Trap-neuter-release has worked well for the stray cats occupying four ancient temples in Rome, Italy.

This is an example of the success of trap-neuter-release (TNR) in the remains of four temples dating from the third and second centuries BC at the Largo De Torre Argentina site which were first discovered in the 1920s by the builders planning an apartment block. The site was left exposed and it is sunken below the roads surrounding it which act as a viewing area.

Stray cat makes home in Roman ruins
Stray cat makes home in Roman ruins. Image: MikeB
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But no visitors could visit the archaeological site; a situation which is now changing. Visitors could previously scrutinise the temple steps and columns et cetera but not actually go amongst the ruins. Because of the resultant seclusion, a colony of cats moved in and evolved to the point where there were 260 and 2007.

Since that time, TNR volunteers such as Monica Baraschi have reduced the numbers from the aforesaid 260, to 86 today. So successful has TNR been for this colony of stray cats in ancient Roman ruins that the only remaining stray cats are “wounded, sick and elderly cats…who won’t mind the visitors, since they know all the nooks and small tunnels in the ruins to hide in” (Monica Baraschi).

The authorities have built walkways which pass into and around the ruins. The project has been funded by the jewellery maker, Bulgari, in a sponsorship programme. There is a lift as well.

In addition, they are going to place 2,000 archived artefacts that are in storage and have been for years into the public domain in a museum on the site. They include the head of a goddess which once graced the temple and the Roman-era gravestone with the Latin inscription: “Stay away from my grave”.

Claudio Presicce, Rome’s archaeology superintendent, said it was about time that the cats shared the space with humans. “As one of the few well-preserved sites in Rome from the Republican hero, it is one of the most important digs in the city. Now people can wander among the remains.”

Emotional impact on TNR caregivers when their cats were shot by the authorities

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