Pet cats in Abu Dhabi being rounded up by pest control companies, vet says

Trap, neuter and release programme vet says about 50 cat owners have said their pets have disappeared in recent weeks.

Maria Jimenez feeds Panya and Big Red, two stray cat that Palm Jumeirah’s community feeds. Reem Mohammed / The National
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ABU DHABI // Pet owners are being advised to keep an eye on their cats and to get them microchipped after claims that a number of animals have been mistaken for strays and rounded up by pest-control services.

Warnings have been issued by animal welfare groups in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In the capital owners have desperately been calling around more than 70 pest controllers to try to trace their beloved pets.

Several incidents were reported to vet Dr Susan Aylott, who runs a trap, neuter and release programme in Abu Dhabi in an attempt to control the numbers of strays in the city and on Lulu Island.

“The issue we have is that pest control companies appear to be taking pet cats away and relocating them to other areas in Abu Dhabi,” said Dr Aylott, who volunteers her services for Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi.

“The municipality teams seem to struggle to tell the difference.

“Even though they have collars on, the cats are still being taken away. A lot of owners are up in arms about this.”

Dr Aylott is planning a visit to labour camps around Abu Dhabi with 50 owners who said their pets had disappeared in recent weeks.

Abu Dhabi Municipality outsources its pest-control services, making it difficult for owners to work out which company has been taking pets off the streets.

There is a similar situation in Dubai, on the Palm Jumeirah, where a group of stray cats that were given collars and regularly fed by residents are also vanishing overnight.

One pet rescue volunteer in Dubai, who did not want to be identified, advised owners to keep their cats inside after reports that strays were seen being dumped in basement bins.

“It’s a well-known secret that pest-control companies release cats in the desert,” she said.

The Palm Jumeirah Cat Community is raising money to microchip, neuter, vaccinate, de-worm, collar and tag the cats, which live in Al Ittihad Park on the island.

Many are concerned that may not be enough to save them from cat catchers working for the municipality and Palm developer Nakheel.

Feeders from the community have raised thousands of dirhams to care for each of the 15 cats living in the park at a cost of Dh750 per animal (for neutering, vaccinations, microchipping and treatment of injuries).

“Our concern is that people will start dumping their animals here on the Palm and make the problem worse,” said Christine Vealle, who leads the volunteer feeders on The Palm.

“Nakheel will allow us to continue our work in the park but there is active trapping on The Fronds.”

Most residents are happy with the park programme but some believe it is having a negative impact on the local bird population and is increasing litter.

Volunteers from the cat community group want to have permanent feeding stations set up on the island.

They are appealing for Nakheel to follow the lead of developers Emaar at Arabian Ranches, which supports volunteers helping stray cats there by contributing to the cost of treating minor injuries.