March 13th, 2017
… are just as high as the odds of you breathing while you are reading this post!
Actually, make that 2 million%! That’s the estimated number of cats on the island!!!
Yes, that IS more than all the humans living here.
If you are a cat-loving person visiting Cyprus, you are definitely in for a treat! However, as you might understand and imagine, it can get quite noisy here during their mating season. Too noisy, if you ask me!
You might be wondering why we have so many cats here. According to an article (and a related documentary I’ve watched) by the National Geographic [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0408_040408_oldestpetcat.html], cats are not native to Cyprus. They were imported here from the area of present-day Turkey.
It appears that the oldest known domesticated pet cat was discovered in a 9500-year old grave in Cyprus, during excavations in the Neolithic Settlement of Shillourokambos.
During the Byzantine rule of Cyprus, the island was full of snakes and rats due to a 40-year drought. Urban legend has it that Santa Helena, the mother of Byzantine King Constantine, founded the Stavrobouni monastery in 327AD and brought hundreds of cats to the island for the purpose of dealing with this problem.
Apparently we have two breeds of native cats in Cyprus, the “Santa Helena” and the “Aphrodite Giant”*. The southern-most tip of the island, located within the Akrotiri British Sovereign Military Base is called Cape Gáta, after the Byzantine monastery St. Nicholas of the Cats that was build there in the 4th century.
Nowadays, because so many stray cats are fertile, not neutered and fed on the side of the street by numerous citizens, their numbers have increased immensely.
* Cats are considered so sacred in Cyprus that in 2009, a “diplomatic” episode emerged after claims by the Cyprus Friends of Pure Breed Cats Club (or something like that) that there was an attempt to mutate the DNA of pure breed Cyprus cats by mixing them with Ankara cats in Turkey and then registering the “bastard” cats as an original breed with the World Cat Federation.I guess that’s another incident of Cypriot identity crisis…