Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 June 2020

How my cats dictate where I move to in Abu Dhabi

Even though I'm looking to go into my fourth apartment in six years, I don't particularly enjoy moving

Evelyn Lau's cats Amy, left, and Georgie. 
Evelyn Lau's cats Amy, left, and Georgie. 

Over budget, not enough space, no parking, not pet-friendly – those are some of the issues I’ve encountered while apartment hunting in Abu Dhabi. I should start by saying that I don’t really like moving, although potentially shifting into a fourth apartment in six years would suggest otherwise. If it weren’t for a maintenance issue in my current unit, I would stay put.

The problem seems to be that the longer I stay in the UAE, the more I find myself realising that I haven’t properly planned for anything long-term. I’ve just bought a new bed frame, my cheap shoe rack has fallen apart more times than I’d like to admit, and even my mattress (which I bought expecting it to be used for maybe two or three years) has started to form a groove in the middle.

It probably doesn’t help that I’ve also accumulated more things as time has gone on. A second-hand couch from a friend, a cat litter box from another, the list goes on. The longer I stay, the more things I collect and the more daunting it makes moving.

I remember a simpler (and a much less cluttered) time. When I arrived in the UAE in 2014, a studio seemed to be the natural choice. It was just the right size for everything I needed. Even when furnishing it, it seemed straightforward enough: a bed, futon and bookshelves were musts, anything else would be extra. After all, it was just me.

I spent three years there and ended up with more than just furniture – I adopted two Arabian Mau rescue cats, who I named Zabeeb and Tiny. And that’s where things get a little more difficult. Some things I could easily get rid of, they could be sold or given away, but the cats are another responsibility – they are for life. Naturally, it seemed my next apartment would have to be bigger, so I looked for an upgrade to a one-bedroom.

Tiny and Zabeeb. Courtesy Evelyn Lau
Tiny and Zabeeb. Courtesy Evelyn Lau

I found a nice, quaint spot in an older building in Khalidiya with views of the corniche. I had an enclosed kitchen, as well as another half-bathroom where I could put litter boxes, essentially turning it into a cat restroom. But with bigger space sometimes comes more responsibility, and I found great use for my closed-off kitchen when I helped rescue another cat that had been dumped on the streets. I called her Amy.

Even though I told my friends and family that I would only foster her for a while, I knew deep down that wouldn’t be the case. As I nursed her back to health, watched her gain weight and curiously move around the apartment discovering new spaces, I knew I would keep her.

I genuinely enjoyed my second apartment. I had wonderful, animal-loving neighbours, my cats seemed happy with the space they had, but I was driven slightly crazy by one aspect of living there: the building didn’t offer any parking. It wasn’t ideal having to drive around looking for a spot. It probably didn’t help that during all of this, I also met Georgie, my fourth rescue cat. His tiny body ran in front of my car one night, so I pulled over and offered him some food. He was friendly with a big fluffy tail, and although he smelt a little funky, I knew I couldn’t just leave him there.

Evelyn's rescue cat Georgie.
Evelyn's rescue cat Georgie.

So this is how I celebrated five years in the UAE. As I looked towards finding a new place, moving two big cat trees, four litter boxes, two couches (after one was given to me by a friend who left the UAE) and other furnishings, I was really hoping to find a place to stay long-term, even if long-term wasn’t originally in the plan (then again, neither was having four cats).

I was hopeful for my flat in the Al Manhal neighbourhood. It was new, it was spacious, they allowed cats and it had a parking spot. An even bigger bonus was the view I had overlooking the newly restored Qasr Al Hosn. The place simply lit up at night. I felt good about my new space. When it came time to renew, I did so without hesitation, but soon after, I started noticing issues my neighbours had asked me about, ones that I didn’t see then, but could see now, mostly with maintenance. It was frustrating and, even though I loved many things about being there, it seemed the best thing to do would be to move yet again.

Evelyn Lau's cats Tiny, Georgie, Zabeeb and Amy. 
Evelyn Lau's cats Tiny, Georgie, Zabeeb and Amy. 

But it’s a decision I no longer have to make alone. Four cats and, maybe more importantly, now with a partner, I feel I’m ready for a bigger space – especially because there’s a fifth rescue cat I’m looking after (temporarily, I swear). Maybe this time, I’ll go for a two-bedroom (one for the cats, naturally), more sturdy furniture and a place that I can finally make feel like home.

Updated: January 16, 2020 07:12 PM

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