Roman Cat Sanctuary

Dylan Thuras is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Dylan is a travel blogger and the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World's Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica, with Joshua Foer.

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From Atlas Obscura's newest team member, the terrific Annetta Black.

In Rome the cats have an ancient temple all to themselves. The site is known as Torre Argentina and was excavated under Mussolini's re-building efforts in 1929, revealing extensive multi-level temple grounds about 20 feet below modern street level. The site is actually composed of several temples as well as part of the famous Pompey's theatre, where in 44 BC Caesar was betrayed and killed on the theatre steps.

Today volunteers care for approximately 250 cats. After the site was excavated, Rome's feral cats moved in immediately, as they do all over the city. The gattare, or cat ladies began feeding and caring for them. Since the mid 1990s the population has grown from about 90 to the current nearly 250, and the organization has ramped up with care for sick or wounded cats, and an extensive spay & neuter program to try to keep the feral population in check. Most of the permanent residents have special needs - they are blind or missing legs or came from abusive homes.

On any given afternoon a small crowd gathers to watch the cats sunbathe on ancient pillars and steps.

Whether the cats rule themselves via Republic or recognize a cat Emperor is, as of yet, undetermined. More on Torre Argentina here.