9 min read

People Are Doing Everything To Reunite Refugee Cat With His Family

A cat named Dias has been through more than many people have in a lifetime - and he's still waiting for his happy ending.

Dias soon after he landed in Greece.Amy Shrodes

Dias soon after he landed in Greece. | Amy Shrodes

Dias survived the boat trip from Iraq to Europe during the refugee crisis, but he still needs help - and Ashley Anderson is determined to achieve the impossible.

Last fall, Anderson - an American now based in Switzerland - volunteered to spend months on the island of Lesvos pulling people from the waters of the Mediterranean as they arrived in record-breaking numbers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

They had lost their homes, their countries. They risked their lives. They brought with them only what they could carry.

Volunteers, including Anderson, try to swim out to help people jumping off a sinking boat.Doug Kuntz

Volunteers, including Anderson, try to swim out to help people jumping off a sinking boat. | Doug Kuntz

Greece is the main landing place for people trying to take refuge in Europe. In one little boat was a family fleeing Mosul, Iraq, a city now controlled by the militant extremist sect, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

With them was a little white cat."This family probably paid thousands to get a spot for themselves on this rubber boat - even infants required a fee," Anderson told The Dodo. "They cared enough about this cat to bring [him] with them."

A volunteer doing a "lookout" into the sea for boats coming into Greek waters.Ashley Anderson

A volunteer doing a "lookout" into the sea for boats coming into Greek waters. | Ashley Anderson

When the boat carrying the family came ashore, the cat panicked and jumped onto the beach and ran away to hide.

For many refugees, the landings were hectic. Some people fainted when they reached the shore, Anderson said. Others were frantic to rush to settle and start new lives in new countries. "There were constant rumors of borders closing," Anderson said. "People were really scared they'd have nowhere to go."

Despite this chaos, the family who had lost their beloved cat searched for hours, but they couldn't find him anywhere.

They realized they had to go on without him.

Graffiti written outside the camp Moria, where Dias's family had to go after they lost him.Ashley Anderson

Graffiti written outside the camp Moria, where Dias's family had to go after they lost him. | Ashley Anderson

But three days later, the white cat reappeared, hungry and haggard, at a local cafe volunteers like Anderson frequented. But the family had already left the island. For weeks, the white cat stayed at the cafe, among the exhausted volunteers.

Amy Shrodes

Amy Shrodes

One day, Anderson was talking to her friend Amy Shrodes about the cat who had lost everything. Anderson said that after the months of witnessing the trauma and suffering of the refugees, "maybe we needed a positive story."

"Beds" volunteers laid out for victims of drowning. "It shows to me the severity of the chances people are taking to come," Anderson said. "They are risking their lives to have a chance at living."Ashley Anderson

"Beds" volunteers laid out for victims of drowning. "It shows to me the severity of the chances people are taking to come," Anderson said. "They are risking their lives to have a chance at living." | Ashley Anderson

"Amy made a comment like, 'We should just try reunite him with his family.' And I was like, 'Let's do it!' Both of us were like, 'why not try?'"

Dias safe and sound after his veterinarian visit. "He fell asleep face down, exhausted," Anderson said.Ashley Anderson

Dias safe and sound after his veterinarian visit. "He fell asleep face down, exhausted," Anderson said. | Ashley Anderson

But not everyone was so convinced that finding a cat's family was a worthwhile endeavor.

Another friend of Anderson's, who does translations to help refugees, was almost offended that she was spending so much time and energy on a cat.

Amy Shrodes

Amy Shrodes

"I was like, 'This is something we can do.' Nothing is impossible. Everyone has the power to do something."

A volunteer-run food line on Lesvos. "The family most likely went through one of these before they left the island," Anderson said.Ashley Anderson

A volunteer-run food line on Lesvos. "The family most likely went through one of these before they left the island," Anderson said. | Ashley Anderson

Amid the chaos, Anderson started working on tracking down the family who could be almost anywhere in Europe. "We're pretty sure they made it to the country they were trying to go, but we don't know where that is," she said.

Meanwhile, she and Shrodes gave the cat a name: Dias, the modern Greek word for the ancient god of strength, Zeus.

Amy Shrodes

Amy Shrodes

Anderson and her friend took Dias to the vet for a bath and a check-up. They got him neutered. They even got him a passport. "It's easier to get a cat across a border than a human," Anderson pointed out. "His family is probably struggling to find a way to make money."

Dias at the vet, where he got shaved, dewormed, neutered and vaccinated.Ashley Anderson

Dias at the vet, where he got shaved, dewormed, neutered and vaccinated. | Ashley Anderson

After Anderson left Greece, her friend Shrodes flew with Dias to Berlin, Germany, where many refugees end up settling because of the country's open door policy, hoping Dias's original family might have moved there. A foster family welcomed Dias.

Meanwhile, Anderson started a hopeful social media campaign to reunite Dias with the family who cared so much about him.

Months later, she's still trying.

"The story is much more than just a story about a cat," Anderson said. "I want there to be, in the suffering and pain, a little beacon of hope. I really want to find this family."

Amy Shrodes

Amy Shrodes
Ashley Anderson