A quick guide to helping street cats in the UAE

On World Animal Day, we put together a quick Q&A guide on how you can do your part to improve the life of a stray cat in the UAE

A cat welcomes workers Eagle, tan environmental services and pest control company, take care of about 95 stray adult cats and kittens, at a makeshift pen in Mussafah, Monday evening, June 20, 2011. The felines, collected from few different labor camps, will stay in the society's care for about a month, getting used to the area, after which they will be released there. (Silvia Razgova / The National)
Powered by automated translation

October 4 is World Animal Day. It’s a day that is dedicated to celebrating animal rights and welfare.

According to the official World Animal Day website, the day is "to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe. Building the celebration of World Animal Day unites the animal welfare movement, mobilising it into a global force to make the world a better place for all animals.”

With the amount of work animal welfare groups put into helping animals, we put together a quick Q&A guide on how you can do your part in helping improve the life of a stray cat in the UAE.

I feed a large group of cats around my house and workplace. What else can I do to help them?

Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough homes for all the cats on the streets. So sometimes, the best thing to do is just give it water and food every other day or so. They shouldn't be fed every day. Also, if you can afford to do so, spay or neuter the animal first and then return it to the original location also known as TNR (trap, neuter and return). TNR will help greatly to decrease the population of cats on the streets, while also ensuring a more peaceful colony.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says on its website: “TNR has been shown to be the least costly and the most humane and efficient way of stabilising community cat populations. TNR helps stabilise the population of community colonies and, over time, reduces them. Nuisance behaviors such as spraying, excessive noise-making and fighting are largely eliminated and no additional kittens are born.”

Can I leave milk out for a stray kitten or cat?

June 15, 2010 / Abu Dhabi / (Rich-Joseph Facun / The National) A stray cat has a taste of milk in the Al Najda neighborhood, Wednesday, June 15, 2010 in Abu Dhabi.
Milk can upset the stomach of cats. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

No, it’s better to leave just water. Milk has no nutritional value for the animals and can actually cause more issues especially if given to a kitten. Cats tend to have an intolerance to the enzymes in milk, which can cause diarrhoea or an upset stomach.

What should I do if I come across newborn kittens?

While it’s tempting to want to take them home, the best thing to do is simply to watch and wait to assess the situation. According to the NYC Feral Cat Initiative: “During high kitten [season], it’s not unusual to discover unattended kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned by the mother. Before jumping to the rescue, consider these recommendations. It’s possible the mother is off searching for food, or is in the process of moving them to a different location. Try to determine if the mother is coming back for them, or if they are truly orphaned.

To do this, stand far away from the kittens — 35 feet or more. If you stand too close, the mom will not approach her kittens. You might need to go away completely before the mother cat will return to attend to the kittens. It might be several hours before the mother cat returns — until she no longer senses the presence of humans hovering near her litter.

The mother cat is their best chance for survival, so wait and watch as long as you can. The best food for the kittens is their mother’s milk. Remove the kittens only if they are in immediate, grave danger.”

May 24, 2011, Mussafah, UAE:

At one of the last remaining labor housing areas(the houses are being destroyed and the laborers are being forced to move into camps) at least 75 cats are being cared for by a group of men. As of tomorrow morning this house will be estroyed and the cats will have no one to feed them. 

One of the many kittens being cared for by the laborers.

Lee Hoagland/The National
Mother cats may leave their kittens unattended for hours at a time. Lee Hoagland / The National

What should I do if there’s no mother cat around?

If this is the case, a decision will need to be made about what to do. But this is something that needs to be completed all the way through and can be daunting, because very young kittens will need to feed every two hours, around the clock, to ensure their survival.

The NYC Feral Cat Initiative adds: “If you discover that mom has been hit by a car, or if for any reason it appears that she is not coming back, then you should remove the kittens. This is crucial to the kittens’ survival. But you must be prepared to see this project through to weaning if you decide to intervene. If you take the kittens in, it is unlikely that you will find an organisation with available staff or volunteers to take on bottle-feeding on short notice. Some organisations do have experienced bottle-feeders, but prior logistical planning is necessary. Animal shelters and veterinarians generally do not take in newborn kittens, since they do not have the staff to feed and stimulate them for elimination round-the-clock.”

Can I catch anything from a stray cat?

For the most part, no. Assuming you are a hygienic person, there’s no need to worry about catching any diseases from a stray cat. The only really transferable thing is ringworm and that is treatable through a cream or a pill. Toxoplasmosis is also often brought up, but rarely comes from a cat. According to the Centre for Disease Control, people are more likely to catch it from under-cooked, contaminated meat than a stray cat.

The tip of a cat’s ear is cut. What does this mean?

It’s a sign that a street cat has already been spayed or neutered. Usually it is a visual way of ensuring they get don’t trapped and resubmitted for sterilisation.

I’ve come across a stray cat, but I can’t take it home. What should I do?

If the cat is in a safe area and seems happy, the best thing to do is leave it some water, but check again for an ear tip to see if it’s been neutered or spayed already. If not, TNR if you can. Most short-haired cats can survive staying outdoors in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi, UAE - December 24, 2008 - Stray cat at the Cultural Foundation. (Nicole Hill / The National)  ***FOR OASIS QUIZ PROJECT***  *** Local Caption ***  NH OasisQuiz13.jpgNH OasisQuiz13.jpg
Not every stray cat needs a home. Nicole Hill / The National

However, if the area is not safe or the cat appears to be dumped (especially if it was once a pet), there are only two options: looking for a home, or adopting. Relocation is generally a last option for strays because of the potential danger posed to them when moved to a new site.

Feral Cats Ireland states on its website: “Feral cats by nature tend to be very territorial with a strong bond to their original home and if relocated, may try to find their way back, often unsuccessfully.  The cats should remain where they are if at all possible.  They know where there is food, shelter and what the dangers are.”

Whom can I call to assist with an injured cat?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one set number or group in the country to call that can assist with injured animals. Most organisations are self-funded and run by volunteers and others may lack the proper resources. The best thing to do is be proactive in such circumstances.

Phil Grange from the Bin Kitty Collective says: “There is no third party you can call. A person may post on our page asking for assistance (which is often given) or take personal responsibility and get the cat to a vet clinic themselves.”

Are there any animal welfare groups I can get in touch with to help?

There are many that often look for volunteers or other types of assistance. They include:

Assistance can also be found in the form of Facebook groups. They help to bring like-minded individuals together to assist in animal welfare. Check out The Bin Kitty Collective, Strays of Abu Dhabi, Save Dubai stray cats, New Life Rescue, Ajman strays, Cats & Dogs of Sharjah, RAK Feline Rescues, MEAF (SharjahAjmanUAQ) and Fujairah Animal Rescue.

I would like to adopt a cat or dog. Where can I go for this?

The Bin Kitty Collective holds an adoption day every Friday at the Dubai Garden Centre (SZR) from 11am to 3.30pm. Once a month, there is also an adoption day at Cloud9 Pet Hotel in Abu Dhabi, usually on a Friday from 12pm-4pm. The Facebook pages mentioned above may also have an adoption section where they post for cats and dogs looking for a good home.


Read more: