The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue: One Englishwoman's Mission to Save An Island's Cats
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Numerous visitors to Mediterranean countries have found their holiday punctuated by trips to feed hungry feral cats. Some try to save injured and sick felines. Not many have gone to the lengths of Jenny Pulling with her one-woman campaign, Catsnip. Set against the beautiful and sinister backdrop of Sicily and its enigmatic people, the book charts Jenny’s journey as passionate defender of the island’s often abused and ill-treated cats. With no previous experience, she raises funds and organizes teams of British, American, and German vets to work in improvised and clandestine surgeries. On Jenny’s voyage of discovery she encounters the wonderfully eccentric gattare (cat ladies) who devote their time to saving colonies of feral cats; she challenges Sicilian bureaucracy and risks prosecution by the authorities, unwittingly transporting veterinary but illegal drugs from the UK; and she discovers an unknown Sicily, beautiful but scarred by years of domination. Lighthearted but often incredibly moving, this is the story of one woman’s mission to rescue an animal she loves, as well as an insight into a unique culture and landscape.
Tomasi di Lampedusa, confirmed in the voice of the Prince of Salina: The Sicilians never want to improve for the simple reason that they think themselves perfect; their vanity is stronger than their misery; every invasion by outsiders, whether so by origin or, if Sicilian, by independence of spirit, upsets their illusion of achieved perfection, risks disturbing their satisfied waiting for nothing. Mario passed me the plate of dolce and I took a cannoli – a kind of cream horn. Then I regretted
retrospect I see such journeying as having a life of its own, springing from a deep need within myself to escape from the bookish young girl, to discover my sensuous self. ‘The sun is God,’ as the artist J.M.W. Turner is reputed to have said on his deathbed. At that time the sun was my god. I pined for it, basked in it; under its benign flame I explored beautiful cities, entered cool museums and galleries; crossed the Lagoon to the island of Murano in a vaporetto, climbed towers and gazed over
small square with shrines let into the walls, presumably to celebrate the fishing industry of the town. Here I saw a large dog lying in the shade without moving and I wondered if it was ill. The thing that struck me particularly was that its claws were excessively overgrown. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Can you help? I didn’t know how to reply to this – my work so far had been on the eastern side of the island and I had no contacts in Trapani. However, a few days later, I had an email
give the appropriate addresses – for example, Mark’s in Rome – so that people know what they have to do. He knows every rule of every country for import and export of animals, and was a huge help for me. With the right information it is not too difficult to get things done but it takes some time and patience.’ And money! Sadie ended up with a �3,000 bill. As she said: ‘It’s such a shame that there is not a revised/alternative way to bring rescue animals to other parts of Europe. It actually
disgusts me that all the money I have paid has gone to BA, rather than as a donation to Oscar or a cat rescue organisation in Sicily. I’m imagining that �3,000 would have paid for quite a few cats to be treated/spayed. Morally, in such circumstances as this, I feel that it’s abhorrent to make fees so high. No wonder no one is willing to go through this. I would have been so much happier if I knew that airlines/organisations would waive some of their fees (VAT at least) to donate it so that the