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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 January 2019

Portrait of a Nation: The DJ on track to save Dubai's stray cats

One in three stray cats can be adopted according to animal welfare champion Fawaz Kanaan

Fawaz Kanaan is on a mission to rescue Dubai's stray cat population. Victor Besa / The National
Fawaz Kanaan is on a mission to rescue Dubai's stray cat population. Victor Besa / The National

A rock DJ by night, Fawaz Kanaan swaps laying down beats for saving cats from the streets by day.

And finding new homes for an army of feline friends is music to the ears of the animal welfare champion.

The 38-year-old Syrian has spent 18 years dedicated to the cause of rescuing Dubai's stray cats.

Mr Kanaan, who works as an events manager as well, has set up his own group to highlight the plight of needy animals, Save Dubai Stray Cats, which has amassed more than 5,000 followers on Facebook.

The number of stray cats on the streets is a major issue in the emirate and remains one of the most common complaints received by Dubai Municipality.

While for some the number of cats roaming the streets may be a nuisance, Mr Kanaan is eager to give them a better future.

“I started feeding stray cats in 2001 when I saw loads of them around my building,” Mr Kanaan said.

“I quickly realised that many of them were sick and urgently needed treatment or they wouldn’t survive.”

Mr Kanaan began lifting the cats from the street and bringing them to the vets to receive treatment.

He has issued a pet plea to that members of the public to do the same - or else the issue will never be resolved.

“There are so many strays here because there is no population control like in other countries,” he said.

“There is a trap-neuter-return (TNR) system available but here you have to pay for it in clinics unlike in other parts of the world, where it is free.”

Mr Kanaan said he had been in constant discussion with Dubai Municipality, about being able to provide free care for stray cats, but that no system had been adopted yet.

“I am an animal lover in general, when I moved here for the first time though I couldn’t help but be moved by the sheer number of stray cats on the streets.

“It is not easy for animals to survive here in such extreme heat without access to food and water.”

Mr Kanann says he rescues two to three cats each day.

“I have three pets of my own and currently I am fostering another four cats.

“They were abandoned on the street by their previous owners.”

He said the biggest challenge he faced was finding a new home for the stray cats.

“One in three abandoned cats can be adopted,” he said.

“There are members of the Save Dubai Stray Cats group who are currently fostering cats until they can be adopted. They are keeping them in their bathrooms, or other separate rooms, in their homes.”

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His advice to anyone considering to adopt a cat was to make sure it was fully vaccinated and microchipped.

“Once the cat has been chipped it means the vet has all the details of the owner and can contact them.”

He added there were many reasons why people abandoned their cats in Dubai but some were more common than others.

“Some people are not all that serious about adopting cats and they have an attitude of ‘I just want to try this animal out for a few months to see how it goes’.

“Sometimes when a cat gets a bit older their owners don’t seem them as cute kittens anymore so they abandon them.

“Another major reason is that they aren’t prepared to pay for medical treatment, if the animal gets ill, or they are leaving the country and don’t want to pay to transport the cat as, so they just dump them in the streets.”

Mr Kanaan said that his group had helped to transport 12 stray cats from the streets of Dubai to other countries, across the world, this year.

Those countries included Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Poland and the USA.

He urged the public to heed one other piece of advice as well.

“If someone sees a sick cat on the street, and doesn’t know what to do, just pick it up and take it to a vet clinic,” he said.

“They will be able to scan for a microchip there and possibly track the owners if the cat has run away from home.”

Updated: January 3, 2019 02:20 PM

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