Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Cats in Riyadh, Open Paws

There are loads of cats in Riyadh.
They roam the streets and compound walls and fossick through the street rubbish or lounge atop the skip bin lips in between rubbish feasts.  They aren't in the best of feline health though.

Cats here, as in many countries the world over, are dumped and left to fend for themselves once the novelty of the cute kitten fades and the cat owner just can't be bothered being a cat owner any more.

Even in Kiwiland we have a bit of an issue with wild cats killing off local bird life, their population assisted by a known relative or two I'd like to knock on the head for getting yet another cat they don't look after bleating yet again 'O God, I forgot, I have to be responsible for this animal.  This one doesn't look after itself either!' 

Fortunately there are great forests in Kiwiland with lots of birds and other cat lovely edibles so the wild cats we come across look fat, if not somewhat matted and unfriendly.  We also have the SPCA - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

In Saudi the conditions are a lot more harsh for turfed cats.

Now, I'm not a cat person myself and you won't find me feeding wayward cats because I feel sorry for them - there are enough cat lovers on the compound who do that - but it is somewhat annoying when certain expats, along with the locals, decide to get a cat for their kids then leave the cat in the courtyard when they upsticks and exit the country.

The ex-cat owners who release their cats out in the desert and expect they're going to survive are complete and utter nutters!  Who do they expect is going to care for the animal?  Oh, that's right, 'The one who sees and knows all'.

I'm quite certain ex-cat owners have no idea how hard it is to survive on the street as a cat.  We regularly hear cats scrapping outside - screeching, bawling, hissing and yowling.  It is not uncommon to come across beaten up, limping cats in Riyadh looking understandably mangy.  

And then, of course, the abandoned animal starts breeding because the previous owner didn't quite get round to getting the cat fixed.  Result - more cats with questionable survival rates.  The kind soul who comes around pleading for someone to please take a kitten is usually directed to Lana.

Lana is a vet in Riyadh who runs a not for profit charity called Open Paws.  It's an organisation dedicated to helping the hundreds of animals in need of care in Riyadh.  There are no animal shelters in KSA and although the religion says be kind to animals the law, apparently, is not quite so up with the play and when it comes to animals Saudi's have their own quirky (some may say warped) idea of what being kind means (refer back to 'turf me out in the desert').

Lana has been neutering and spaying street cats and those cats who have made themselves at home on compounds for some time along with improving their health status.  When she first started she was doing this all at her own cost and without much help. 

Now, a few animal lovers have got on board with her and are helping out with Open Paws.  She still requires volunteers to assist, and a few rich dudes with money to send her way would certainly be welcomed with open arms to build an animal shelter.

Open Paws runs a Trap-Neuter-Return program in certain areas.  They also attempt to re-home animals through pet adoptions and they always need foster carers for animals.  Visit their website www.openpaws.org to find out more and then give Lana a call.

The cat in this video is just one of many that Open Paws assists:

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