My trip to Italy in late September and October was very fruitful. It started in Venice where I stayed in the wonderful apartment that is up for rent at a very inexpensive price for anyone who wants to help the DINGO Gattile (cat shelter) on the Lido. There are a great many cats that need spay / neuter on the island. I caught 4 very close to the gattile and was sorry I didn’t have time to catch more at other colonies. I am happy that Friends of Roman Cats (FORC) was able to make a donation of 250 Euro which will be enough to pay for the spay / neuter of the cats I caught and help the gattile with some extras it needs.

On to Rome – where I spent many happy hours at Torre Argentina. The sanctuary is doing very well. Last year they spayed / neutered over 3,300 cats and a number of dogs. Daniele, their vet tech, said he has seen a real sea-change in the attitudes of Romans since Torre Argentina opened. People used to come down and denounce them for neutering the city’s cats; now people call to see where they can get their cats fixed. The people in the office are doing very well – as is Lia and the people who run the actual shelter. Check out their website, www.romancats.com, for a nice article on FORC, celebrating our 10th anniversary.

Was particularly happy to hear that one of my favorite cats, Giuturna – a very frightened blind cat I’d worked with for several visits – has been adopted by a Roman family. At their house, she has learned to maneuver the furniture, come to trust them and their children and now purrs continuously. I gave Torre Argentina 250 Euro and 2 boxes of the suture packs we ordered through Dr Scarlett at the SF/SPCA. On the down side, I never saw Silvia. She has had a number of serious health problems and kept saying she would be in, but never made it. I so hope she recovers!

Did an overnight trip to visit a cat group in Montecatini Terme, a beautiful spa town where you go to drink the waters. It is about 45 minutes west of Florence. My contact was a dear, very energetic Australian woman who is married to an Italian. She feeds colonies, checks on foster cats and fosters kittens with a great group of Italians who trap cats, pay to have them spayed / neutered and work with the local Public Veterinary Services to get more cats fixed. I had a wonderful dinner with them, stayed in the very beautifully appointed medieval house of one of the woman and, the following day, went out to look at places to take a future Cats and Culture tour. There is so much to choose from; we decided to include a visit to a place that makes cheese, a winery, and a chocolate-making facility. All places have felines that were fixed by the cat group.

Took two more nights away from Rome to visit Dorothea Friz and participate in an amazing “Spay Day” during which 204 cats were sterilized. Dorothea is a national treasure. Of course, I visited with Emilio Giovanni, Dorothea’s favorite water buffalo who she saved when he was a tiny calf. He comes running when he hears her and you can almost see a big smile on his hairy face. I gave Dorothea 14 of the 16 packages of suture packs we ordered and she was very grateful. (I was delighted when I returned to San Francisco; there were an additional 5 boxes of suture packs to send to Italy – a donation from the manufacturer, I believe.) Since I was so close to Naples at Dorothea’s, I went down to visit the Archeological Museum that has many of the major treasures from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

While in Rome, I fed the little cat colony that lives in a small archeological area near where I stayed in Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood. I have been feeding them for the last 5 years and still see the same group. Also saw my Roman friends plus several different groups of American friends who were visiting Rome while I was there. Love playing tour guide!

As you can see, the trip was a full one!
Susan Wheeler

President, Friends of Roman Cats