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When you visit the beautiful island of Cyprus for more than a couple of days, one cannot help noticing the abundance of cats which seem to just pop out of nowhere and be everywhere and indeed many parts of the island are practically run with feral kitties. British tourists generally don't see this as much of a problem as fond of the furry creatures as we are, but to the local environment they are a real problem and are classified as vermin in the same way that the UK views pigeons and rats.
The feral cats of Cyprus look much like any other cat, it isn't a particular breed, as over the years they have become interbred although constant exposure to the outdoors have resulted in some of them maintaining a rather bedraggled appearance. Like many other wild animals, they are constantly on the hunt for food and it is this which the local economy consider a problem, as food crops are destroyed, other small animals are killed and rubbish bins are often destroyed as the cats search for something to eat. Likewise, the clean up operations from feral cats can be a real issue - cleaning up dead cats is one thing but feline faecal matter can contain a bug called Leptospirosis which can cause blindness amongst other ailments.
Again, like other wild animals, it is not recommended to provide them with food or approach them - as cute as they may appear, these are wild creatures with very sharp claws and teeth! They are as likely as any other wild creature to carry disease so be very wary of touching them. Usually, the feral cats in Cyprus tend to avoid large, built up towns through the day as they are naturally shy animals and will be averse to the public due to the large amount of hostility garnered against them over the years by the locals.
Despite hostility from some of the Cypriot population, cats are also widely kept as household pets in Cyprus and you can generally tell by looking which ones have owners and homes, as a common custom in Cyprus is to clip the corner of a cat's ear to indicate that it is a household pet and has been spayed (thus reducing the chance of someone's beloved pet becoming the victim of a cull). Cyprus has an island-wide animal management programme which, unfortunately relies mainly on public donation to maintain. This provides basic healthcare to Cyprus' cats and helps to fund the island-wide spaying initiative which helps to keep cat numbers somewhat lower than they would otherwise be. Given that a cat has a gestation period of only a couple of months and is able to breed from the age of 5 weeks onwards, with litters of up to 8 kittens at a time, there is potential for disaster on such a tiny island.
While you are on your holiday, it is worth checking out some of the local initiatives in place to keep the cat population down, and healthy. Tourists bring a lot of income to the country every year, a very small amount of which goes toward Governmental funding of animal management programmes but tourist donations are gladly welcomed by the multiple charities which are in place to help, as unfortunately the Government's budgeting toward this issue just isn't enough.
So when you are out and about in Cyprus and you spot cats roaming about (and you definitely will!) remember to avoid approaching them, especially do not let young children touch them or feed them. Look at the cat's ears. Is one of them clipped? Is it wearing a collar? If yes, then it is probably someone's pet. If not, you have probably just met one of the estimated 100,000 feral cats of Cyprus.