Article by April Lynn King
As COVID vaccines reach more people, more of us again dream of travel abroad. Many look for new horizons to explore, but I left my heart in Montenegro, and can’t wait to return to visit the warm, welcoming people and the many lovely community animals—especially the cats.
Montenegro shares the beautiful Dalmatian coastline with Croatia and Albania, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. Kotor is a favorite city for many cruise ships. In addition to breathtaking scenery, its ancient walled city is a UNESCO Heritage site and Lonely Planet ranks Kotor among the top 10 Cities for Cat Lovers. That was part of what drew me there with my friends in 2018.
The sad reality we found was that the coast of Montenegro, including Kotor, is over-populated with cats. The result was that the exhausting efforts of many locals to feed and care for the cats couldn’t begin to keep up with the needs of the ever-growing population.
Most shocking to us was that there was no spay-neuter program for the cats or dogs! Montenegro was a member of NATO and it aspired to join the EU. But it was well into the 21st century without a spay-neuter program for any of the community animals—dogs or cats—in the entire country!
What’s a traveler to do? Ask your Airbnb hosts to help start a program, of course! We started with a simple agreement to raise funds to sterilize 10 cats and then “see what happens”. The result is a group called “Kotor Kitties.”
In the two and a half years since my first visit, Kotor Kitties has celebrated important milestones:
- Volunteers and partner veterinarians have sterilized more than 3,300 cats!
- Kotor Kitties was established as a nonprofit organization (501©(3)) in the United States (2019)
- A separate UK charity, also Kotor Kitties, was registered (2020)
- We now work with partner veterinarians in Kotor, Herceg Novi, Niksic and Podgorica, to spay and neuter cats in central Montenegro as well as along the coast!
- Kotor Kitties volunteers span the globe, from Kotor to Panama, Seattle to Niksic, Podgorica and Budva to Great Britain.
- We’ve received grants supporting our work from SNIP International (TNR equipment), The Pollination Project (website design and translation), Cold Noses Foundation, LUSH, and the Susy Utzinger Foundation for Animal Welfare (spay-neuter surgeries)
You can find information about the work of Kotor Kitties, gorgeous photos of the community cats, and information on how cat lovers can help from anywhere in the world on our websites: www.kotorkitties.org (English) or www.kotorkitties.me (Montenegrin.) We will also have a Russian-language website available sometime in 2021.
Several shops in Kotor claim to help the cats. There is only one gift shop, Danijela’s Cats, that truly helps with regular food and medication for a large population in the surrounding areas. When you visit Kotor, be sure to ask around for her shop—which is usually surrounded by cats! (It was previously called Kotor’s Cats.)
Visitors can have the added fun of helping us Trap-Neuter-Return cats in Stari Grad (Old Town) and the surrounding area. Kotor Kitties has traps and carriers available for check-out, and our vet is just a 10-15 minute walk.
Even if your time in Kotor is too short for cat-catching, you can help us spay and neuter the cats by looking for our informational flyers, which include a QR code for donations, or for our donation canisters.
Post-pandemic travelers should also look for Kotor Kitties Calendars for sale in the pet shops and gift shops in Kotor, Tivat, Herceg Novi, and Budva. The calendars make great, lightweight and easy-to-pack souvenirs or gifts for friends and family! All proceeds after printing costs go to spay and neuter the local cats. We use Montenegrin print shops to help boost the local economy. The calendars we offer in shops during “tourist season” will be dated for the following year. For example, 2022 calendars would go on sale this year.
Cat lovers can follow us on Facebook for information on future campaigns to make spay-neuter surgeries more affordable and accessible for residents of Montenegro by removing the 21% tax, to establish a foster and adoption program for orphaned kittens, to add upper respiratory vaccines to our spay-neuter program, and to create a “recovery room” for sick and injured cats in Kotor needing longer veterinary care: https://www.facebook.com/kotorkitties.
Our favorite Montenegrin travel site, Montenegro Pulse, has always donated a portion of their proceeds to animal welfare in Montenegro. The website now offers a lovely article featuring Kotor Kitties and the kitties in Stari Grad, Kotor, along with other information on animal welfare in Montenegro.