x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cat catchers to prowl Dubai streets

Dubai aims to catch and neuter stray cats, to reduce the population, and urges people not to feed them.

DUBAI // Cat catchers are to be dispatched around Dubai to reduce the population of strays. Dubai Municipality is launching the offensive, calling the stray cats a health risk to humans and asking residents not to feed them and to report them so they can be neutered. "Stray cats could be a direct cause for spreading contagious diseases such as rabies and toxoplasma that affects fetus," said an advertisement placed by the municipality in a Dubai newspaper.

Officials promised prizes to the first 500 people to report sightings of strays. Cat catchers with cages will be sent out to trap them when they are reported and sterilise them before release, said Hisham Fahmi, head of the municipality's veterinary section. He said stray cats can spread disease and mar the appearance of Dubai. "The programme is to control the population of these stray cats and stop people from feeding them," Mr Fahmi added. "The special gifts will be a mark of appreciation for helping us."

The municipality launched the campaign with a series of newspaper advertisements urging residents to report strays.. Stray cats are often seen in Dubai residential areas, outside meat stores, fish markets and labour camps. The campaign is part of the municipality's plans to ensure public health and cleanliness in Dubai. "We want to urge residents not to feed these stray cats," said Mr Fahim. "Also, people should use strong plastic bags to dispose of their garbage and puts lids on garbage bins to ensure cats do not eat out of the garbage." He said the problem of stray cats was worst in labour camp areas where workers tended to feed and house strays.

The municipality launched a city-wide cleanliness and health campaign earlier this month, urging residents not to litter or spit in public. Residents of Deira and other areas have frequently complained of garbage and litter piling up in the streets, causing dirt and bad odours. On Monday, the municipality said it had formed a team of officers to issue on-the-spot fines for environmentally harmful offences.

Residents who wish to report stray cats can call Dubai Municipality toll free number: 800900. pmenon@thenational.ae