Every traveler has her ritual to make herself feel at home. Some will set up a framed photo of their family. Others will bring along a favorite pillow.
I go looking for cats.
That’s right. If I have to leave my two Siamese cats (Henry and Eliot) at home, then I want to find a local cat to love when I am away.
Geneva, Switzerland was a total disappointment. Even though I roamed the streets of Old Town for hours, I didn’t see one cat—in an alley, on a windowsill or hiding in the bushes. And I looked.
Geneva is a city that has gone to the dogs. Their owners promenade them on the lakefront, bring them to bars and even let them run wild in the parks.
So with great disappointment I said goodbye to Geneva without making the acquaintance of one Swiss cat.
But surely I tell myself there will be cats in Croatia. So after I check into my hotel in a seaside village near Dubrovnik, I immediately embark on a walk.
Even though it is October, the children have no problem braving the chilly waters of the Adriatic Sea. But the adults huddle in towels thrown over their shoulders. I prefer to exercise. A sign points to a seaside walk that heads along the rocky cliffs. Sailboats bob in the wave-tossed sea. I look across at the Croatian mountains where I will hike tomorrow.
Stopping to take photos, I notice the rocky staircases that lead down to the sea. Typically a couple or person will be resting below—perhaps reading a book or eating a gelato. I want to find my own little hideaway but every nook seems occupied. Then rounding a curve, I look down and see her. A beautiful Croatian calico cat is sunbathing on a boat dock. Quietly I ease myself down the rocky staircase and then pause. I don’t seem to have startled her. I slowly walk toward her. She appears to be asleep. I lower myself down to sit on the deck. I can see the water swirling below through the broken planks. Her tail twitches. She is dreaming.
I touch her thick coat of fur. No reaction. I then pet her slowly, starting with her head and running my hand down her back. She rolls over to show me her belly. Then she looks out toward the horizon and purrs for me. Right then I know this will be my iconic photo of Croatia that will be memorized forever in my mind.
Postscript: On my way back to the hotel, I am disappointed to find the calico cat has vanished. But then I find her sauntering along the rocky ledge of a restaurant, stopping to observe guests who are eating their meals. Clearly she makes a perfect maitre’d.
If you wish to help out these cats, there is an organization called SOS Dubrovnik Cats. It accepts charitable contributions to help pay for the spaying and neutering of cats and limit overbreeding.[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]