Row breaks out in luxurious Abu Dhabi development over 'beloved' community cats

Honey and Buster have lived in Al Bandar for five years but the owners' association board wants them removed

A row has broken out in a luxurious UAE waterfront development over the presence of two “beloved” community cats which some residents claim have become a nuisance.

Those who feed Honey and Buster in Al Bandar, in Abu Dhabi's Raha Beach, say the Arabian Maus are loved by many residents in the development.

The "kind and friendly" pair, which have been neutered and are vaccinated against common cat diseases, have lived there for five years.

But the development’s owners’ association board has said they must now go.

It said owners of boats in the nearby marina claim the cats have urinated on the vessels and damaged the upholstery.

The board also said leaving out food for the pets could attract more cats or vermin, among other complaints.

But many in the community oppose the plan vehemently. Some have even formed a WhatsApp group named Operation Bandar Cats to fight their removal.

They say relocating the cats to another area would be cruel as Bandar is their home and a move may endanger their lives.

Ana Stojchevska, who has lived in Al Bandar for about three years, said the cats are "more of a permanent fixture than many expats".

"A man on the top floor of our building fed them for five years. When he left Abu Dhabi he passed the duty on. He bought them a bumper box of food as a leaving gift," said the 26 year old from Macedonia.

"We don’t think of them as strays, they are our pets who live outside. They’ve been sterilised and vaccinated by the community, by people who care."

She said the cats bring the community together, and she has met everyone she knows in the development through feeding and looking after them.

“We feel like they are part of our family. You can stroke them. They are super friendly,” said Brigitte Steyn, a resident and owner in Al Bandar, who said the cats are fed discretely in the bushes and the area is kept clean and tidy.

Her husband, Sean, 44, said the cats are docile and are loved by the children in the community, who pet them frequently.

"They are super friendly and always around. It's very sad," said Mr Steyn, from South Africa.

"The problem is, if you remove them other cats will just move in. All along the boardwalk here there are cats.

Buster, a stray cat that lives on the grounds of Al Bandar community, at Al Raha Beach. Khushnum Bhandari/ The National

"It's a problem caused by people who come into the country, get animals for their children and as soon as they leave the country they just toss them out, because they are not willing to pay money to take them back home."

The group wrote to the board to ask them to reconsider the plan to relocate the cats.

“They had a revote – and still decided that they were not willing to accommodate these special community cats that really have been around for such a long time," said Ms Steyn, 39, also from South Africa.

Board members also rejected a plan to install a proper feeding station for the pair, like those in other Provis-managed communities, she said.

“Our hearts are broken. We do not want them to move, so many people are frustrated and disappointed," Ms Steyn said.

Bandar resident Belinda Kirk, 33, from the UK, said the group was committed to providing the community's "beloved" cats with food, water and care in an area away from foot traffic.

Bandar resident Richard Allen, 48, from the UK, said the board had no right to vote on their removal.

“We are scared that once captured the poor cats will be euthanised," he said. "They deserve better.”

The National contacted the owners' association board but did not receive a comment.

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Updated: September 03, 2021, 3:00 AM
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