As far as I can tell, Greeks in Greece don’t actually own pets. I will admit that this presumption is based on limited observations, but I’ve really never seen anyone there with the stereotypical pet. One of my cousins once had some small birds (parakeets, I think), but I just don’t recall ever seeing anyone with pets like dogs or cats. Now don’t get me wrong, cats and dogs are definitely there. They just don’t seem to “belong” to anyone.
It is not unusual to be walking along any random street in Greece and come across a dog or two running loose. It’s also really not uncommon to come across their, uh… droppings, shall we say? Cats, too. They are everywhere. In fact they are far more common to see than dogs. Most don’t seem to shy away from people, because people mean food. On my family’s most recent trip to Greece last summer, we were shamelessly happy to oblige a large group of furry felines and soon became the most popular visitors at the monastery that day. However, all of these critters were strays.
I decided to look it up to see if my observations were correct, and what do you know? They were! Yay, me! Unsurprising was the fact that, though the USA is not the most populated country in the world, we by far dominate everyone else in the pet department. I mean, seriously, we have twice as many dogs as the next nation on the list of top 20 countries for various pets. Nearly 70 million! We are also first in the world for cat ownership with 74 million cats. China is next at 53 million. For these two common animals, Greece didn’t even make the list. However, Greece was up there for birds and fish.
Really I’m not surprised. A quick look at the typical neighborhood in Greece shows that the vast majority of people live in multi-story buildings. Basically apartments that people own or rent. There really isn’t a place for cats or dogs to be. Even in the villages, cats and dogs are seen more as a “work animal” not so much a pet. Just like in rural America, cats were for catching mice and rats, and dogs for protecting livestock and the home. It’s not that Greeks don’t like them, in fact it is common to find people leaving little tid-bits for the local strays, but it’s just that animals are not for inside.
I had a hard time with this growing up here because both of my parents, though they liked animals, weren’t raised to think of them as indoor things. All my friends in school had pets and would talk about their BFFs sleeping with them at night and I was over here like, I’ve got goldfish in a bowl on the fireplace. I was so jealous. By the time I got to college (and FREEDOM!!), I got cats and let them stay indoors. Such the rebel. I didn’t mind the upkeep with litter boxes and ratty edges of furniture…then. But eventually I got to a point where I had to pay for my own furniture and well, my mind started to change a little after I began to visualize torn shredded corners of couches and cat fur on clothes and the price tags that had been connected to them.
My husband (the Old Man) and I are cat people, though we’ve had dogs in our past lives. We just prefer the more subtle humor that cats always provide. As much as we love our cats (we call them “moochers” because, well, it’s obvious isn’t it?), and wouldn’t mind bringing them inside on occasion, we can’t. The irony, two of our boys are allergic!
I know many non-cat people don’t seem to think that cats are friendly or have good personalities. I don’t know which cats they’ve been hanging out with, but they definitely weren’t ours. I’ll save some stories for later, but some of the pictures in this post should give you some insight. I just want to finish by encouraging you to pick out your next pet from the local shelter rather than a breeder. We rescued all our cats either literally off the streets, or from someone else who did, and they have enriched our lives immensely!