Having been in Athens, Greece for a week, I noticed many things that are different from normal customs in the United States: walking to places is more common, meals at restaurants take longer, and public transportation is more efficient. However, I think my favorite thing about Greece is the abundant population of feral cats.  

Cats in Greece date back to ancient times; they were revered in Greek mythology as sacred animals. Domesticated as pets, cats helped to control the rodent population throughout the city. At the new Acropolis Museum, I saw cats were included in some pottery and sculptures. Athens’ climate and food availability make it easy for cats to live on the streets. Greece has a mild climate, so weather conditions throughout the year do not get too severe. Furthermore, urban areas provide a consistent food supply for the cats. Public feeding bowls, garbage cans, and restaurants make it easy for cats to eat. Many Greek cities have programs to control the cat population. For example, the trap-neuter-return (TNR) program involves trapping feral cats, neutering them, and returning the cats to their original locations as a humane way to manage the feral cat population. 

You are guaranteed to see a few feline friends when you take a stroll in Athens. Sometimes, they will even come up to you at a restaurant hoping you will give them a bite of your gyro. The cats are very comfortable around humans, and they even let you pet them. Growing up, I was never a fan of cats, but now, I would love to have one when I get back to the US. If you’re a fan of cats, Athens should be on your traveling bucket list.