Onsite clinic needed to manage feral cats on Abu Dhabi island, volunteers say

The island has become a dumping ground for unwanted domestic cats, who are breeding with feral inhabitants to swell numbers beyond control.

Feral cats eat food donated by Animal Welfare AD on Lulu Island in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National, file
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ABU DHABI // Volunteers working to control growing numbers of feral cats on Lulu Island aim to step up existing sterilisation programmes as current efforts are proving ineffective.

The island has become a dumping ground for unwanted domestic cats that are breeding with feral inhabitants to swell numbers beyond control.

The Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi group has set up feeding stations on the island, and incorporated the area into its municipality backed trap, neuter and release programme.

But with numbers estimated to be approaching the 200 mark, and less than half believed to be sterilised, those numbers are likely to continue spiralling upwards.

The group is now seeking a letter of no objection from veterinary authorities and Abu Dhabi Municipality to go ahead with plans to establish a permanent field clinic on the island to keep track of new arrivals and control existing cats.

“We have 13 vets who are willing to give up their time to work at a clinic on the island to monitor and treat the cats,” said Dr Susan Aylott, a spokesman for the AWAD group.

“This project would be a first for the UAE and give us a good indication of colony habits and disease to help control other areas of the country with high density cat populations in a humane manner.”

A colony is defined as a group of three or more sexually mature cats living and feeding in close proximity.

The term is usually used to describe unowned or semi-owned cats. A managed colony, such as Lulu Island, is a group of roaming cats that is controlled by a TNR programme or similar approach.

Although difficult to sterilise 100 per cent of female cats on the island, Dr Aylott said a clinic would go some way towards controlling numbers. Male cats can also then be neutered to reduce fighting, reproducing and spraying, leading to less contamination of the environment with urine.

A recent report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said 92 per cent of females in a colony would need to be sterilised for any programme to be effective.

“We are promoting a brighter future for everyone in the UAE, and that should include the care of animals,” Dr Aylott added.

“This is another thing where we need to be sure animal welfare is observed, as the numbers of cats on Lulu Island are getting out of hand.

“The TNR is not effective using the methods we have at the moment.”

Eve, a German living in Abu Dhabi, has been giving up her spare time to help feed and care for the Lulu Island cats since last summer.

“I found out about the work of AWAD and what it was doing to help the cats on Lulu,” she said. “I try and fit the trips to the island around my work schedule. It’s a nice spot, a beautiful, hidden island. The cats have no access to fresh water and only limited food. They are only surviving because of the work of Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi. To sterilise the cats, we have to take them from the island to vets elsewhere in the city, so it isn’t easy.”

The logistics of taking cats from the island to vets in the city is unworkable so “a field clinic on the island would make it much easier”.

“It would be a good starting point to see if it is a success, so it could be tried elsewhere in the city,” she said.

“We know that TNR is not doing enough to control the numbers of cats from growing. Field clinics are more efficient and will eventually be cheaper than catching each cat and transporting it to a vet.

It is a brilliant idea, so hopefully it goes through.”