I'm in Rome, in the middle of a heat wave apparently. I feel like a vampire each time I step from the cover of shade into light, burning up under the glare of the Roman sun. I feel sorry for the few dogs I see out, all panting miserably, feet burning up from the black stone roads. One woman had her sheepdog mix just inside a department store. It was lying on the cooler marble floor, but still panting barely able to raise its head. She was petting it and explaining to the security guard that her dog was too hot and had to come inside for a bit. I think he understood and let them be.

There's a historical site - well, pretty much everything and everywhere in Rome is a historical site - called Torre Argentina, where ancient columns and sections of wall still stand. It's an odd bit of land because it's a block in the middle of the city which looks like an archeological dig.


I think it used to be a fairly major temple or something a couple of thousand years ago. Now it's a place where abandoned cats are given sanctuary and it's the center of Rome's largest spay/neuter/release program. It's run by a group of very dedicated women - they are somewhat disparagingly called "gattare" by the locals - who are presently fighting to keep the shelter open under threat of eviction by some city official who doesn't want them squatting there. I'm not going to go into too much more detail because I'm still on vacation but if you're interested, here's their website: www.romancats.com.

Here are some of the cats in residence in the underground, air conditioned room cobbled out of a cavity in the exterior wall from the archeological excavation. Many of the cats look like they've lived a rough life, and a couple are soon coming to their end when they will be euthanized - but not while they can still purr and eat:











6 Comments to “Cats of Torre Argentina”

  1. Toni says:

    I lived in Rome for two years and just came back to Canada. You're right, the women there are dedicated to caring for the cats. When I visited the sanctuary the smell was terrible but it didn't even phase them. There was a cat with a neurological disease where its balance was totally off but they let him putter around with dignity. I think a small donation would be greatly appreciated by them.

    On another note, if you read this, I really recommend the restaurant Meridionale in Trastevere. The food is fantastic but be prepared for a long service.

  2. This is a fascinating look at the famed Roman cats, Fred, and the photos are amazing closeups. You've captured their street experience and their weariness, and in most cases their subpar health. What stories they must have! They live rough but free, and they must work hard at survival. Thanks for this glimpse of their lives....

  3. Anonymous says:

    Breaks my heart <3

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this. Enjoy your vacation.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I remember watching a show about the worls stray cat population, last year...they featured this particular place in Rome. They are some very dedicated women there, and while hte cats may not have a great life, they are cared for. I don't think cats ask for more than that really.

  6. brent says:

    10 years ago my wife and I honeymooned in Italy and stumbled upon this place. We weren't involved in animal welfare at all at the time but were struck by the strangeness of the ruins, along with the huge number of cats that colonized there. Thanks for sharing this (it was sort of a forgotten memory and yeah, I remember the wear on their faces that you captured so brilliantly.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.
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