Venice Cats Calendar 2013

I have written before about the famous Venetian cats  and decided to get  this year a self published calendar before being able with my Editors to publish a real and more affordable one for 2014  (Marco Secchi)

If you would like to see/buy one  click here

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Venice's Cats...where are they gone??

VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 27:  A stray car sleeps on the "fondamenta" on the edge of a canal on August 27, 2011 in Venice, Italy. Dingo is the Anglo-Venetian association part of the AISPA,  founded in 1965 by Helen Saunders and Elena Scapabolla and is devoted to the welfare of venetian stray cats. (Marco Secchi) For a Gallery of Venetian Stray Cats click here

The Lion of St. Mark is Venice's mascot, at least among sculptors and decorators but in real life, the closest lion is probably at the Parco Natura Viva just outside Verona ;-)

With no living lions to reign over Venice, the local feline population has adopted a surrogate leonine role. Back in the 1980s, when I spent my year in Venice as part of the national army service, cats were seen everywhere in the city: sunning themselves on park benches, perched on bridges, wandering the streets, and dining on leftovers at the Rialto fish market.

Now the cat population has been limited mainly by laws and modern way of life, there are still few colonies the main ones are at Ospedale Civile (yes inside!) , at San Lorenzo near the Church, at Bacini, at Giudecca near Ponte Lungo at the Arsenale, there are quite few at the Lido and one at Torcello!

There is an Anglo Italian organization Dingo part of AISPA that works to feed, protect and maintain colonies in a healthy and modern way, they also run the "gattile" (Cattery)  at Malamocco. Despite several misconceptions and a bit of Italian racism there are no proofs (!!!) that Dingo or the Cinese people are responsible for the disappearance of cats from Venice!

In a brilliant book titled A Venetian Bestiary, Jan Morris wrote:"The cat has always been an essential scavenger in a city that depends on the tides for its hygiene, and has periodically been decimated by rat-borne plagues. It was Shylock the Venetian who declared the cat to be 'both necessary and harmless,' and when from time to time the municipality has tried to reduce the teeming feline population, the citizenry has always been up in arms in protest. Your Venetian cats are not like others. Sometimes of course they live in the bosoms of families, and are fed on canned horsemeat, and prettied up with bows: but far more often they survive half-wild, in feral gangs or covens of cats, and not infrequently some cherished household pet, observing the lives of such lucky ruffians from the kitchen window, will abandon the comforts of basket and fireside rug, and take to the streets himself."

 

Blessing of Animals and Pets

VENICE, ITALY - JANUARY 15:  Don Filippo Chiafoni Chaplain of the Church of S Francesco blesses the congregation and their animals during a special service held on January 15, 2012 in Venice, Italy. The blessing of animals and pets is a very ancient tradition dating back from San Francis of Assisi. (Marco Secchi/Getty Images) VENICE, ITALY - JANUARY 15:  Don Filippo Chiafoni Chaplain of the Church of S Francesco blesses the congregation and their animals during a special service held on January 15, 2012 in Venice, Italy. The blessing of animals and pets is a very ancient tradition dating back from San Francis of Assisi. (Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

This custom is probably conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures. Francis, whose feast day is October 4th, loved the larks flying about his hilltop town. He and his early brothers, staying in a small hovel, allowed themselves to be displaced by a donkey. Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.” And there was testimony in the cause for St. Clare of Assisi’s canonization that referred to her little cat!

It was a really nice and friendly ceremony, I believe next week there will be one at the Bragora if you are around is worth checking.

Even today I was asked by a friend how can I (being a Muslim) get close and friendly with dogs (I have one!) let me quote ‘Ali ebn Abi Taleb, the seminal figure of Sufism:

Happy is the one who leads the life of a dog! For the dog has ten characteristics which every believer should possess. First, the dog has no status among creatures; second, the dog is a pauper having no worldly goods; third, the entire earth is his resting place; fourth, the dog goes hungry most of the time; fifth, the dog will not leave his master’s door even after having received a hundred lashes; sixth, he protects his master and his friend, and when someone approaches he will attack the foe and let the friend pass; seventh, he guards his master by night, never sleeping; eight, he performs most of his duties silently; ninth, he is content with whatever his master gives him; and tenth, when he dies, he leaves no inheritance.

Not to mention Bulleh Shah, the famous sufi from Punjab was quite innovative in his scathing about them and here, compares and un-enlightened “Mullah” with a dog!

[He] Read a lot and became a scholar But [he] never read himself [He] enters into the temple & mosque But [he] never entered into his own heart He fights with the devil every day for nothing He never wrestled with his own ego Bulleh Shah, he grabs for heavenly flying things But doesn’t grasp the one who’s sitting at home Religious scholars stay awake at night But dogs stay awake at night, higher than you They don’t cease from barking at night Then they go sleep in yards, higher than you They [dogs] don’t leave the beloved’s doorstep Even if they’re beaten hundreds of times, higher than you Bulleh Shah get up and make up with the beloved Otherwise dogs will win the contest, better than you