Silvia Viviani, 73, a co-founder of Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, has been helping care for cats for 19 years in the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated more than 2,000 years ago. The sanctuary is one of several cat colonies that exist among Rome's tourist attractions but Italian officials have concluded the felines at Torre Argentina are squatters, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Viviani's organization converted a subterranean makeshift storage shed, formerly used by archaeologists, into a facility where volunteers operate computers, provide medical care for cats and greet tourists.
After the sanctuary requested it be connected to Rome's sewage system, Italian government officials, along with some city administration officials, said the sanctuary had no business operating in such a historically significant location, the newspaper said.
Viviani ridiculed the notion that the cat sanctuary might damage Italy's heritage any more than foreign invaders did when they sacked the Roman Empire.
"What the barbarians have done, I don't think the cats could do," she said. "I don't think the cats can scratch the ruins more than a fire, more than an earthquake or something like that."