greek cat sanctuary

This Cat Sanctuary Has a Caretaker Who Lives On a Greek Island With 55 Cats

Cats are one of the world’s most popular pets. Globally, it’s estimated that there are between 220 and 600 million cats. [1] It’s hard to get a count, given that many cats, possibly as many as 158 million, are strays or feral. Many cats are fortunate enough to have good homes, but sadly, that isn’t the case for all. According to the ASPCA, more than 3.2 million cats are surrendered to shelters in the United States each year. Sadly, only 90,000 of them get returned to their owners and 860,000 of these cats are euthanized. [2]

But for many people, saving cats is a high priority. They rescue cats from the streets, adopt shelter pets, and always make sure their pets are spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters of kittens. And last year, the internet, which is well known to have a love obsession with cats, was taken by storm by a job opportunity: to live on an island with 55 rescue cats.

In July 2019, Gods Little People Cat Sanctuary [3] posted a job listing seeking someone who would be interested in taking care of rescue cats while living on a stunning Greek island. The Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that takes in stray cats found on the island of Syros, Greece. It’s operated by Joan Bowell, an artist, and her husband. Together, they have rescued some 55 cats.

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The task of caring for 55 cats is a big one. The Bowells have done an awesome job of caring for these cats, but they decided that the time was now to take a break from full-time care for these cats. They needed some outside help! Bowell took to Facebook to advertise the job opening.

“This is genuine and NOT a joke – friends, please feel free to verify!” She wrote. “The ideal candidate was “a mature and genuinely passionate cat lover who knows how to handle many cats and would love their company.” Preferably someone with “cat-whispering” skills.”

Bowell had no trouble getting applicants interested in the position. In total, she received more than 35,000 job applications from people around the world eager to live on a Greek island and care for these cats. In the end, the couple chose one applicant, Jeffyne Telson, who would spend the winter living in Syros and caring for the cats.

Telson lives on the west coast of the United States, splitting her time between California and Oregon. She operates her own cat rescue, RESQCATS.

“…I never imagined myself applying, although I had always dreamed of returning to the islands to help the Greek cats,” Telson wrote in a Facebook post. “The job would require me being away from Mitch and all my animals for several months.”

But it was Mitch, her husband, who gave her the push she needed. He told her: “…this job has your name written all over it! It’s a chance to live your dream…”

But before Telson would accept the job, she had one demand: that the money from her salary be donated back to the non-profit to benefit the cats.

Read: Poodle Cats: Yes, They’re a Thing

“I ecstatically accepted under one condition: the offered salary was to be donated back to the cats,” she said in her Facebook post. Understand, I wanted the position, not because of the view and chance to live on a Greek island for free; I only wanted to help the cats and live my dream.”

It wasn’t long before Telson flew to the tiny island to spend her winter with several dozen cats. While there, she and Bowell decided to take in a colony of cats that lived near a Greek Orthodox church. They first rescued the cats most vulnerable to disease and death while spaying and neutering as many of the cats as possible. They eventually found homes for the cats they saved.

It’s an inspiring tale, but not one without its bumps.

“I wondered, ‘How can I possibly help all these cats?” said Telson. “How do I choose which ones to save and which to leave behind?’ I knew early on that I would have to find a way to cope with so much sadness. I’ve always said that we can only make a difference…one at a time. Somehow, I felt like I was now being put to that test.”

God’s Little People Cat Rescue is a registered no-kill, no-cage lifetime sanctuary, and adoption center. At the time of the job posting, it was home to 55 cats. As of this writing, the number has grown to 65. The organization got its start in 2015. Joan Bowell saw countless cats living on the streets suffering from disease, injury, and death. She tried to protect her heart from the suffering cats, but wound up finding four sweet, tame, adorable cats that she knew she had to take in.

“Because I’ve witnessed so many young cats die here I knew I had to make an effort to try and get them all vaccinated… that would at least give them some chance of survival,” Bowell wrote in a blog post. [4] So I raised the funds via donations and many kindhearted people chipped in to ensure they could have their double vaccinations and be treated for parasites.”

Following their vaccinations, she got them each spayed and neutered with the financial assistance of some kind people and, four months later, the cats were fostered by a friend of Bowell’s named Natalie and later adopted out.

That experience has sparked a lifelong passion in Bowell for rescuing these cats and finding them new homes. Her non-profit is completely funded by individuals generously contributing what they can. And in the case of Telson, she generously gave her time and her salary.

“We all have a chance to make a difference whether it is volunteering, donating to a non-profit or standing up for a cause,” says Telson. “So remember, even the little things you do make a difference…and doing something is better than doing nothing!”

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1. https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/just-how-many-house-cats-are-there-the-world.htm
2. https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender
3. https://web.facebook.com/godslittlepeople/photos/a.562754097075888/2549368848414393/ 4. http://godslittlepeople.blogspot.com/2015/02/it-all-started-here.html

Thomas Nelson
Environmental Advocate
Thomas is an Oregon-based environmental advocate, a lover of the outdoors, and has an at times unhealthy obsession with chickens.