The Cats of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik might be famous for its walled old city, terracotta rooftops, and Game of Thrones sets, but it’s also a city for cat lovers.

While Istanbul enjoys its feline limelight thanks to the recent release of Kedi, a documentary that’s more a love letter to Istanbul’s stray cat citizens, and Japan still churns out photo essays and stories of its cat cafés and colonies occupying whole islands, Dubrovnik is another city where moggies roam the streets.

Dubrovnik is instantly recognisable from its terracotta-dominated cityscape set against the backdrop of wine-dark waves that crash against the rocks below. Not to mention its recent burst of fame thanks to Game of Thrones, where King’s Landing come to life on its narrow, twisting streets where Cersei embarked on her walk of shame or you can wander down to the fort overlooking the bay that set the backdrop for plotting and scheming.

The small Croatian city has plenty of draws, perhaps too much as the city had to jump on the bandwagon following Venice to do something about its corrosive cruise ships and the wear and tear of touristic overpopulation.

Even off season people still flocked to the top of the city walls in groups. Even as the March wind battered my face, I saw a group of Japanese tourists stop for a few snaps overlooking the fort in the distance. The photo session lasted a long time, till I noticed it was not the backdrop the cameras on their selfie sticks pointed at, but rather a handsome ginger tom, who posed on the edge of the wall, as if he knew that the dark blue sea behind him brought out the golden tones in his coat.

Once the group moved on, I walked up to him. Held my hand out to sniff and he rubbed his head against the back of my hand. I took my camera and snapped a few shots before he came back for a few more purrs and pets. He was not the last one I’d spot on my walk. As I continued along the city walls, I saw a few other felines scamper across the terracotta rooftops, before disappearing into open attic windows or scrambled down the drainpipes.

By the port, it soon became evident cats ruled the roost. Territorial meowing

and hissing took place down by the gate between a tabby and a burly black and white. Other cats lurked close to fishing boats, scouting out the smell of the catch, or slinked over to restaurants looking for a bite.

 

Dry cat food lay scattered around on the stone walls and hidden corners attracting healthy looking cats with shiny coats lapping up the kibble left out for them.

It’s easy to see why cats love Dubrovnik. The narrow streets and steep stairways lead to convenient nooks and crannies that are perfect for cats to run, hide, and climb. Many of the cats belong to families in the inner city and are let out, while others are strays that are cared for by locals.

Dubrovnik has its own cast of cats, from regal, yet affectionate gingers, to more rugged tuxedos, guarding their territory. Up by the steps, under the sculpted columns of the Church of St. Ignatius, a kindle of kittens scamper along around the church, and elsewhere in the city, there are even lions carved into the sandstone brick walls almost as a homage to felines. Just like the Lannisters rule in King’s Landing (for now), lions rule Dubrovnik’s streets.

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