x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kidnapping: cheaper than the average pet store

When news came that the adorable kitten that hung around our office might be picked up by the city for extermination, I kidnapped him.

When news came that the adorable kitten that hung around our office might be picked up by the city for extermination, I kidnapped him. In February 2008, I borrowed a carrier from a friend, picked him up and popped him in it. The poor thing had no idea what was going on. He was had no idea his new name was Rory. We immediately headed to my prearranged appointment at the vet to ensure that he was not seriously ill, and to get him started with much-needed vaccinations. This kidnapping might seem like an extreme measure to gain a pet. But, in truth, there are thousands of other street cats and dogs that need proper care in the UAE. Rather than spend thousands of dirhams purchasing an animal from a pet store, why not shell out a fraction of that and help out the country's veterinary clinics and shelters? The veterinarian I took "my" cat to checked him for feline AIDS, which is very common here in street cats. It cannot be transmitted to people, so I would be safe, but it might have meant higher medical bills in the future, and the cat's eventual demise. I noticed I was holding my breath as the vet announced the results of the test. He was safe. In fact, he was amazingly healthy for an animal that had spent most of his life scrounging in garbage cans for food. Getting him in tip top health cost over Dh2,000. The consultation was Dh169, the first round of shots was Dh415, and a microchip, necessary to export the cat to some countries, was Dh162. Over the next year I would pay Dh830 for the rest of his shots and Dh519 to have him neutered. In addition, I had to buy a litter tray, food and water dishes and a scratching post. While you could easily get away with paying less than Dh100 for all of this, I spent much more than that. How much more I won't divulge, but suffice to say that I drove all the way to Dubai to get a custom-made, 6-foot-tall scratching post that set me back Dh800. The cat and I were very happy together, and I had no plans to adopt another one. About four months later I met with a veterinarian to write a story about Feline Friends, a charity that helps find homes for stray cats, and fell in love with a cat at the clinic. She had green eyes and a bad attitude. When she was let out of the cage she tore around the office, exhibiting a high level of energy. I was sure this specimen would get along perfectly with my first adoptee. After filling out the paperwork, I took Jane, my new cat, home for a donation of Dh450. She was already spayed, and had been tagged through the ear. With one round of shots left to go, her medical bills totalled Dh865 - much less than the costs for the first cat. Because I already had all the accoutrements I needed, I didn't need to buy anything else. I expected the new "siblings" to hate each other at first, and they did. After about a week, however, they settled into a weary truce, and a week later they began to play properly. Although the second cat from Feline Friends was much cheaper, saving the first from certain death was rewarding in other ways. (For more information about adoption, log onto Feline Friends at felinefriendsuae.com, or call 050 582 2916.) amcmeans@thenational.ae