February 10, 2024

Catymodo: A Good Start to 2024

Catymodo and a good start to 2024

Ed. Note: At-Large Rep Daniel Roberts recounts how the people-community in his Thessaloniki neighborhood came together to rescue a ‘friend’ from the cat-community they support in a nearby churchyard. While not strictly ‘political,’ it does point to people helping their small corner of the planet, a bit of fun and, as Daniel notes, a good start to the new year. Reprinted with permission from Daniel’s blog, Random Comments.

New Year’s Eve and we were off to feed the cats at the Chalkeon Church. We've been feeding a colony of constantly changing size for the past three years. That night, one was missing; Mandarin. But this is nothing new as he is not a 100% attendee cat. But the other cats were disturbed, and there was a crying cat in the churchyard. When we did see him, he was on the top of the church, having climbed the scaffolding that had been put up around the structure for repairs and renovation. 

It was fascinating to watch the other cats, all of whom were keenly interested in his plight, and were watching him and us. They left their feeding area and went to stare up at him and in some cases, call out to him as well. It was heartwarming to see them caring about their cousin and colony-mate. 

No way was that cat coming down. Francoise and I went to the Zeus is Loose Hotel that overlooks the church, and the woman at the front desk called to fire department for us. Is the cat trapped (as in, has something fallen on it, or can it not move and is in pain)? No, the cat was stuck on the roof but can walk around. “Leave the cat, if they can get up, they can get down” was the message, with no interest in actually doing anything. They also said that we should not call the cat, as to do so would make the cat want to come and would stress the cat more than it already was. Not the most encouraging message, but we did leave it at that. 

So we left the cat there and worried about the cat through the midnight fireworks.  

The next day, New Year’s, the cat was still up there, and there was nothing we could do. He wasn’t in distress, other than being stuck on a roof. We had to leave him there again. 

We did watch for him and could see that he seemed healthy and not out of energy. 

By the third day, we were getting quite worried. The Fire Department had a truck parked at the Christmas fair in Aristotelou Park in front of us, so Francoise suggested I wander over and ask them for help. Same story, the cat will find its way down. But it has been there for two nights and has not found its way down. Basically, “Not our problem” and they were going to do nothing.  

I informed them that I would have to go up and get the cat myself. They told me that if I was going to do that, I should call the Fire Department so they could send someone to give me first aid should I fall from the building (or stop me from doing that). 

The hotel rang the Fire Department again, and the same story. I came close to losing my temper. 

Nicoletta (another local cat-lover) sent us the Facebook link for Animal Rescue and Protection Thessaloniki. I rang that person, who said that yes, he could come at 5:00 – 5:30 in the evening, with a trap, to capture the cat. Okay, so we had a plan.  

But in the evening when we went to feed the cats, the Animal Rescue guy did not show up, did not answer his phone, basically silence. Options were running out. We couldn’t see the cat, and whistling did not get him to show his face. We wandered around the church looking for him, but could not find him.

I then went back to the hotel, and with binoculars, went to the 7th-floor bar that overlooks the park and church. I was not able to find him. The manager of the bar/hotel came up to me and asked what I was doing. Many apologies and explanations, and a fortuitously timed call from Francoise telling me that they found the cat – still on the roof - all was accepted. The manager was happy with my explanation and told me that they feed two cats at the hotel also – something everyone at the hotel wants to tell us.

While I was looking from the hotel, Francoise and Nicoletta were searching for the cat with the flashlight. He saw the light playing on the walls and stuck his head out, looking at Francoise. That was when she called me to say they had found him.

And there he was, the “Hunchback of Chalkeon” - AKA Catymodo.  

The churchyard was locked up. So eventually I climbed over the locked churchyard gate and took food and the cat carrier and went to the scaffolding. It became clear to me that without a real trap, there was no way that the cat was going to come near the carrier, and even if he did, there would be no way to seal the carrier with him in it; he would bolt too quickly. The carrier was left on the first level of the scaffolding.

I’m not a fan of heights, so it was pretty amazing that I was able to climb up there with no problem, The mesh around the scaffolding provided a sense of limited space, and the buttressing of the scaffolding provided a sense that it was “built to last”, so to speak. Nonetheless, the best strategy seemed to be to focus no further than the scaffolding itself, and not allow my eyes to enjoy what otherwise should have been a fine view.

So instead, I left a plate of wet food for the cat, and climbed down the scaffolding. 

The following morning I collected a trap from Nicoletta and we headed to the church.

I walked over and down the stairs into the churchyard, around the building to the side where three people were standing looking like archaeologists or engineers, and said “Kali mera. I’m here to rescue the cat”. Simply matter of fact, that's why I'm here, and I'm going up there. They looked at me and were sort of, okay. Not a question. But I did explain that the cat was on the roof and had been there for three days. Nods all around, and up I went. 

Trap set.

There was nothing to do then except wait. He was sleeping on the other side of the church roof, so we let sleeping cats lie. A little later, through binoculars, he was clear to be seen walking around the top copula, so he was alright.  

A sudden flurry of messages came in saying that the cat was in the cage, and off Francoise and I were to get him down from the roof. Into the churchyard, and up the scaffolding. Sure enough, he was there in the trap, scared as can be. I’m not too much better knowing that I have to get the cage down again, with a hefty cat in it. He was thrashing around making carrying and maneuvering the trap a little more difficult than it needed to be. Interestingly, a gentle word and there was not a sound out of him the entire trip down from the roof.

Down we came, and then around to the back of the church, to a spot where Francoise could video the experience from the fence, and boom, he was out of the trap and running.  

Gone. But not for long. Sure enough, he was back with the colony that evening, hungry and bossy, with the only trauma being a couple of missed meals.  

All in all, I’d say a pretty good start to the year (for us and the cat at least).