Riyadh’s forgotten cats

There is an abundance of stray cats roaming the streets and compounds of Riyadh. In general they get treated like pests which I find a disgrace for an Islamic country. Islam teaches Muslims to treat cats well and that the cat is a creature to be cherished and loved.

In the hospital compound area I live in there are plenty of strays around. The compound is for female employees only, with around 700 nurses living inside. According to the policy of the hospital cats are not allowed inside the apartments and feeding them is prohibited and punishable.

Sadly the hospital seems to view these cats as PESTS that they must get rid of. I’ve heard that in the past the pest control people captured a lot of the cats and took them to the desert and left them to die. Just awful! Actually who do these cats bother so much that they have to be killed I wonder? They might jump into trash cans to find food, but they wouldn’t be doing that in the first place if nurses weren’t so afraid of feeding them in fear of being punished.

Despite this rule, a few female nurses take care and feed the stray cats on the compound and some have let them inside their flats too. These women also carried out a project that took all the strays they were able to catch to the vet to be vaccinated, dewormed and spayed or neutered. They did a tremendous amount of work to make these cats lives easier. Regardless of their efforts hospital pest control issued a warning that the cats will be killed.

One nurse then decided to ship over 20 cats to United Kingdom to save them from being killed. She managed and now the compound has much less cats. But surely more will come, there are plenty behind the walls of the compound.

You would think that in a country that everything is based on teachings of Islam, that cats would be treated with kindness. Viewing them as pests and issuing warnings not to feed them and threatening violators with punishments is just sickening to me. What is wrong with helping them out?
Mistreating all animals is regarded as a severe sin in Islam and there are many Hadith about the subject.

here’s the Hadith about mistreating cats:
“A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.” Allah’s Messenger further said, “Allah said (to the woman), ‘You neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the earth.’Bukhari 3:553

              mugshot of Paavo the orphaned kitten
The Prophet Muhammed loved cats and he had one called Muezza. Mohammed was so attached to his cat that when he gave sermons he let Muezza rest on his lap and he also drank from water previously drunk by his cat and did his ablutions from the same water the cat had drunk from. Once when he was going for prayer the cat was sleeping on the sleeve of his garment that he wanted to use for praying. Mohammed didn’t want to wake the cat so he cut the sleeve off and left the cat to sleep!
Kismet, Simba and Paavo

The cats in the saudi pet shops don’t get much better treatment either. Owning pets is still quite rare around here. Cats are usually kept in small boxes or cages, most look fatigued, dehydrated, malnourished, dirty and sick. There are a few better pet shops in Riyadh that have slightly better standards of cleanliness and care. Mostly I feel appalled and sick when going into the pet shops though, and that is how I ended up taking two of them home.

Our two older cats are mixed persian and something else from a large pet shop in Riyadh called Life and Nature. They were both kittens at the time I saw them, both infested with ringworm, sick and malnourished. The male was in such bad shape they had hid him in a dark cage all by himself hidden in the back room!  He looked horrible, the hair had fallen off and the skin was full of large ringworm blotches. The cat was so poorly that I thought to myself, I’ve never even seen a street cat that looked this diseased, how is it possible this cat is in a pet shop and hasn’t been treated by their own veterinarian??
Simba was so weak he couldn’t even walk. I could not leave him there, I knew he was going to die. Can you believe the greedy bstards made us PAY to save the cats? They were asking a ridiculous amount (4000sr) to get them out of there (and i thought we’re doing them a favor!) . We ended up agreeing to pay half just so we could get the heck outta there. I now avoid going to Life and Nature because the poor conditions of the animals there make me feel ill.  It took over a month to get rid of the nasty ringworm which is actually a fungal disease. The cats needed to be washed every other day with antifungal shampoo and apply creams daily and wash all bedding and clothing they touched. NEVER take a cat that has ringworm, it’s a terrible disease and so hard to cure.
They are now beautiful and healthy cats.
In addition to them we currently have one orphaned kitten that I rescued from the National Museum park. This kitten was crying out loud and I saw a man kicking it. I went to its rescue and scolded the man. he of course looked at me like I’m a mental patient shouting at him over a dirty street cat. The kitten then started following me, purring he was surprisingly friendly despite just being kicked around. I just couldn’t leave him there so I put him in my bag and took him home to my husbands surprise. I named him Paavo which is a Finnish old name that sounds funny for a kitten.
One occasion we were taking care of a premature kitten that was born at least a week early. It was very weak, hairless and didn’t know how to crawl or suckle yet. Sadly the mother abandoned it. So my husband and I spent all day feeding the kitten every 1-2 hourly. We also needed to take care of its body temperature and elimination so it was very time consuming! Like having a baby I can imagine! I named him Sultan.
Sultan few hours old next to his feeding syringe.
 Sadly Sultan passed away 7 days after his birth :( We were heart broken because we tried our best and felt maybe we did something wrong to cause his sudden death. Sultan was growing so nicely and had started moving, he always slept on our chest. We rushed him to the vet but there was nothing they could do anymore.
If you would like to help adopt a cat in KSA there’s an organization called Saudi Open Paws, you can contact them at  help@openpaws.org

Read more about the organization from American Bedus site:  http://americanbedu.com/2009/11/12/adopt-a-cat-from-saudi-arabia/

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  • SoileJuly 10, 2010 - 7:33 am

    The cats are adorable! I used to let two cats into my flat when I lived there and I also fed the cats outside occasionally.
    It's very sad how they're treated, but it's good that there's people like you who'll rescue them. Just be careful that you don't end up with 50 cats soon ;-)ReplyCancel

  • The Burdened MaryJuly 10, 2010 - 10:40 am

    I must say that this was a very touching post. I am horrified by the treatment of cats here in Riyadh. However, when you go to Makkah, it is a completely different story. Cats seem to be treated there the way the Prophet (SAW) would want them to be treated. Thank you for putting up information about Saudi Paws.ReplyCancel

  • nassimaJuly 10, 2010 - 3:26 pm

    I understand that Cats are not a priority in the Third World. at the same time I don't agree the way how most people here treated cats they let children kick them and torture them as they want. they can ignore them if they do not feel any compassion to them but I cannot bear that they torture them. I have myself 5 cats and I feed many out of my house and especially I leave them some waterReplyCancel

  • Tara Umm OmarJuly 10, 2010 - 8:29 pm

    Asalamu Alaikum, great post Laylah masha'Allah! I posted it to the Open Paws on Facebook. One of the comments so far was, "what about sending this article to the hopital itself…and all those other pest controls in the other hospitals too. and to all those compounds." I think that is a good idea. May Allah reward you for your kindness to animals ameen.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahJuly 11, 2010 - 10:56 am

    @ Soile
    Yes my husband does get worried that someday we will end up having 50 cats in our house :D

    @ Burdened Mary
    That is great news that in Mecca its so different!I changed the title because after what you wrote I felt it's too generalizing to say whole Saudi-Arabia..

    @ Nassima
    welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting, your english is good so don&#39ReplyCancel

  • Tara Umm OmarJuly 11, 2010 - 10:04 pm

    I'm so sorry Laylah. You tried your best to save him, qadrAllah!ReplyCancel

  • The Burdened MaryJuly 13, 2010 - 2:42 pm

    I am sorry to hear about your Sultan :( I am so happy that you tried to save him. Maa Shaa'Allah you did a great thing.ReplyCancel

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