Gdansk is one of the small big cities in Poland so it’s not incredibly disrespectful to say that the feral cat community in Gdansk was one of my favorite parts of the city.
If you’re new to my travel blog, you probably don’t know yet that I’m a Cat Person. I have two rescue cats and I’m the person that carries cat treats with her to give to feral cats when she’s out and about, and if I happen to be treat-less and I see a hungry feral kitty around, I won’t think twice about going into a bodega to purchase a can of cat food for my new furry friend.
I’m a regular in cat cafes around the world (and the US!). I’ve visited cat cafes in Budapest (there are three, actually), Vienna, Reykjavik, London (there are two!), and Porto (as well as, of course, New York City, where I live – in fact I adopted one of my furmonsters directly from Koneko Cat Cafe!).
But I love learning about feral cat communities and cat rescues when I’m abroad, too. I was excited to learn about the people working to reduce the feral cat population, as well as taking care of the existing cats, in the city of Gdansk, Poland when I was there in 2016 and most recently when I was in Porto, Portugal.
The Feral Cat Community in Gdansk, Poland
When I went to Poland, I hadn’t expected to see any cats and before I arrived in Gdansk, I hadn’t seen a single cat on the street in Warsaw or Krakow. There were lots of dogs, but no cats. Little did I know what a prolific street cat population was hidden in Gdansk though.
I saw my first feline friend on my first morning in Gdansk while exploring the Old Town. He looked wet and scared and a bit muddied. I hoped that he had a home to return to because he ran away when I tried to approach him.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I saw at least a dozen other cats on the tiny overcast, cobblestone side streets of the small Old Town.
I was particularly excited about a certain furmonster that I saw on my walk back from the Solidarity Center in the northern part of the city. At a fork in the road, I found a longer-haired doppelganger of my Tuxedo cat, Playbill. Needless to say, I took more than a couple of photographs. I later purchased cat treats at one of the local Polish drug stores to feed these cats when they’d come near enough to me.
This little tabby cat was the most adorable and very friendly. He was wearing a collar though so he was just hanging out on the Long Street (the actual street name!) before heading home. I gave him treats anyway.
I never understand why people who live in cities let their cats roam freely on the streets. I’m nervous enough to let my cats walk around the hallway in my apartment building, so I’d never feel comfortable letting them navigate the city streets downstairs. Is it just me?
I digress. On my last morning, I gave the rest of the treats to two cats who were seeking refuge from the cold rain pouring down from the sky underneath a car.
I learned that it’s not illegal to feed stray cats so you’d often see little empty cat food trays on the top of the stairs.
While walking around on my last morning in Gdansk, I met a woman who was feeding a few cats near her apartment and she gave me a flyer for an organization named KOTangens (’kot’ means cat in Polish).
KOTangens is a completely volunteer-led organization that is trying to control the feral cat population (basically their version of our TNR programs). You can find them on Facebook page here (if there happen to be any Polish people from Gdansk reading!).
The Feral Cat Community in Porto, Portugal
As fate would have it, after taking a walking tour one morning in Porto while I was visiting Portugal, I wandered up this tiny, narrow cobblestoned side street and into a little shop that was full of locally-made goods like soaps and various cooking ingredients. I would post the name but I don’t remember it. (I can tell you that it was near the Porto Cathedral though.)
When I was checking out and paying for some artisanal salt, chocolate, and hand moisturizer (as you do), I saw a small tin can on the counter with some words in Portrugese written on the side. Now I know a donation tin when I see one and I know that they are often for animals. I asked the woman what the words on the tin meant and she said that it was to help her take care of the cats that lived on the street outside.
If I remember correctly, she said she had all of them neutered and that I could probably see them if I exited the store and turned right. She said they were all black and white. I told her I also had a black and white kitty back in New York as she gave me my change. I thanked her for helping the cats before I left and put my change in the tin.
She was, of course, correct. As I exited the shop and turned right, I saw two little cats sitting in front of a parked car, just hanging out. I had no treats to offer them unfortunately but I said hello and took a few pictures before continuing with my night. I knew they were fed and loved by the woman in the shop.
The lovely owners of the Porto Cat Cafe are also doing their part to help with the feral cat community in the city by getting cats who are able to be socialized off the street and into homes, and taking in cats who would otherwise be left out on the street by their humans. I couldn’t recommend a visit to their cafe enough – and their entire menu is plant-based!
HOW YOU CAN HELP AT HOME
I’d be missing an opportunity if I didn’t mention how you could be helping your own feral cat communities – at least if you live in the US. If you’re curious about what you can do to help feral cats in your community, I found this article that I thought would be helpful if you’re just getting started. I’d also recommend checking our these websites for additional information:
- Humane Society
- WaHi Cats (if you’re in NYC!)
- Lange Foundation
- Feral Cat Foundation
- Sacramento SPCA
- Animal Alliance NYC
- Kitten Lady – The #1 Source For Information About Saving Kittens!
- Little Shelter Feral Cat Initiative
- Jackson Galaxy Foundation
Needless to say, I loved interacting with the street cats in Gdansk. It was definitely an unexpected surprise of my trip to Poland.