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Dream Job: Get Paid to Live on A Gorgeous Greek Island With 55 Cats

A viral job posting rocketed a Greek cat sanctuary to global fame. You can still apply for the position

By: Cassie Gill

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Featured Photos: God's Little People

Five years ago, the story of a small haven for cats and their caretakers in Syros, Greece became known the world over. A job posting looking for a cat caretaker at a sanctuary on a tiny Greek island went viral, amassing over 80,000 applications. Global media coverage of the phenomenon turned the sanctuary into a destination, leading to a Netflix episode and a newly released book.

Sanctuary founder Joan Bowell still can’t quite believe it.

From her current perch on the stunning Greek island that houses the sanctuary, she recalls a formative childhood moment. “My mother brought home a kitten…and it was ‘true love’ at first sight that stuck with me ever since!” she laughs.

Though born and raised in Denmark, Bowell and her husband had dreamt of building a refuge on the Greek island of Syros for themselves and their two cats—but when they moved into their dream home in Greece, they found other four-legged locals were joining the brood out of desperation.

“There were sick and starving cats everywhere and the cat population was so out of control with precious few people responding to their plight,” she tells Modern Cat. From there, the sanctuary organically began to grow as Bowell began caring for more and more of the cats—totaling 30 in the first year.

“There is no way we could have ignored their plight, and our place very quickly went from just for ourselves, to us opening up basically our entire estate to create a safe haven for the cats.”

She dubbed her cat sanctuary “God’s Little People.” The name, she says, comes from a quote by philosopher Pythagoras which says, “animals share with us the privilege of having a soul.” He referred to humans as “God’s big people” and animals as “God’s little people,” which strongly resonated with Bowell. “Humans are Gods to animals and so whenever humans mistreat an animal—that would be how the animal experiences God. This understanding lodged so deeply within me.”

Her sanctuary might have continued to fly under the radar were it not for the job opening they posted to Facebook in 2018, seven years in:

“PAID JOB OFFER WITH CATS! (this is genuine and NOT a joke — friends, please feel free to verify!),” the posting read. “A very special position and living circumstance on offer on a little Greek island called Syros (a small paradise no less!)” (Syros is located in the Aegean Sea to the Southeast of Athens, Greece.)

They thought they’d get a handful applications. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Well, it was a totally unexpected experience, and we only became aware of it because a friend told us he’d just seen the news of it running across the screen on BBC news! We had put up a Facebook post looking for someone to take on the caretaker role here at our sanctuary, expecting that if we were lucky, we’d get maybe 20 people applying for the job,” Bowell recalls.

Picked up by major media outlets like BBC and CNN, it took on a life of its own.

“We had no idea it was about to go viral the way it did…The attention was absolutely mind-boggling,” she laughs. In just a month, Bowell and her husband got a whopping 80,000 applications for the position—an experience that she details in her new book, God’s Little People: Feelings That Connect, and in episode five of the Netflix series ​​Cat People.

The part-time, six-month position offered just €500 euro per month (equivalent to about $530 USD), but the perks were many—for the right person. Requiring about four hours a day of work, it involved feeding, cleaning up after, medicating, and loving on the 55 cats at the sanctuary. Housing, tranquility, and stunning scenery were included.

The posting read: “From experience, the job is most suitable for someone 45+ years of age, who’s responsible, reliable, honest, practically inclined—and really, with a heart of gold! Apart from feeding the cats, the cats will also need heaps of love and attention. You will at times be expected to trap or handle a feral or non-sociable cat, so knowing something about a cat’s psychology too is important and cat-whispering skills should come naturally to you.”

If this sounds like you, there’s still a chance you could live the dream of taking care of cats on a Greek island. Since the initial job posting, the Sanctuary has been choosing a new person for the position annually.

Most recently, Melinda Rundström, a vet nurse from Stockholm, Sweden, held the position.

“I saw the Netflix special and just fell in love with the environment from a distance and I admired Joan and Richard’s values and ideas,” says Rundström, who began following the sanctuary Facebook page. “Suddenly the job post was there. It was as if it was directed at me.” The recently minted veterinary nurse had also been doing feline rescue work for about 20 years. “I thought it a perfect fit. It was also very good timing as I was feeling quite stressed and overwhelmed in my personal and professional life and could just benefit massively from a break and an adventure.”

The experience was “amazing. It was lovely and strange and quite overwhelming and amazing. I didn’t know to the full extent what I would be facing and it really became the adventure I was looking for.”

Rundström has already been back twice since last summer. In June she’s returning for a month.

“The surroundings are truly spectacular and relaxing. It’s so beautiful and with the ocean quite near, the idyllic small towns of the island, the slower tempo…. it gives me peace of mind. The cats of the sanctuary and the stray colonies and I have formed a special bond—it’s like visiting good friends every time.”

Rundström’s day starts with feeding the sanctuary cats, her favourite part. “The cats are all around, eager for food, and the sun is rising,” she says. “There are little groups of cats throughout the sanctuary that need attending to.” Some individuals need medications or special diets. Others are in quarantine due to medical treatment. She’ll clean their crates and litterboxes, then feed the two stray colonies nearby. “We try to spend as much time as we can with them too,” says Rundström. “After the feeding, there might be scheduled veterinary visits or errands to run, like buying cat food. Usually, though there will be a few hours free for beach time or sightseeing around the island.”

Spending time with the cats, the feeling of doing good work, and the sheer beauty of the place are the best parts, says Rundström, though she’s quick to note the work component is very real. “The job is for somebody willing to work,” she cautions. “It’s for somebody with a true love for and understanding of cats. It’s for somebody committed to the place… You need to be invested. It’s an adventure but NOT a vacation. It’s NOT a meet and greet with the famous couple from Netflix or a photoshoot for your social media. This job is for somebody who wants to do good. For people who want to contribute to a better world. It’s a job for givers, not takers.”

Still, the sanctuary has no shortage of applicants. “The job position has become extremely popular and desirable,” says Bowell, who has expanded the original single position to a team. Caretakers stay for three to six months and rotate, with both new and return caretakers in the mix.

In addition to the caretakers, the sanctuary also accepts general volunteers to help out with different facets: the cats, the gardens, maintenance and upgrades—“basically people volunteering with a variety of skills,” says Bowell.

Five years in from the viral posting, the sanctuary is still seeing blessings from the media attention—including more volunteers and more cat sponsors—but perhaps the biggest benefit was renewed faith.

“The most important thing we derived from this whole experience was realizing just how much goodwill there is towards cats in this world! So many people wanted to volunteer, and we realized just how many resources there are in this world to want to do good for cats,” Bowell says, looking back at the last 12 years.

To date, over 3,000 kittens and cats have found refuge at her no-cage, no-kill sanctuary, which also operates as a registered charity and adoption center. Chronically ill and semi-feral cats also have homes for life at God’s Little People.

While helping cats was her first priority with the sanctuary, Bowell also hoped to show others that it was possible to live in harmony with the felines. By providing water and food, as well as spaying and neutering, “it was possible to transform the outlook on the cats from being the unsightly sickly and emaciated pest they clearly were to the locals—hanging around the dumpsters scouring them for scraps,” says Bowell. As the situation improved for the cats, locals began to take notice, and attitudes towards the cats changed, ultimately inspiring more community members to get involved in caring for the animals.

Bowell shares more of her emotional journey in her book, which she completed in eight intense weeks.

“Starting a cat rescue was a major step outside of my comfort zone, she says. “At the same time, it also felt like destiny was taking me by the hand and showing me that something as simple as love for cats can bring you on such a life-altering journey.”

She hopes to inspire others to follow their hearts when it comes to their passions and beliefs.

“I’m not the first person to have done so, but I do believe that following your heart is the best way you could possibly ignite and inspire people around you to want to do well too…we might not all be able to do something on a large scale but we’re all capable of small acts which together can lead to a big change.”

Visit or Volunteer

The Cat Cuddling Café is open June, July, and August. During summer weekends, guests get a guided tour of the sanctuary, then can sit and enjoy a spectacular sunset while cuddling cats and enjoying a refreshment. Visits are only upon request and can be booked at: godslittlepeoplecatrescue.org

Rental Villas Visitors can also book one of the rental villas on the sanctuary grounds. “We now get the most awesome guests staying in our villas,” says Bowell. “They love being in a place where Greek cats are deeply cared for and loved. It’s not uncommon that the sanctuary cats will go inside the villas and visit our guests—much to the delight of both our guests and the cats. A 100% win-win situation!”

Sanctuary villa booking: sanctuaryvillasdelfini.com

Volunteer “We post on Facebook whenever we’re looking for caretakers and volunteers, so the best option for anyone interested is to actually follow us on social media,” advises Bowell. “Our caretakers and volunteers are from all over the world and anyone with prior experience can apply, although we do get a lot more specific with regards to skills for our caretakers. We post about new caretakers a couple of times a year.

“I encourage people to persist if genuinely interested as the interest is huge, and it’s obviously limited how many we can invite, but I’m just about to have a volunteer who’s written again and again for the last two years, so patience pays off!” 

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Cat magazine. Subscribe today!

Last Updated:

By: Cassie Gill
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