Europe, Italy, Rome

Cats In the Roman Coliseum

October 9, 2010
Cats in the Roman Coliseum
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2014)

While touring Rome’s Coliseum, I noticed a large number of feral cats. While it seemed strange and sad to me (I’m a cat lover), the cats seemed quite comfortable in their surroundings and they treated the Coliseum as if it were home.

It was especially hilarious to see a lounging cat being observed by a crowd of photo snapping  tourists who were treating it like a Hollywood celebrity. The cat had it’s own paparazzi!

I photographed the tourists, photographing the cat:

Cats with Paparazzi

Cats with Paparazzi

I decided to join the ranks and took a picture of this cute little feline:

Cats in the Roman Coliseum

Cats in the Roman Coliseum

Look at his/her eyes! Almost bewitching. The maternal instinct in me made me want swipe the cat up in my arms and take him/her home.

According to an article from

There are estimated to be 300,000 feral cats in Rome living in over 2000 colonies. You might think that the city fathers would be alarmed by these numbers, but Rome’s city council has recently come out in favor of the cat’s existence in Rome by citing their ancient heritage: “There is a deep-rooted affection for these cats who have an ancient bond with the city.” The city council even went so far as to protect the cats, in 2001 naming cats living in the Coliseum, the Forum and Torre Argentina a part of the city’s “bio-heritage.”

A sanctuary for the cats was started:

The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary began later in a “cave like excavated area under the street” which was used as a night shelter for cats and a storage place for food. Through donations from visiting tourists and fundraising efforts, the sanctuary evolved into a professional operation, taking care of the cats by feeding, spaying and providing medical assistance while sharing funds with the poorer sanctuaries around Rome when they were available.

It’s an unfortunate situation. According to my Lonely Planet, Rome Encounter guidebook, over 400 kittens were abandoned at the sanctuary in 2007.  Spaying of cats is not a common occurrence in Italy so these numbers are unlikely to dwindle anytime soon.

Find out how you may be able to help here.

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  • Reply Vet Tech Mel January 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I like your story. I wonder why spaying isn’t very common there? I once had a Thai man laugh at me when I suggested that his dog be neutered. It isn’t very popular in Thailand either…

    • Reply Cheryl Howard January 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks! 🙂 I wish it was more a more common practice in other places than North America …

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  • Reply Carlo Vignone August 19, 2012 at 3:19 am

    Those Kittys certainly add to the chemistry of The Coliseum; We here in Police State America can learn from the Roman City Coucil sentiments.

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      @Carlo – I’m really happy with what the local organization does for cats. The city council however, needs to do much much more to help them though!

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