x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Responsible pet ownership

Moving with a cat in mind, the aim is to find a garden for him to be a cat in.

Now, I know I wouldn't want to come face to face with a lion, but when I read the story in our newspaper last Sunday about the rescued young lions in Al Ain, my heart sank.

The tawny lions, brother and sister, had been brought to Al Ain Zoo after being rescued by officers from the Ministry of Water and Environment.

The details weren't entirely clear. What was clear was that the two cubs - each under two years old - had been horrifically mistreated, their claws removed and teeth filed down, exposing the pulp and causing infection in the bone.

Why would someone do this? To keep them as pets? What love could you expect from an animal that you have hobbled like this? Almost as pertinent a question is how could someone willingly inflict this extended pain on another creature, human or animal?

In a larger sense, what is upsetting about the story is the fact that, having flown a specialist, Gerhard Steenkamp, over from South Africa to deal with the lions' condition, one of the vets at Al Ain Zoo, Dr Arshad Toosy, said that he has seen no sign of the number of exotic pets in the country going down.

What I find hard to understand is how the leap in logic occurs between being an animal lover and actually wanting to own a lion. Taking my cat (something of a wild animal in itself, being a lively Arabian Mau) to the vet one day, I learnt from the receptionist that most of the cheetahs they see there are malnourished and die prematurely because their diet is so specialised; and when not properly trained are extremely dangerous. The cheetah found wandering the streets of Karamah with a broken paw this week could, without its injury, have taken a person down as easily as it would take an oryx.

It's not just big cats: one friend told me that, walking along the Corniche one day, she saw a man with a monkey on a lead.

Cute? Maybe.

Dignified? Definitely not.

My own cat, rescued with its siblings as a starving kitten after being abandoned by its mother, lives with me in an Abu Dhabi apartment on the 17th floor, and I know in my heart this is wrong. When I move at the end of the month, I will find a place with a garden. He'll be able to kill birds, chase mice and generally be the Platonic ideal of a cat. His life might be shorter, but at least it will be a cat's life.

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