x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Cats rescued from demolished labour camp find home

More than 100 cats who were going to be abandoned when the labour camp where they lived was demolished are settling in to a new home in Mussafah.

Kazi Abu Taleb Mafizullah takes care of the stray cats at a makeshift pen in Musaffah.
Kazi Abu Taleb Mafizullah takes care of the stray cats at a makeshift pen in Musaffah.

MUSAFFAH // The 100 or so cats rescued recently from a demolished labour camp seem to be adjusting well to their new home inside an old plant nursery off the main motorway.

Purring, meowing, and, on occasion, hissing, they appear very content within the confines of several pens.

For the most part they are thriving after being rescued almost three weeks ago by Abu Dhabi Municipality before the nearby labour camp they had adopted as their home - encouraged by labourers who fed them - was pulled down. The efforts were part of the Executive Council's no-kill policy, put into effect earlier this year to stop healthy stray animals from being euthanised.

"The Musaffah labour camps cats 'could have been' disaster has been transformed into a first-time real success animal welfare story in the UAE," said Ghada Bahsoun, an adviser to the council. In four weeks, after they are used to their new home, the cats will be let out to roam free - although they will still receive food, she said.

Feline Friends Abu Dhabi, the Al Rahma Society, Eagle Environmental Services and Pest Control, the Centre for Waste Management, and the Falcon Hospital have all supported the enclosure, built for the cats from the labour camp.

While the first camp has been a success, the hope is that the project can be expanded to deal with some of Abu Dhabi's other labour camp pets, said Pam Greer, the education co-ordinator for Feline Friends Abu Dhabi.

"We need to find out how many labour camps there are with cats, and how many cats there are," she said. "We need a timeline of when the camps are coming down, and how many cats pest control can trap and manage on daily basis."

Her views were echoed by Ms Bahsoun, who said that the council should continue to work with community groups to expand the programme. The strays issue in Abu Dhabi has improved by "leaps and bounds" in the past three years, said Mrs Greer.

"It's a much better situation for these cats now in Abu Dhabi, and it'll only get better because there's commitment to make it better from a bunch of levels," added Mrs Greer.

Raghad Auttabashi, a 30-year-old from Syria a volunteer for the Al Rahma Society, spotted the location during a trip to the labour camp before the demolition.

"It was a spacious place, there was grass, there were trees and the first thing that came to my mind were the cats," she said.

Lori Fantozzi, a 50-year-old American expatriate and Feline Friends volunteer, has been to the centre almost every morning over the past few weeks to feed and monitor the animals.

"I think their eyes are opening to the extent of the situation," she said. "As far as the shelter goes, the enclosure, I think, is a great idea."

The majority have survived but one of three kittens died, said Mrs Fantozzi.

zalhassani@thenational.ae