If you are living in the United Arab Emirates, you have probably realized that there are a lot of stray cats, but no dogs. There’s several reasons why there are a lot more cats, than dogs. The dogs mostly get dumped in the desert, build packs and hunt their food together, after a time they’re so wild, that it’s impossible to catch them. Dogs are also not tolerated by many people living in the U.A.E. so the municipality gets called straight away to pick them up, and most of the time they get put down.
Cats are tolerated, but also suffer on the streets. Many of them are hungry, ill or injured. Now, it’s wonderful that you want to help, but without knowing how to help you might be causing more harm than good.
In the title I have mentioned, ‘build your own colony’. By colony I mean a group of cats which lives in a certain area of town and does not fight each other. If you start feeding the street cats, you will probably see more cats coming every day. But before you even start feeding street cats, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have enough money to feed the street cats for the next years?
Do I have enough money to pay for their spaying/neutering and vet cost?
These cats will rely on me, can I find someone who will feed them for me when I am on holidays?
Is the place the animals are living in safe? Is there a high way near by?
Are neighbours or other people going to complain about you feeding the cats?
Feeding a couple of street cats, may keep them from starving, but it also means that the cats will be breeding. If you start feeding a colony, the cat population in your area can triple in no time. More cats means more responsibility, if neighbours complain about the increasing number of cats, the municipality might come to either poison them, pick them up to put them to sleep or collect them and relocate them into the desert. None of these options are cat-friendly at all. This means it’s very important to keep the number of stray cats under control. The progress of keeping the street cats under control is called TNR – trap, neuter and release. Most vets give special discount rates for spaying and neutering strays. In Abu Dhabi you can contact the Falcon Hospital and in Dubai, the Facebook group: bin kitty collective. It is important to step by step catch all the stray cats you are feeding, and getting them fixed. If some are very hard to catch, you can ask to borrow a cat trap on several facebook groups. Make sure your vet clips the tip of the cats ear, this causes no harm to the cat, as the cat* does not even feel it, but may save the cats life. A clipped ear means that the cat can’t reproduce and at the same time is taken care of. This might even stop the municipality from killing the cat and save its life.
I’ve already mentioned above that is is very important, that you are able to commit to feeding the stray animals. Make sure you have enough money to provide them with daily food, and that someone will be taking care of them when you are sick, on vacation or you suddenly have to leave the U.A.E. If you are not able to commit, and you start feeding the street cats you may do more harm than you are actually doing good. The street cats will be dependent on their daily meal served by you, and slowly start loosing the ability to fend for themselves. When they are unable to care for themselves on the street and their food supply suddenly cuts off, the street cats may starve to death or get sick due to the lack of food. Both deaths will be very painful and slow. An alternative is to only feed them every second day of the week, which will keep them healthy, but also will not cause them to completely rely on their human feeder.
When it comes to the decision on what to feed them, I would tend to dry food, as it will not spoil in the summer months. At the same time there are many kittens, and also cats who lost teeth due to cat flu, or feline aids (FIV+). These cats will face trouble eating dry food, and it has to be either soaked, or wet food needs to be fed. The issues with wet food is that it attracts ants and other insects, these might not only harm the cats but will also give the neigbours a reason to complain. Wherever you are feeding, make sure not to make a mess. If you still decide to feed wet food, apply cooking oil to the outside of the food bowl, as most insects are unable to walk on oil. I have seen many people leaving empty cans and plates out, nobody appreciates littering, so please make sure you clean after yourself and the cats.
Especially in summer it is very important to provide the cats* with fresh water, even if you are not feeding a colony it would be great to put out some fresh water for cats and also for the birds. Make sure to hide the water bowl, for example under some plants, or somewhere else where it’s not too obvious.
Do not EVER give a cat milk. Cats are lactose-intolerant and allergic to dairy.
In other countries feeding stations/shelters are very common. In the U.A.E. these are illegal, and will probably be removed in no time. If you are starting a colony in Abu Dhabi, make sure to register it with Strays of Abu Dhabi. Someone may have already started a colony in your area and you will be able to help them, instead of starting from zero.
*all of the cats in the pictures are up for adoption, if you are interested in adopting a beautiful Arabian mau please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org