Before coming to Bulgaria, I knew that there are stray cats in Eastern Europe, but I was surprised by the amount of street cats in Ruse.
A street cat – or basically, a stray cat – is a cat that is either abandoned or born in the streets. These cats face numerous challenges, from finding food and shelter to avoiding dangers such as traffic, harsh weather conditions and stray dogs.
I was surprised to find street cats just about everywhere in Ruse! In almost every street, near the supermarket, behind my Airbnb, in the park and in the forest. From just a few months old to at least a couple of years old. The street cats in Ruse are stray cats of all ages.
What’s perhaps even more surprising, is their condition: they mostly seem to be doing very well! They often have good looking for, are of a healthy weight and do not show any visible signs of illness. I’ve found them relaxing in various places, such as yards and in the park.
I came to Bulgaria in the winter. And I was sad for the street cats when it started snowing. I was wondering how they were doing. Luckily, the citizens of Ruse seem to care a lot about the street cats here. There are containers with water, cardboard boxes for the cats to hide and sleep in, and I often see elderly women feed the cats. When these women approach, the cats will run up to them and rub themselves along her legs in anticipation of getting some food.
Keep in mind – the elderly women are living with very little means themselves. Yet they bother to take care of the street cats in Ruse. On behalf of the cats, I am very grateful to all people who help take care of the stray cats in Bulgaria. After all, they are not only in Ruse – Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Varna, Sofia – you’ll find them all over the country. There are even Facebook groups dedicating to helping these street cats.
A lot of street cats don’t seem to be afraid of humans. I would say this is a good thing: they must be treated well. So far, the weather has appeared to be mild in Ruse. Even though it’s winter. I hope the cats have a good amount of shelter and can find enough food. And they do look like it. But the reality is also that the streets and many buildings of Ruse are in a bad state. There are many cracks cats can fall into and never get out of again. It would be foolish to assume that most of the litter – when the stray cats give birth – survives. Even though there are Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs, it’s not available everywhere. In fact, I have seen cats mating.
As much as I wish I had the means to take care of more than just two cats, I have no choice but to focus on myself and Ricky and Tommy for now. I am grateful to the people of Ruse who take care of the strays. And I wish for the safety, health and well-being of the cats.