Packing list: Toothbrush? Check. T-shirts? Check. Cat food? ... Check.
On a trip to Greece, hauling kibble around to feed the many strays cats was worth it.
'Twas the night after Thanksgiving, and all through my son's house, not a creature was stirring, except Maximouse – well, actually Maximus.
My husband and I were visiting our son and his family. It was half past midnight, and we were sleeping peacefully when all of a sudden, we felt a jolt on the bed. Our "granddog," a 90-pound, cream-colored golden retriever had jumped up to join us. He stayed to visit and be petted for 20 minutes. We didn't mind. We love dogs.
Until recently, there has always been a pooch of one kind or another in my home. Perhaps that is why I am a "dog person." But when Barbara, one of my cat-loving friends, asked me to take three pounds of dry cat food for any homeless cats I might meet on my upcoming trip abroad, I agreed. I like all animals.
Shortly before my departure, she suggested the best way to pack it: Divide the kibble into portions, put them into little plastic baggies, and tuck each in between other items in the suitcase.
But my luggage was already locked. There was no time to repack. The cat food inside would have to remain intact in one bag.
Nonetheless, I did grab a half dozen plastic bags to stick in my purse; these extra sandwich-size sacks would be convenient for carrying the food at each stop – especially if some of my tour mates in Greece and Turkey might like to help with this feeding project.
I asked Nick, an Athenian on my overseas flight from Atlanta, what he thought of the idea. He encouraged me to feed the felines.
"It is easier for the Greek government to catch, collar, and spay or neuter dogs than the elusive cats," he explained. "I feed leftover food to them, too. Many native Greeks do."
Another couple renting a sailboat told me that the company's list of provisions included cat food to share with wandering cats after they docked at the Aegean Islands and went ashore.
Yet, maybe others would resist my plan. Was it right to extend the life of these cats by giving them one more meal when the next day they might not get one? On the other hand, was it right to allow a kitten to take a catnap without being hungry?
I decided that the answers were yes and yes! My provisions were better nourishment than a meal from a dumpster.
And sure enough, several of my new travel buddies (who were real cat lovers) agreed to help with the project. The extra plastic bags came in handy for our handouts. We gave second helpings to the thinner cats.
Our Greek guide (also a cat lover) supported this effort and told us about the stray he had adopted himself. Nobody on his previous tours had ever brought her own provisions for the cats. He was very pleased I had.
At first, I tried "Here, kitty, kitty!" to encourage the scampering cats to come closer.
A kind woman saw my unsuccessful effort. She stopped, shook her head, and translated the command into Greek: "Pssst, pssst, pssst!" The result of her magic words: one less hungry cat that afternoon.
As cats consumed our offerings at all locations, other tourists watched in delight. We began to hope that they might follow our example.
I agree with the words in Emily Dickinson's poem "If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking."
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
If helping feathered creatures is legitimate, I can justify feeding furry ones. I do not want to live (or travel) in vain, either.
Even after all of this feline feeding, I still prefer canines. But would I ever pack dry cat food again – even without a friend suggesting it? Absolutely!