Monday, June 19, 2006

The Other Cats of Rabat

For an unabashed and rather enthusiastic cat person, Rabat is a difficult city to live in. The gazillion cats who wander the street and alleys, nap under & on cars, hang out in the Andalucian gardens of the Kasbah des Oudaïas, and patrol the butchers, fishmongers and poulterers in the medina, pretty much break my heart on a daily basis and that is no mean feat. I am a bit of a tough cookie. These feral Rabatians come in every size, shape and colour, with a variety of bits missing: appendages, eyes and ears, and I daresay, the odd tail. How they survive is beyond me, and of course, many of them don't. Every few months, a new batch of kittens greets the world (preceded a few weeks earlier by the midnight concert of cats in heat), only to disappear a few weeks later. This nocturnal round-up is distressing and macabre.

As a cat person, I want, if not to adopt them all, at least neuter them all. Alas, my salary will not allow for it so instead, I am on the fast track to becoming one of those dotty not-so-old biddies (they even have a support group) who carry cat food with me - cat food, I would add, that comes in a peel-back-the-foil container. Batty but resourceful - because using a can-opener would be crazy. So when I see an especially scrawny & pathetic cat, I plop a tin of giblets on the pavement. I don't care who sees me. Fuck 'em. Let them look.

I know that cats are kept as pets here; the very existence of prepared cat food and kitty litter confirms it. I suspect though that most housecats are kept indoors as I seldom see them out & about. Instead, I see people promenading with their dogs. The breed most favoured in Rabat is the little yappy beribboned froo-froo lapdog that looks like it should be a Kleenex dispenser. I'm certain that my grandmother had one on her toilet tank. But I digress.

Islam allows for the keeping of pets which gives it a point in my books. I must however rescind the point for the fact it is necessary for it to even address the issue. I was compelled to further deduct another point (attention dog lovers) after I came across this little gem from the Islamic Invitation Centre:

Q: Does Islam allow dogs as pets?

A: It is forbidden (haraam) to keep a dog unless it is for the purposes for which Islam permits keeping dogs. Whoever keeps a dog except a dog for hunting or farming, his reward will decrease each day by one or two qeeraats.

The word qeeraat refers to a large amount of reward; if a person’s reward decreases by one qeeraat, that means that he is sinning, for losing reward is like earning sin, both indicate that something is haraam because of the consequences it leads to. The impurity of dogs is the greatest of animal impurities (I might have guessed that the rat would be high up there ~ CinR). The impurity of a dog can only be removed by washing seven times, one of which should be with earth (that makes for a clean bath ~ CinR). Even pigs, which the Qur’aan states are haraam and describes as an abomination are not impure to such an extent.

Wow, I guess all of the shitzhu-owners I see about town but go through shower gel and mud like there's no tomorrow. But apart from dogs, we have:

Q: Does Islam allow other pets?

A: Yes, apart from pigs (duhhhh ~ CinR).

Well that's good. In fact, I do recall that cats are imbued with a sort of special animal status, historically protected and respected. There is an oft-told legend that Mohammed's cat Muezza had fallen asleep on the sleeve of his robe and instead of waking up the sleeping cat when he had to leave, the Prophet cut off the sleeve. Well who wouldn't? Cats get mighty pissy when disturbed.

So when I see an act of charity performed for a cat, I am moved. I often head up to the gardens of the
Kasbah des Oudaïas to watch the cats get fed and watered. I have yet to find out if the man who services this tribe of cats does so as an act of goodwill or is employed to do so. I would be content with either answer. Last week when I was in the medina, I watched as the human equivalent to a scruffy one-eyed cat spread out a feast of french fries (that I suspect he can ill afford to share) for about two dozen eager-looking cats. Undoubtedly the cats of the medina fare better than their more urban counterparts. They are better fed and have more meat on their bones. But this is not to suggest that the more citified cat has no champion: the other day, outside the marché municipale, a tub of prawn shells was tossed onto the pavement for a handful of awaiting cats. I suspect this is not a one-time event. Happily, my tins of cat food were relegated to another day.

So why all the metaphorically spilled ink on
Rabat's cats? - because when I saw that a new cat reality show would be hitting the airways in the U.S., bile rose in my throat. I was livid. I saw red. I was pissed.

Ten cats in search of owners will spend the next 10 days in a New York store window, their every move caught on camera for a reality TV show on which they will compete for best sleeper and mouse-catcher.The show is the creation of a petfood company and will be shown on cable channel Animal Planet, as well as on the Web site www.MeowMixHouse.com where viewers will be asked to vote off one feline contestant each day.

Cat in Rabat shakes her head in bewilderment. Thinking of the thousands of feral cats in Rabat that routinely starve or get "picked up", never to return, I mourn a world that anthropomorphizes its animals while forgetting or neglecting their basic needs. Globally, there are some 600 million cats, and a similar number of dogs, of which an estimated 80% are strays or unwanted. Perhaps the cat food company would better serve the feline community by using its investment dollars to spay and neuter strays, rather than flogging more cat food.

16 Comments:

Anonymous chrisso said...

Well, I am very proud of C in R! There are still some very decent people in this world. And its nice to see others in Rabat are helping feed the cats too!

As for Cat Reality TV, what a shame. What's next? Doggie Big Brother? The Amazing Rabbit Race? I think Animal Planet (why is there an Animal TV network btw? - do pets watch it?) is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Mind you Purina probably came up with the idea. Might as well be an infomercial.

3:10 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

I must admit, I'm not particularly offended by the cat reality show. I mean, it's stupid as all fuck, but what more does one expect from American television? Offended? No more than I'm offended by any other so-called reality show (which I find extremely offensive, BTW).

Whatever catfood company is sponsoring the show, you know they're not going to feed starving cats and dogs in other countries were they not involved in this piece of crap.

As far as the cats in Rabat (other than you, of course), I don't know how you can stand to see so many animals suffering. Like you, I'm a cat-lover, and the lot of feral cats in a place like Rabat must not be very nice. At least there are nice persons like you to help a little bit.

It tears out my heart to hear of beggars giving what little they have to help these animals...

6:57 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Knarf:
"It tears out my heart to hear of beggars giving what little they have to help these animals..." People often say that shit rolls downhill (and often it does) but it's edifying (and surprising)to see kindness rolling down the incline.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

Do you know if vets in Morocco actually know how to spay/neuter?

Unfortunately, the normal procedure for cutting down on the feral dog population in the South is poison. I hate it, but it's better than the alternative of letting them breed until the population is totally out of control.

Of course, I was also thinking about slipping some poison into the food of certain persons who had thrown rocks at my dog and others... I'm not to the level of ELF yet, but I think I'm close.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Liosliath, I have no idea how prevalent neutering/spaying is here but I suspect that it isn't ... judging only by the number of decidely male dogs I see at the end of leashes.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Samir said...

I promised that when I moved to Morocco that I would not have a cat. Within two weeks we inherited a kitten from an ex-pat Australian who was returning home. Fine, except the cat is SO WILD. Its latest escapade was to scratch Zany on the eyeball! Fair enough her eye did move and the kitten was only playing. But when you are a photographer you tend to value your eyes. All ended well, but the cat is now confined to the courtyard.

Having the little kitten spade is going to cost 1000 MD... at the American Fondouk - which advertises its services as free. I obviously did not read the fine print.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Samir: that should teach Zany to refrain from any future eyerolling. Wow! 1000 dirhams for neutering! That equala about 10 visits to the people doctor for me!

12:21 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

I'm sure that one of the reasons it's so expensive is that the economies of scale aren't there. If more people did it, the vets could schedule a shitload of them on the same day(s) and the price would come down.

OTOH, maybe if they put the price down first, more people would take advantage...

12:53 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

It's kind of a chicken & egg conundrum. On the other hand, I doubt that it's much of a priority for most people. I'd love to ask a vet how many neuterings s/he does in a year.

2:10 PM  
Blogger ByronB said...

Dunno if feeding the strays is the answer, though - unless it's properly organised.
There was some mad old bat who used to feed the pigeons at Hounslow Heath with bagfuls of corn - can you imagine the mess hundreds of those feathered fiends make when they're foraging for seeds?
Eventually the council had to put a restraining order on her.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

I agree with you Byron, I am a mad old bat in training. I eagerly await my restraining order. Then I'll blog about it.

7:38 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

Yes, but cats, being the fastidious creatures they are, won't make a mess whilst feeding. Indeed, they'll lick up every morsel of food, then find a safe place in the sun and contentedly lick their fur clean, then be on their way.

The analogy between feeding filthy pigeons (rats of the sky) and clean cats is a specious one, IMHO.

7:52 PM  
Blogger ByronB said...

You're right, of course - unlike cats the pigeons made a filthy mess, turning that part of Hounslow a sort of matte white.

But what happens when you start feeding strays is that inevitably you draw others in until the area is seething with moggies.

The hidden danger in this is that you could attract an inrush of Chinese restaurants.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Nooooooooooooo!!!!! I don't want to read about this type of cat food!!

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

Cat Care In Morocco to 2010
http://www.food-business-review.com/research.asp?guid=DMCM2831

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the Oudayas cats: yes they're healthy and well fed and clean, and yes all that is thanks to the Cat Man.

Now from what I've been able to gather in the kasbah the Cat Man is not officially paid to do this service, either by privates or some public structure: the story I heard is the guy used to be an English teacher who just dropped out and now takes care of the cats. Just like that.

He is a very affable and smiling person, I always make a point to stop and say hello to him -but then again you always do with other neighbors in the kasbah- and very respected in the community: people are always feeding him soup and tea and food, especially of course in Ramadam, when zekat goes on "bonus multiplying" mode.

By the way, since he lives on the streets most of the time (though he does not always sleep in the kasbah) the Cat Man takes also care of the Village Fool, mainly cause they frequently end up sharing the same public space, the little spot where the Man usually feeds the cats (rue Bazo when it turns to the right, after the garbage area)

8:55 AM  

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