Kate in Montenegro

An Australian Living & Exploring in the Balkans

Stray Animals in Montenegro

On my first trip to Kotor I was enchanted by the cats everywhere. How amazing I thought! I love cats and they are just wandering about everywhere!

As time went by I realised that the cat (and dog) situation was not as charming as it appears. The local attitude to animals is NOT remotely the same as in Western countries, nor are the laws and regulations on the treatment of animals. It’s really confronting and one of the most difficult things to deal with as a foreigner living in the country.

It’s a complex and difficult situation, but I’ll do my best to explain why cats and dogs are treated as they are, and why there are so many uncared-for animals in Montenegro.

Dogs in Montenegro

Dogs with owners here come in two categories: the city and country version.

The city version is a pampered child substitute that lives in an apartment, has zero training, and barks incessantly. The country version is considered a living alarm system and spends their entire life chained up next to their kennel. You’ll encounter these in every rural village and often at farmstay or country Airbnbs (usually to the horror of visiting tourists).

Then there are the street dogs. I’d never seen a street dog when I lived in Australia, where any stray animal will get picked up by the local council and taken to a shelter.

In Montenegro, most of the cities have street dogs that appear to live full lives, have friends, territories, and favourite sunny spots. I’ll often see a street dog heading purposefully in some direction at a fast pace, and I always wonder where they are going, do they have a meeting?

They are generally pretty friendly, and don’t form dangerous packs like in other countries I’ve been to (Thailand, I’m looking at you). And while technically Montenegro is considered to be a country with rabies, in practice there hasn’t been a case here in many, many years.

That said, for all the happy-looking street dogs, the female street dogs have tough lives. Without spaying or desexing, they are constantly having new litters of puppies and will wear themselves thin trying to feed them. I was recently on a trip to the coast and on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere was a desperately skinny dog clearly wasting away trying to feed her puppies.

Dogs and puppies will also get dumped if they grow too big, someone moves house, or just aren’t wanted any more. It’s rough.

Cats in Montenegro

Cats are generally considered vermin, or something on a similar level to pigeons or squirrels in Western countries. If you’re a local, you might feed them if you feel like it but you would never let them inside your house or feel responsible for their babies or ongoing welfare.

A lot of people aren’t really familiar with the concept of cats as indoor pets. I had to explain to a local friend that domesticated, tame cats that grow up with people make lovely indoor companions because he’d only ever seen twitchy, skinny street cats! I’ve known a few foreigners who adopted street cats and made them indoor cats, and their neighbours are usually horrified and disgusted that THEY LET THEM INSIDE.

That said, many restaurants have well-fed resident cats (you will always know which ones because they will appear by your side as soon as your first course arrives). Many locals also do feed the cats and you will often see cat bowls or even little shelters outside shops or apartment buildings.

Kotor Old Town is also very famous for its cats – it’s even a symbol of the city. When I first arrived more than five years ago, the situation used to be pretty dire with litters of sick kittens everywhere, particularly in the square by the northern gate.

But thanks to an organisation called Kotor Kitties, and their efforts over the past few years to desex as many of the old town cats as possible. the situation is vastly improved. (You can tell which cats around town are desexed because the tip of one of their ears has been cropped.)

This leads me onto one of the local attitudes I have the most trouble with, even after years of living here…

Desexing Animals in Montenegro

The reason there are so many street animals is because desexing (aka spaying or neutering) animals is rarely done in Montenegro, as it is considered inhumane.

Admittedly, if you are living on 500 euros a month and are trying to feed your family and keep a roof over your head, it is expensive and probably very low down your priority list.

But even educated people I’ve talked to had the same attitude. They considered that their pet should have the opportunity to breed and that it was inhumane to prevent it.

The outcome of this attitude means that there are hungry stray animals and abandoned kittens and puppies EVERYWHERE, CONSTANTLY. People’s pets or the strays they feed aren’t fixed, they get pregnant, they produce more unwanted kittens and puppies that people don’t want around their building or farm, and then they get dumped somewhere to be someone else’s problem.

I’ve seen puppies dumped by the side of the road, week-old kittens left in bags in dumpsters (!!!), and litters of kittens left in the yard of foreigners who is known to like cats. (A kind foreigner who was looking after a cat colony in a coastal city had to completely shut down their operation because she was over-whelmed with sick kittens constantly being anonymously dropped off and infecting the healthy cats.)

Why allowing some poor animal to have litter after litter of puppies or kittens that mostly die of disease or accidents is not considered inhumane… I have no rational explanation. It’s one of those things I have to chalk up to cultural differences that I will never understand.

Literally half the content of the foreigner and expat groups on Facebook is posts of animals that need adoption and it is heart-breaking. People always ask me why I don’t have a cat if I like them so much and the answer is that if I got one cat it would be a short step to having sixteen cats.

Every foreigner I know who is here long term has rescued all the animals they can manage (and usually a couple more beyond that) and there are still so, so many more.

How to Help Animals in Montenegro

Feeding the strays you see does feel good, but unfortunately doesn’t do anything to solve this terrible problem long term.

If you can, catching and taking the females to the vet to be spayed is THE most impactful thing you can do for the individual animal – and for the plight of animals in Montenegro.

If you’re not in a position to trap and release yourself, then donate to one of these organisations I’ve listed below. They are usually run by volunteers and people who work incredibly hard to improve the lives of animals in Montenegro.

Kotor Kitties – Kotor Kitties do amazing work catching and desexing street cats around the Kotor area. They are an international organisation, however, and can’t usually help with individual cases of sick or injured cats.

Stray Aid Montenegro – Stray Aid Montenegro works around the city of Bar trapping and desexing cats and dogs. They can also help with adopting and first aid if you find an animal in need.

Friends of Dogs – Friends of Dogs is a small group of volunteers along the coast who do everything they can to help dogs, both individually and through population control. They really love dogs and need all the financial support they can get – it all goes back to helping the local dogs.

Thank you for doing what you can to help the animals in Montenegro!

  1. Olga T

    Is there any organization for desexing stray cats in Ulcinj (the city not far from Bar)? The situation here is pretty horrible with lots of sick, injured starving cats around, who suffer a lot and also spread deseases. Thanks!

  2. Kate

    Hi Olga, unfortunately I don’t. You could try contacting Kotor Kitties to see if they know anyone local to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *