How my cats dictate where I move to in Abu Dhabi

Even though I'm looking to go into my fourth apartment in six years, I don't particularly enjoy moving

Evelyn Lau's cats Amy, left, and Georgie. 
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Over budget, not enough space, no parking, not pet-friendly – those are some of the issues I’ve encountered while apartment hunting in Abu Dhabi. I should start by saying that I don’t really like moving, although potentially shifting into a fourth apartment in six years would suggest otherwise. If it weren’t for a maintenance issue in my current unit, I would stay put.

The problem seems to be that the longer I stay in the UAE, the more I find myself realising that I haven’t properly planned for anything long-term. I’ve just bought a new bed frame, my cheap shoe rack has fallen apart more times than I’d like to admit, and even my mattress (which I bought expecting it to be used for maybe two or three years) has started to form a groove in the middle.

It probably doesn’t help that I’ve also accumulated more things as time has gone on. A second-hand couch from a friend, a cat litter box from another, the list goes on. The longer I stay, the more things I collect and the more daunting it makes moving.

I remember a simpler (and a much less cluttered) time. When I arrived in the UAE in 2014, a studio seemed to be the natural choice. It was just the right size for everything I needed. Even when furnishing it, it seemed straightforward enough: a bed, futon and bookshelves were musts, anything else would be extra. After all, it was just me.

I spent three years there and ended up with more than just furniture – I adopted two Arabian Mau rescue cats, who I named Zabeeb and Tiny. And that's where things get a little more difficult. Some things I could easily get rid of, they could be sold or given away, but the cats are another responsibility – they are for life. Naturally, it seemed my next apartment would have to be bigger, so I looked for an upgrade to a one-bedroom. 

Tiny and Zabeeb. Courtesy Evelyn Lau

I found a nice, quaint spot in an older building in Khalidiya with views of the corniche. I had an enclosed kitchen, as well as another half-bathroom where I could put litter boxes, essentially turning it into a cat restroom. But with bigger space sometimes comes more responsibility, and I found great use for my closed-off kitchen when I helped rescue another cat that had been dumped on the streets. I called her Amy.

Even though I told my friends and family that I would only foster her for a while, I knew deep down that wouldn't be the case. As I nursed her back to health, watched her gain weight and curiously move around the apartment discovering new spaces, I knew I would keep her.

I genuinely enjoyed my second apartment. I had wonderful, animal-loving neighbours, my cats seemed happy with the space they had, but I was driven slightly crazy by one aspect of living there: the building didn't offer any parking. It wasn't ideal having to drive around looking for a spot. It probably didn't help that during all of this, I also met Georgie, my fourth rescue cat. His tiny body ran in front of my car one night, so I pulled over and offered him some food. He was friendly with a big fluffy tail, and although he smelt a little funky, I knew I couldn't just leave him there.

Evelyn's rescue cat Georgie.

So this is how I celebrated five years in the UAE. As I looked towards finding a new place, moving two big cat trees, four litter boxes, two couches (after one was given to me by a friend who left the UAE) and other furnishings, I was really hoping to find a place to stay long-term, even if long-term wasn't originally in the plan (then again, neither was having four cats).

I was hopeful for my flat in the Al Manhal neighbourhood. It was new, it was spacious, they allowed cats and it had a parking spot. An even bigger bonus was the view I had overlooking the newly restored Qasr Al Hosn. The place simply lit up at night. I felt good about my new space. When it came time to renew, I did so without hesitation, but soon after, I started noticing issues my neighbours had asked me about, ones that I didn’t see then, but could see now, mostly with maintenance. It was frustrating and, even though I loved many things about being there, it seemed the best thing to do would be to move yet again.

Evelyn Lau's cats Tiny, Georgie, Zabeeb and Amy. 

But it’s a decision I no longer have to make alone. Four cats and, maybe more importantly, now with a partner, I feel I’m ready for a bigger space – especially because there’s a fifth rescue cat I’m looking after (temporarily, I swear). Maybe this time, I’ll go for a two-bedroom (one for the cats, naturally), more sturdy furniture and a place that I can finally make feel like home.