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Cat Corner Stories - Part I

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

Slovenian born Misha moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in November 2019. In her first week there, she noticed how many stray cats there are outside. One cannot walk any street and not see a cat (or a whole gang) passing by or sitting around the trash bin.

She didn't have the heart not to bring them food and water. She saw some other people doing it too in the nearby park, but she saw the difference, compared to her own residential neighborhood... They only had leftover rice and unhealthy seasoned meat leftovers and what they could dig out from the trash. So Misha started buying dry cat food. And she recycled plastic containers from the supermarket deli for water stations.

After a few months, she realized this was leading to a disaster, seeing a few pregnant females joining the meals. She started looking into spaying procedures in veterinary clinics, but the prices were too high for her budget. Misha connected with some other local cat people online, mostly rescuers.

All this time, it was paining her, that she couldn't take any of the cats in, on account of being unsure how to later export the cat (it is a long and complicated process to bring a cat to the EU, where she knew she would move with her partner someday), and later, her husband's allergies started acting up, when he was around the cats more, joining her sometimes for feeding.

She was determined to help her strays in any other way, seeing that adopters are extremely hard to find. She was connected with a private veterinarian, who did neutering procedures for low cost. She asked a few of her Insta followers (back in spring 2021, there were less than 500) to donate and she did cover a couple of cats with the help of her Insta followers.

Back then, Misha thought she could do 10, maybe 20 cats, and be done with it. She just wanted to spare her beloved strays from further suffering, that waited for her every single day for feeding.

It was a challenge to get the appointments, as her new veterinarian liaison had been so busy helping so many others.

By September 2021, Misha reached the number 20. Twenty cats fixed. But she didn't see the finish line. Kittens from the pregnant mommas were growing up, and some outsider cats were coming in her perimeter.

It also happened, that she had to face abandoned cats. Later it turned out to be the same household, dumping their cats on her, seeing she would take care of them. Misha approached the head of the family many times, offering help by spaying their females first and then the rest... It lead nowhere, and after all this time, the dumping continued. She fixed approximately 15 cats from their apartment, and she doesn't know how many they may still have inside, reproducing. There is no law in place that would really punish them, without risking the lives of all the strays in that street. Gulf countries made it a common practice to remove stray animals from any area where the complaint comes from, but those animals are not TNR-ed (Trap-Neuter-Return) or euthanized, they are relocated to the desert, where hunger and predators await.

Ever since she started with TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), she decided to use carriers instead of traps for trapping. She was somehow nervous about using a trap, thinking she would mess it up. She also knew, that her strays were socialized enough to be trained for going in the carriers, and she was right. For the first year she only used carriers. Misha wished she had started filming the process sooner, since it's making such a splash online in the past few months.

Only after she caught all the "easy" ones, she realized she needed a trap for a few challenging feral strays. She filmed that as well.

But the trapping into carriers caused her nickname to stick — TNR ninja. Patiently waiting by the carrier for the target to go in, and then pushing their buts with one hand and closing the door with the other. Sometimes they go deep enough on their own, so all there is left to do for her is be quiet enough not to spook them and close the door.

So in the beginning, she paid for the procedure for a few cats, but then the private veterinarian, she was fortunate to meet and befriend, refused to take any payment after some time.

She would never have been able to help this many cats if this vet friend was not put in her path. She feels extremely lucky and so are the strays she was able to trap and bring to her vet friend for the procedures.

This past summer however, Misha’s friend the veterinarian got injured and she couldn't perform surgeries for some time. Misha had to seek an alternative elsewhere and she managed to find another private veterinarian who charges the lowest price in all of Jeddah, but still, it's not a small sum, when you have to fix more than 5 or 6 or 7 cats... She asked her followers (at this time there were close to 2000) again, and they delivered. A few of them donated enough to cover the majority of costs and she will be forever grateful to them. She can only repay them with a thank you and by continuing her efforts in TNR.

Just recently she had another TNR day, catching 2 cats into carriers and 1 into a trap. Her TNR number is now 77. Which isn't an impressive number to some trappers, especially in the West, where there is common practice to fix an entire colony of 20+ cats all at once. In Jeddah there is a significant lack of resources and zero affordable clinics. There is still need for the authorities to recognize TNR as the only humane option for controlling the overpopulation of stray cats (and dogs) in urban areas. There are only a couple of small (official) shelters, but as she often says: "We cannot adopt way out of this."

check more about TNR on wiki (Trap-Neuter-Return)

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