James Tobitt, son of QCA member Ann Tobitt, writes:

I was involved in trying – and often failing, sadly – to help the cats on the streets of Dubai, or more particularly, Deira, the older poor part of Dubai.

I was briefly involved with Feline Friends. They were especially helpful to me when I discovered a Turkish Angora cat on the streets near where I lived, in the middle of summer last year.

Some of the Pakistani workers were attempting to feed him, but it was not enough to stop him starving. We think that he and a group of other cats had been dumped by cat breeders. This was in the summer, when temperatures can reach 50 + with horrendous humidity. A house cat could not survive in such an environment. Street cats, on the other hand, so long as they survive kittenhood, survive on the rubbish skips and the kindness of strangers.

Feline Friends were excellent. Because I lived in a studio flat, I was unable to keep him for more than a few weeks, so Feline Friends agreed to find a temporary home for him. They gave him injections, neutered, microchipped him, got his weight back and found him a good new home. It is Feline Friends’ policy to get any one taking a cat from them to promise that if they leave the country, the cat will be taken home with them. They also ask for a fee and that is put back into helping other cats.

Street cats are very common in Deira. They tend to congregate around open rubbish skips, and the lucky ones loiter outside restaurants for scraps. The skip across from where I lived was inhabited by 7 cats, but every evening the local butcher put scraps out for them, so they did not do too badly. In the evening, I used to go around and feed various cats with dry cat food. A drop in the ocean though!

Unfortunately, however, Feline Friends had to stop its street cat neutering programme. They had run a programme where cats were gathered, neutered, de-wormed, microchipped, and had inoculations and re-released from where they came. The charity had been in talks with the Royal Family there to set up a special dedicated cats’ home, but this has not materialised. Certainly, the lack of a place where sick cats and other animals could go was a problem.

There were no dogs where I was, as it was 98% Muslim, and such people would never have a dog as a pet. Some wealthy Emiratis did have house cats and pedigree dogs.

The Dubai municipality used to kill un-microchipped cats regularly. Just before I left Dubai, a group of cats I fed in a car park were taken away by the municipality. I had been trying to get Feline Friends to capture, neuter and microchip them to keep them safe. Sadly, it was not to be.

I admire the people there who are trying to do something to help. Feline Friends is run by mainly Western expats, who have to deal with a very different culture where animals are considered either vermin, or beasts of burden, to be used for some particular purpose.

A city as rich as Dubai should be doing better, and I hope that things will change.

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