Eric introduced himself to me in the garden of our house in Greece in the village of Eresos on the island of Lesbos at the end of April 2017.
He was immediately very friendly and wanted affection. I could see that he had been neutered because he was missing to top of one of his ears. The vets carrying out neutering programmes on the island do this so that it’s easy to see which cats have been neutered.
I told him that I wasn’t going to feed him because often visitors feed the feral cats, then they starve when the visitors leave, so it’s not fair on the cats. Lo and behold, when we went back to Greece at the end of May Eric had taken up residence in the garden. He rushed over to say hello and we couldn’t believe that he seemed to recognise us.
He had made himself at home in the garden and hung out on the comfy seats, the outdoor sofa and bean bags. He was so friendly and gentle that he stole our hearts. Even non-cat people love him. When I sat outside doing my emails and working in the early mornings he would sit next to me and snuggle up.
So of course, we started to give him food … Stuart even trained him to sit before he gave him his food! We realised that we had to make a plan to get Eric off the island because we knew he may not survive the winter. Even if we organised for someone to feed him, there are wild predators like Pine Martens and also some Greek people poison the cats.
We had a lot of visitors coming to the house during the summer and we asked them to help us by feeding Eric. I also asked the lady who looks after the house to buy a cat feeder for us. All the visitors this summer stepped up, they fed Eric, cuddled him and adored him.
Our Austrian friend Alexandra always comes to Eresos with her daughter Antonia (5). She was delighted to find a playmate in Eric and even took him into bed with her! They say a picture paints a thousand words, well, the photos of Antonia and Eric show how much they love each other. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat being so tolerant of being picked up, hugged and loved by a small child.
Fate stepped in and Alexandra asked if they could give Eric a home. We were over the moon! Then we started to look at the logistics. Transporting a cat from a Greek island isn’t the easiest thing to do. Luckily one of our best friends from Vienna volunteered to be the courier and to fly Eric back to Austria to his new home. Many European airlines allow you to take small animals in the cabin for a very reasonable cost. So we had our transport organised, step one complete.
Next, we needed to get Eric chipped, his boosters and rabies shots organised and he needed a passport. A friend in the village took Eric to our nearest vet 45 minutes drive away, his wife was having a baby so no vet! We were going to the island at the beginning of October, so I borrowed a friend’s car and drove to see Christo the vet. Eric was as good as gold, even though he was in a puppy carrier, not really suitable for a cat. It was then that Christo said, “We don’t have any Passports! They were meant to arrive last week but didn’t come. I will send my assistant to the shipping office to see if they’ve arrived.” My heart was in my mouth, Eric was flying the next evening.
Ten very tense minute later the assistant appeared with a bundle of Passports - phew! I celebrated by buying Eric a sturdy cat carrier. Christo then told me that Eric is a girl cat - oops, quickly re-christened Erica, the Passport was completed.
The next day, all went well until about an hour before we were leaving for the airport - I couldn’t find Erica. The cat that never left the garden had disappeared! I tried to stay calm and went outside and called her … there was a rustle from the next door garden and Erica appeared over the wall. I was so relieved I took her inside and fed her Tuna. Then I lined the cat carrier with nappies, popped her in and we left.
Our friend was impressed with how well behaved Erica was from the moment we arrived at the airport. No fuss, no bother and no little ‘accidents’. Erica finally arrived at her new home, Nußdorf am Attersee, at 5am the next day. Antonia was the most excited little girl in the village and Erica was introduced to her mountain top home. Now she lives in the 6km above the lake of Attersee surrounded by meadows and woods and is spoilt by her human Antonia. Sometimes she has to wear a Unicorn Alice Band, but she doesn’t mind!