens! I learned something today ... I've never seen a Pallas Cat. Very Cool!

    • KayRennie profile image

      Kay Rennie 6 years ago from Melbourne

      Cats are a problem just about everywhere it seems. I have one and two ferals which I caught and paid to have desexed. Now I feed them, but they will not come too close. Thanks for this lens. Very interesting.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 6 years ago from Florida

      It makes me sad too. I love animals. This is a photo of me and a baby tiger. We have Charlie the cat at home.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Animals need help everywhere. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of everyone, Valdi.

    • profile image

      seegreen 6 years ago

      Hi Vladi, I once started a lens on the cats of Dubrovnik, but never got it finished. One of these days I will start it up again. I don't know what the laws are about cats there, but it certainly is a lovely place for a cat to live. Lots of sunshine and tall places for a cat to lay around looking important.

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      Interesting report on a topic of concern. By the way, I particularly liked the opening photo - is that one of yours?

    • hessa johnson profile image

      hessa johnson 6 years ago

      I've seen the cats of Rome. I've also seen a calendar of them - I hope the sales go to the cats!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      As a cat lover, this makes me quite sad... thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      NevermoreShirts 6 years ago

      Poor things - thank you for sharing this lens.

    • profile image

      WhitePineLane 6 years ago

      I have seen the cats of Rome! I didn't know about the Cat Sanctuary, though. This is a great lens!

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 6 years ago

      I do love cats, and its sad to see the way some people treat their pets. Thumbs up to the Cat Sanctuary.

    • profile image

      KungPowMeow 6 years ago

      I went to Rome this past summer and don't remember seeing many, but they do sell calendars featuring these "gatti" and I recognize some of the picture locations :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      enjoyed browsing upon your lens tonight, earned a 'thumbs up' from this avid reader.

    • DavidCzajka profile image

      DavidCzajka 6 years ago

      Never knew about Cats of Rome. Very informative lens

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this. Never really knew about this til now.

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 6 years ago

      The city of cats and the city of men exist one inside the other, but they are not the same city. - Italo Calvino.

    • lychic profile image

      lychic 6 years ago

      this is an awesome lens with awesome photos!

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 6 years ago from Detroit

      I got dumped in front of this 'sanctuary' from an over-stuffed bus. The stench was horrific! I have no idea what the solution is, but first the community has to believe it has a problem, and I don't think they do! Tourists pay for their food, the community supports it. I am almost amazed that someone did a lens, but I'm glad you did!

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 6 years ago

      congratulations a ton ...enjoyed your lens....

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      These many cats will make Rome mice free.......

      Romans needn't worry about a plague epidemic again.......

    • Hana4 profile image

      Hana4 6 years ago

      Sadly, Rome is just one of Italian cities with this same problem...

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 6 years ago from California

      Excellent lens. Interesting (it's about cats so it can't help but be lol) factual and full of links for more info. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster aka Cat-Woman

    • profile image

      utaliiafrica 6 years ago

      great and informative lens.

    • profile image

      iwrite4cash 6 years ago

      I had no idea! Fantastic lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      that's crazy, I just went to rome last month and I loved the city, i don't even remember seeing all the stray cats but maybe because i was looking at architecture haha :-) great read, thanks!

    • privresearch profile image

      privresearch 6 years ago

      I love cats and I love Rome :) I visited Rome new year 2007 ... this bring lot of happy memories. Thank you

    • profile image

      ErHawkns7100 6 years ago

      300,000 cats is a lot of stray cats. But I love cats.

    • belle88 profile image

      belle88 6 years ago

      I like lens. i know rome but didnt know this is a big problem for them and that cats are so downgraded there. its sad!

    • modernchakra profile image

      modernchakra 6 years ago

      I was fortunate enough to visit Torre Argentina and was not previously informed of the cat population in this sanctuary as well as in Rome itself, so it was a very big surprise to see so many cats roaming around, especially coming from Ohio where most cats are pets or on farms and not ever seen in the cities. It is sad that the cats get treated as pests when it is the people who caused the problem in the first place. Cats are wonderful animals, not annoyances.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens. I must admit I enjoyed taking photos of the cats throughout the ruins of Rome. They looked like guardians of a temple, and sent my imagination flying. Regarding the "insensitivity" of the Italians, it really is a matter of education, and all countries in Southern Europe need it.

    • sharioleary profile image

      Shari O'Leary 6 years ago from Minnesota

      I didn't know about this place. You have just been blessed!

    • chrisqw profile image

      chrisqw 6 years ago

      I had no idea! Another great lens.

    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 6 years ago

      I was born in Rome, and Ive been living there for 38 years. I know the Sanctuary very well, and I know how bad some Italian people can be. But - I know Im telling something obvious - not everybody is that way. In Rome maybe youve heard the word "gattara": we use it to call a lady who feeds the stray cats.

      Unfortunately, its not only a matter of education - and I know it well, because Ive worked for almost ten years as environmental educator, and I did my best to rise the attention about the problem of the abandon of animals.

      But... like you say... never give up trying!

    • profile image

      GrinningFool 6 years ago

      Thanks for writing about this. I never would have thought that cats would be seen as a nuisance anywhere!

    • profile image

      bcarter 7 years ago

      I couldn't imagine abandoning any cat like that after I have made a commitment to take care of them. It's really sad that these cats are thought of as rodents.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      A very unique and beautiful lens. A bit sad too

    • profile image

      kt_glasses 7 years ago

      So sad to see so many beatutiful cats wandering like that.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 7 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Congratulations on the well deserved Purple Star. I hate to think of cats being treated as rodents.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Congrats on that pretty purple star

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      So a precious purple star for you dear Vladi. I know you won't let it go to your head but you're free to get into some small-to-medium boasting

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 7 years ago from California

      Hoping to see this get a little purple soon.....it deserves it, any cat that looks out for his global friends deserves it :)

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 7 years ago from USA

      What a wonderful topic! Beautifully described. (I should do a lens on the strays that were howling in my front yard tonight.)

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      I had no idea they weren't liked either. Blessed.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 7 years ago from California

      Very interesting Vladi and I can see why you would want to let us know about these cats in the Colosseum. Blessed by an Angel :)

    • daoine lm profile image

      daoine lm 7 years ago

      That is very sad. I wish cats had a better rap. I would love to have a cat but I'm hesitant as many Australians consider them pests too.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 7 years ago

      Fascinating lens, I had no idea that cats were viewed in this way in Rome. Beautifully written and presented, I hope it brings much attention to their plight.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      That is so interesting to read about the cats of Rome. I also did not know that the people there did not like them much, and that these cats were decendants of cats brought from Egypt. Thanks for doing this lens.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      I remember seeing lots of cats in Rome- didn't realise that the Italians disliked themthough- I thought they must love them!

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 7 years ago

      Cats are mystical and like all living things deserve respect and admiration. Apparently we humans who alter the natural order and must take responsibility for that.

    • sallemange profile image

      sallemange 7 years ago

      What fascinating information i never knew. Cats believed to be 'rodents' incredible!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 7 years ago from Canada

      I love your articles...all wonderfully researched on topics that grab the heartstrings.

    • Lady Gotrocks profile image

      Lady Gotrocks 7 years ago

      Great Lens. I do Animal rescue in the United State. Sadly too many unwanted cats and dogs is a world wide problem.

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Vladi, thank you for your work in spreading the word about abandoned cats. This is a beautiful lens. It is receiving an Angel blessing and will be featured on my SquidAngel At Your Service lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @mythphile: I hadn't saw this lens before by the First Giant Squid Cat on Squidoo. This cat can make nice lenses for worthy causes. Well done Vladi! Oh how I would love to visit Rome, and I would bring kitty treats galore!

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      Aw, Vladi! how beautiful and sad. I don't recall seeing cats in the ruins like that when I was in Rome 25 years ago. I'm glad someone's taking the initiative and helping.

      I've just sent them a bit of a donation to help out. I wish everyone would get the spay & neuter message. It's hard to believe that the world has a sufficiency of cats, but it does. Samhain is a shelter cat. My mother's new cat is one that some jerks dumped out of a car -- in the SNOW -- and he is now being treated with the honor, food and adoration any self-respecting cat deserves.

      Anyway, this is a lovely lens, and I enjoyed seeing these beautiful cats! Thank you for getting the word out.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you, Vladi, for getting the word out about the Roman cats. I too would love to adopt Tarek, he is almost as handsome as you are.

      I have seen the cats of Rome myself but did not know they were not feral cats. While it is indeed horrible that people will dump cats, it was also heart-warming to see the housewives of Rome turning out with the remains of the evening meal to share with the stray cats. There are kind souls and cat friends everywhere.

      So sorry I did not see this lens before now as I would love to have seen this win a Sunshine Award. Angel blessed in any case.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      wow, I had no idea that there were all those unwanted cats in Rome. I have a good friend who has over twenty cats so I will have to suggest that she go rescue these. This lens is now featured on Squidoo's Summer Sunshine Award Nominees and I nominated. Good Luck.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Nice of you to highlight the plight of your fellow species mates! Especially since you're so jealous of competition! Are your cat eyes green? (LOL captcha is dogtoes)

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

      Well Vladi, I see why you don't want to live amongst the cats of rome.