I think we could all use some good news from the Middle East. And guess what? I’ve found some!
Two hundred cats living in an abandoned workers’ camp in Abu Dhabi have been saved, thanks to the efforts of rescue groups, municipal government, environmental services, and veterinarians.
The camp, located in Mussafah, a satellite town near the United Arab Emirates capital city of Abu Dhabi, housed construction workers who were building industrial facilities in the rapidly growing community. Alone and far from their families, the workers found friends in the stray cats roaming around their camp. They began feeding the felines and providing veterinary care when necessary, often pooling their money if a worker couldn’t afford to provide needed care for “his” cat.
But in May, the camp’s residents learned that they were to be moved to different housing and the buildings on the current site would be demolished.
The workers were devastated. They were afraid that their feline friends would be killed during the demolition or face a slow and agonizing death without food, water and shelter in the brutal desert heat.
Then, an animal lover named Siddiq Ali, who had been feeding and providing water for many community cats in Abu Dhabi, contacted Friends of Animals, Dubai, and told them of the cats’ dire peril.
At first, things looked grim for the cats. The organizations’ plan was originally to trap the cats, neuter them and then return them to their home. But with the impending demolition, the cats could not go back to the camp. With increasing urgency, the groups called everyone they could think of in an effort to find the felines a new place to live.
In a surprising turn of events, it was a call to the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipal Affairs that really got things moving. Within a couple of days, the animal rescue groups, in cooperation with a private environmental services company and a local vet hospital, began an enormous operation.
The environmental services company worked with Feline Friends to trap kittens and nursing mothers; Al Rahma Society coordinated transportation to a local vet hospital; the vets neutered each cat and checked their general health; and finally the colony was ready to go to its new accommodations.
The only problem was, there were no new accommodations.
Ali and another animal lover drove all over Abu Dhabi in the searing heat, looking for a place where the cats might find a safe home. Finally they found it: a massive oasis, covered with trees for shade, with easily available water, and far away from perilous traffic.
Then began a phone marathon. The groups spent hours calling city government departments until, at long last, the cats became the first ever protected, sterilized cat colony in the United Arab Emirates supported by the government of Abu Dhabi.
The cat colony was released into the oasis, and the rescue groups observed them until the cats were successfully integrated into their new home.
Friends of Animals, Dubai hopes that this effort will set a precedent through the UAE and encourage individuals, rescue groups and municipal governments to work together for vital trap-neuter-return programs such as this one.
The religion of Islam teaches Muslims to treat cats well and that a cat is a creature to be cherished and loved. Given this tradition, I can certainly understand why the groups undertook such a herculean effort on these cats’ behalf and that their efforts paid off. I hope that their work does lead to a new approach to community cat management in the UAE.