Regular readers of this section will be aware that the issue of stray cats here in Dubai is one that won’t go away, keeping animal rescue organisations and their volunteers constantly busy. Residents across the city will be familiar with the sight of a tabby napping on the roof of a car or the shrieks of a clowder of cats fighting behind dustbins. Some cat-lovers will find the sight of strays on the street heartbreaking. Non-profit organisation the Animal Project (formerly and still sometimes known as Friends of Animals DXB) is rolling out its Trap Neuter and Release (TNR) scheme in a long-term bid to manage the number of strays on the street.
As the name of the programme suggests, street cats are professionally trapped and taken to a clinic where they are neutered and then released back to the same patch they were picked up from.
Montserrat Martin, founder of The Animals Project, is a strong advocate of the TNR scheme as being a humane way to control numbers. ‘It’s not a new idea but people who have been looking at how to reduce the numbers of strays have found that this is the most effective method, because if we go to an area and clear out all the strays we create a vacuum, and within six months, more cats from other areas will come in, especially if there is a source of food available.
The Animal Project has been working to keep Dubai’s street cat population under control for seven years and often finds that problems occur in more densely populated parts of town, and in villa communities where residents feed strays. But Martin says it’s vital that the city’s cats are able to fend for themselves and do not rely on humans for food. ‘We feed animals because we feel sorry for them. Seeing them without food breaks our hearts. But it’s best not to feed them on a daily basis. And if you do, it should be at different times and in different areas, otherwise they become dependent.’
The TNR scheme sees veterinary clinics, charities and residents work together to make it a success. At present, it is funded by donations and from the proceeds of book sales and other community events. It costs between Dhs130 and Dhs280 to neuter a cat, which Martin passionately feels is a small price to pay, especially if communities club together to raise it. ‘We spend more than that on dinner,’ she says.
‘Without the community we go nowhere and the animals suffer, and that doesn’t match the view of the country. We can all do something about it.’
Vets offer a discount on neutering for the programme and Martin says that if residents find a clowder in their area they should get in touch to arrange for a TNR to take place.
Martin asserts that animal organisations do not want to relocate and house every feral feline, but will help those most in need of a home or protection. ‘Some street cats have been fed by people for years, but they haven’t been sterilised, so the females give birth.
‘Kittens are extremely friendly, but they are vulnerable, and we know they’ll die on the street, so it’s better for us to try and rehouse them,’ she says. ‘So if you want to help the cats, sterilise sterilise and sterilise.’
To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. www.friendsofanimalsdxb.com.
More organisations that help strays
Bin Kitty Collective
This forum operates mainly on Facebook and supports people who want to help stray or injured cats by offering advice, connecting people with vets that offer trap neuter and release schemes, and hosting adoption days.