The multitude of pigeons in Old San Juan encourages the presence of their inevitable counterparts: legions of feral cats. Like pigeons, cats are a common sight along the Old Town’s narrow streets. They look healthy and seem to get regularly fed by fellow city residents. Many are friendly and curious, but most are watchfully uninterested–like cats everywhere, I suppose.
The most dramatic way to meet this part of local society is to share the sunset with them at Paseo del Morro, a picturesque trail that runs through the San Juan Gate along the grizzled City Wall. A colony of cats has lived there for, some say, centuries, ever since the Spanish came and built the structure. As the sun begins to set, the cats gather on warm rocks and soak in the day’s last rays. I don’t know what I enjoyed more: the sunset over the Bay or the company.
These cats treat the Old Town as very much theirs, relaxing in the shade of parked cars, napping in the luxury of large flower pots, and curling up in private courtyards.
When the mood strikes, they engage and follow you along their block–until somebody else comes along in the opposite direction.
And, as we saw outside of the Parque de las Palomas, they hunt. Then they hurry for dinner, left for them by humans.
I was glad to see that not only are these cats fed and given water by people who live here, but that there is an organization that tries to keep them healthy and safe: Save a Gato. This post describes several ways one can help Save a Gato and San Juan’s cats. Volunteers monitor cat colonies on Paseo del Morro and the rest of the city and run the crucial trap/neuter/release program. Some cats are adopted, those that are not are brought back to their feline family and given veterinary help like vaccinations and necessary treatment. Those cats that have been neutered have a clipped ear–we met one of them by the Bay. Next time we head to San Juan, I will be sure to get in touch with Save a Gato and perhaps volunteer with them. There are a number of ways for vacationers to get involved. Another reason to come back to this beautiful city, don’t you think?