By Linda Cole
The ancient Greek civilization had a profound effect on the rest of the world. It gave us the concept of democracy, the Hippocratic Oath, theater, the Olympic Games, philosophy, architectural styles and literary classics. Off the coast of Greece lies a group of islands where another national treasure, the Aegean cat, has lived for centuries hidden away from the rest of the world.
Tucked in between Turkey and mainland Greece is a group of around 220 islands called the Cyclades. This is the most famous island group in the Aegean Sea and has some of the most beautiful islands in the world. The name Cyclades means circular islands, because the islands form a circle around Delos, a sacred island. Many of the smaller islands are uninhabitable, but some like Santorini, Andros, Milos, Mykonos and others are high on the must-see list for tourists visiting Greece.
In ancient times, Delos was a religious center for Greece, and one of Rome’s main trading ports during Roman times. According to mythology, Delos is sacred because that’s the birthplace of the immortals – Apollo, god of light and the goddess Artemis. Uninhabited today, it’s listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Tourists visit Delos in huge numbers to marvel at this ancient Greek archaeological site that include monuments, art and mosaics.
For centuries, ancient Greek fishermen regularly sailed from island to island and brought cats back to the mainland of Greece. These unique and friendly felines are Aegean cats, named after the Aegean Sea, and the only cat breed with origins in Greece. Archaeological evidence can trace the first domesticated cats living on the island of Cyprus, which is close to Greece, to around 10,000 years ago. Over time, some of the cats likely made their way to Greece and the Cyclades islands aboard trading or fishing ships.
The Aegean cat is one of the oldest domesticated cats and one of the few breeds that developed by natural selection with no intervention from humans, which made it possible for these cats to adapt extremely well to their environment. The Aegean cat is one of the healthiest breeds and free of genetic diseases many other cat breeds have to deal with.
This is a rare breed to the rest of the world, but the Aegean cat can be found everywhere in Greece and on the islands. Some have owners, but many have no home. However, Aegean cats have a long association with humans and are very people-friendly. It’s not uncommon to see a cat lounging on a high ledge, wandering the streets or begging from fishermen at the docks. These cats are very comfortable and capable of snatching fish from the sea themselves and enjoy being around humans. They are not afraid of water and enjoy spending time playing in and around it.
Aegean cats have a semi-longhair coat that is two or three distinct colors. One of the colors is always white and covers a third to two thirds of the body. The other colors can be cream, blue, black or red – with or without tabby stripes. They are medium in size with a lean, athletic and muscular body. The ears are wide at the base and rounded at the tips, and their paws have a round shape. Your attention is drawn to the cat’s striking almond-shaped eyes that can be any shade of green. Even though the Aegean is one of the oldest cats, it wasn’t declared a breed until the early 1990s.
An intelligent, independent, affectionate, social, active and talkative kitty, the Aegean is friendly and good around older children, other cats and dogs that know how to mind their manners. This is a loyal cat who likes to sit and have long conversations with her human. A natural born hunter, an Aegean will keep your home free from mice.
Because this is an active cat, some type of daily exercise is recommended to help her maintain a healthy weight which is 9 to 10 pounds. Since the Aegean is so fond of fish, you can satisfy her desire with CANIDAE salmon, tuna or trout cat food. Aegean cats have an average life span of around 10 years.
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