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Rome's Torre Argentina cat sanctuary faces eviction

image captionThe cats in the Torre Argentina may soon be looking for a new home

There is growing pressure on a well-known Roman cat sanctuary to leave its home in the heart of the ancient city.

The head of Rome's archaeological office says parts of the sanctuary have been illegally built on a heritage site and must be pulled down.

An eviction notice has been issued.

The disputed building of the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary is next to the site where Julius Caesar was stabbed by Brutus and his co-conspirators on the Ides of March in 44BC.

It is known as the Area Sacra and houses four temples, on one of which the sanctuary has built a store room.

Rome is well-known for the stray cats which live among its archaeological splendours.

The Torre Argentina cat sanctuary looks after about 200 cats, vaccinating the strays, neutering the toms and spaying the cats.

The animals are much photographed by tourists but Mariarosaria Barbera, the Special Superintendent for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome, has told the Repubblica newspaper: "While we love the cats almost as much as the ancient monuments, the sanctuary is an illegal construction.

"We object to illegal building on a heritage site."

Mrs Barbera said her office had been trying to find a solution to the problem for the past two years.

But Silvia Viviani, president of the Volunteer Association at the Cat Colony of Torre Argentina, said the archaeological office was trying to chase them out of a site which they had occupied for 20 years.

She said she was trying to secure a meeting with city authorities to find an alternative home for her sanctuary, which has become a tourist site in its own right.