Stray cats. Street cats. Beach cats. Cafe cats.
I had traveled to the Greek island of Lesvos, not because I wanted to learn about its stray cat population, but because I wanted to explore its tasty treats populating bakery shelves. Since this woman cannot live on baklava alone, I was eating a fig and walnut salad and salted sardines on the deck of a restaurant overlooking the Aegean Sea.
As waves lapped at the shore, I slurped the remaining morsels from the sardine skeleton. The more I bit, the more I nibbled, the more the spiky, spiny bones jabbed and stabbed my tongue. I didn’t want to swallow any. I stopped eating. I pushed the plate aside.
I waited for the waiter to take away my plate. I waited for the waiter to say, “Anything else? Would you like some water?” I waited and waited.
Just as I was wondering whether anyone would come clear my plate, someone did appear. Half a foot tall, about a foot long, pointy ears, white fur splashed with orange, it sat kitty corner from my left, swishing its long tail over the deck.
“Hello,” I crooned, “aren’t you pretty.”
It opened its mouth wide, revealing sharp, pointy, white teeth. Hungrily, it eyed the sardines.
“No,” I told it. “No.”
As I stared down the cat on my left, a tiger cat crept forward on my right; jumping onto the seat next to me, it leapt onto the table, and snatched a sardine.
“No!” I yelped.
Not one person on the deck glanced my way. Not one waiter rushed to my aid.
Taking matters into my own hands, I picked up my camera and when the cat came back, I snapped photo after photo of it stealing sardines, licking my plate clean.
Several minutes–and several photos–later, my waiter ran over. “This is a restaurant!” he shouted, waving his arms.
“Something must be done about the cats,” I said.
“The cats are stray, but you did nothing to shoo them away.”
The situation presented an interesting question: was it the responsibility of the customer to keep the cats from dining at the restaurant or the responsibility of the restaurant to keep the cats from dining with the humans?