Barcelona’s Cervantes Park and Lonesome Cats

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Cervantes Park is a peaceful stop along one of Barcelona’s
busiest streets-Avinguda Diagonal-Chris Ciolli

Cervantes Park is an oasis of lush greenery and calm perched alongside the constant rush of traffic and noise that is Barcelona’s Avinguda Diagonal. Home to Barcelona’s annual International Rose Competition, it easily makes most locals’ (and my) top ten for Barcelona Parks.

So it’s not surprising that I make it a priority to stroll through the park whenever I’m in the area, which is pretty much once a week.
A little over two weeks ago, I was walking through the rose garden on my way to the nearest metro stop, when two kittens popped out from behind the dense green shrubs lining the edge of the park.
One was black and white, and the other was
a calico, with spots of black, white and orange. Like a small child, I
excitedly took a step forward–the kittens scurried off into the underbrush
and I went on with my day
, rushing to the metro to
get to my next destination.
But I kept thinking about the kittens.
What were they doing in the park, all by their lonesome?
Throughout Barcelona, there are populations
of feral cats in parks and public places. Beautiful, and only approachable with
something edible in hand, these cats have become dependent on people, but will
likely scratch and bite if you try to touch them.
At the Universitat de Barcelona, where I studied some years ago, there were always cats winding in and out of the fronds
of tropical plants, and climbing the wrought-iron fence containing the city
campus’ back gardens. But in Cervantes Park I ‘d never noticed any animals at
all, other than birds, and the occasional dog on a leash. After four years of
weekly walk-throughs, the kittens were an anomaly.
The following week, while I was wandering
through the park at dusk, the kittens popped out from behind the bushes,
. The black and white kitten stood its ground,
but the calico kitten pranced closer and closer, and then stopped a few feet
away, and let out a plaintive and high-pitched meow. I took a slow step forward
and she danced a few steps back. I waited, loath to scare her away and she came
a few steps closer.

A calico kitten in Cervantes Park-desperate to be rescued–
or so I assumed- Chris Ciolli

I looked at my watch, I had to go or I
would be late. Onward,
I thought, trying not to
frown and wishing for time to spend with the kittens.
Had someone abandoned them? Poor, adorable critters. Since I couldn’t stop thinking about the
tiny cats, I talked to my husband about them. I told my friends and colleagues
about them. Everyone agreed, I should take on at least one of the poor,
possibly orphaned kitties.
So Saturday my husband agreed to come with
me to see if we could lure the kittens into our custody, and if all parties
were agreeable, take one home to our flat where we would do our best give it a
better life.
Since I was overly eager, we went first
thing Saturday morning, a can of tuna in hand.
After about an hour in the park, with no sign of the kittens even
after leaving the bait of a small pile of tuna behind  a tree near where I usually saw them, I had a duh moment
, that consisted of, oh, I always see the kittens late afternoon, just before dusk. They’re probably hidden somewhere, sleeping because cats are nocturnal.
Jesus, who’s a good sport, promised to come
back with me around five when I most often saw the cats, so we trundled back to
our end of town to grocery shop and like. Ever hopeful, I bought a couple of
cans of cat food for kittens, since all the research I’ve been doing online
since deciding to adopt one of the kittens from the park says tuna isn’t
actually very good for cats. –I also learned really young kittens can’t go to
the bathroom by themselves, and have to have their bowels stimulated by the

This time, my calico kitten was there. We followed her down a side path and found them all. Camped in the bushes were at least 15 cats, 10 of them kittens and
5 of them teenagers or adults. There were black cats, black and white cats,
white cats with black spots, tabby cats and even a mottled orangey brown and
black cat with no tail, not even a stump. And there were two calico cats. Apart
from the bold kitten I had seen up the hill, there was an even smaller, shyer

Here, kitty, kitty- Chris Ciolli

I peeled open a tin of cat food, put it
down just beside the bushes, and backed away. The cats looked at it, and me,
and all around, unsure and uneasy.
The tiniest calico inched closer and closer
to the food, and started to eat. I did some inching of my own and managed to
lightly pet it a little while it ate.
Since I’m always one to push my luck, I
decided to pick it up and the wild cat came out, thrashing and scratching,
leaving me an open wound on the offending hand and fleeing as far and as fast
as it could. Undeterred, a bigger tabby kitten with a white belly came to eat.
He followed the food wherever Jesus took it, but when he tried to pet him,
hissed spit, and raised a paw in a show of miniscule claws. He put on the same
show for any fellow cats that showed an interest in the tin of cat food, from
the tiny calico to a lanky black and white adolescent. We had to take it away
from the tabby and move it close to other cats so that they too, would get a
A sensible person would have seen the light
and given up, but what can I say… sometimes being sensible is overrated
. So in the hopes of
successful cat-snatching, we turned our cloth shopping cart on its side
and tried to lure in one of the kittens with the empty cat food container.
Tabby skirted around the cart for a few minutes, but in the end, the cats were
too smart for us. They knew our game.
Both of the calico kittens were keeping
their distance, and while the tabby kept coming closer in hopes of food, it
wouldn’t let either of us pet it. Rescuing abandoned kittens isn’t the same
as trying to catch and tame a feral cat.
And as much as I had wanted to save that
kitten from its harsh outdoor existence, my rescue-scheme was turning into
something more closely resembling a cat-napping. And I didn’t really want to
have to trick and trap a wild animal into being “rescued” and becoming my pet.
No matter that I had great plans to pamper and spoil it, none of
the kittens showed any interest in becoming our housecat.
So now I’m a little sad. Because when it
comes down to it, I thought I was planning a good deed, that I was going to be
able to help a living thing, and I was wrong. You can’t rescue a living thing
without its cooperation and consent…. or at least I won’t. It’s a shame because after years of going back and
forth on the issue, I finally felt ready for a kitten, ready for the trials and
tribulations not to mention the fun, of training and taking care of an animal. 

Maybe after my trip home for Christmas I’ll adopt from a local shelter here in Barcelona….There are lots of pretty kitties available for adoption at La Protectora de Barcelona 100 euros, fixed, vaccinated, dewormed, and microchipped with all their official paperwork (in Catalan, of course).

Meanwhile, I think I’ll make a habit of treating the cats in the park to an occasional tin of cat food. 

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