Friday, July 9, 2010

Riyadh's forgotten cats

There is an abundance of stray cats roaming the streets and compounds of Riyadh. In general they get treated like pests which I find a disgrace for an Islamic country. Islam teaches Muslims to treat cats well and that the cat is a creature to be cherished and loved.

In the hospital compound area I live in there are plenty of strays around. The compound is for female employees only, with around 700 nurses living inside. According to the policy of the hospital cats are not allowed inside the apartments and feeding them is prohibited and punishable.

Sadly the hospital seems to view these cats as PESTS that they must get rid of. I've heard that in the past the pest control people captured alot of the cats and took them to the desert and left them to die. Just awful! Actually who do these cats bother so much that they have to be killed I wonder? They might jump into trash cans to find food, but they wouldn't be doing that in the first place if nurses weren't so afraid of feeding them in fear of being punished.

Despite this a few female nurses take care and feed the stray cats on the compound and some have let them inside their flats too. These women also carried out a project that took all the strays they were able to catch to the vet to be vaccinated, dewormed and spayed or neutered. Mashallah they did a tremendous amount of work to make these cats lives easier. Regardless of their efforts hospital pest control issued a warning that the cats will be killed.
One nurse then decided to ship over 20 cats to United Kingdom to save them from being killed. She managed and now the compound has much less cats. But surely more will come, there are plenty behind the walls of the compound.

You would think that in a country that everything is (supposedly) based on Shariah and teachings of Islam, that cats would be treated with kindness. Viewing them as pests and issuing warnings not to feed them and threatening violators with punishments is just sickening to me. What is wrong with helping them out?
Mistreating a cat is regarded as a severe sin in Islam. Saudis have the fraudulent habit of tending to "cherry-pick" from Hadith and Sunnah (example of the Prophet Muhammed), especially when it comes to issues concerning women. Looks like it applies to cats too!

A Hadith about mistreating cats:
"A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger." Allah's Messenger further said, "Allah said (to the woman), 'You neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the earth.'Bukhari 3:553

              mugshot of Paavo the orphaned kitten

The Prophet Muhammed loved cats and he had one called Muezza. Mohammed was so attached to his cat that when he gave sermons he let Muezza rest on his lap and he also drank from water previously drunk by his cat and did his ablutions from the same water the cat had drunk from. Once when he was going for prayer the cat was sleeping on the sleeve of his garment that he wanted to use for praying. Mohammed didn't want to wake the cat so he cut the sleeve off and left the cat to sleep!
Kismet, Simba and Paavo

The cats in the saudi  petshops don't get much better treatment either, although owning pets is still quite rare. Cats are usually kept in small boxes or cages, most look fatigued, dehydrated, malnourished, dirty and sick. There are a few better petshops in Riyadh located on King Abdulaziz street that have slightly better standards of cleanliness and care. Mostly I feel appalled when going into the petshops though and that is how I ended up taking two of them home.

Our two older cats are Maine Coons from a large petshop in Riyadh, they were both kittens at the time and infested with ringworm, sick and malnourished. The male was in such bad shape they had hid him in a dark cage all by himself. He looked horrible, his hair had fallen off and the skin was full of large ringworm blothces. He was so weak he couldn't walk. They made us pay to get him out of there even I felt we are doing them a favor! Alhamdulillah they are now beautiful and healthy cats.
In addition to them we have one orphaned kitten that I rescued from the National Museum park. This kitten was crying out loud and I saw a man kicking it. I went to it's "rescue" and scolded the man, who of course looked at me like I'm mental shouting at him over a dirty street cat. The kitten then started following me, purring and he was surprisingly friendly despite just being kicked around. I just couldn't leave him there so I put him in my bag and took him home to my husbands surprise..
Recently we had an addition to our household when six days ago Kismet unexpectedly gave birth to a premature kitten. It was very weak, hairless and didn't know how to crawl or suckle yet. Sadly the mother does not know how to take care of it..So my husband and I have spent these past days feeding the kitten every 1-2 hourly. We also need to take care of its body temperature and elimination so it has been very time consuming!
Inshallah he will grow to a strong cat like his father that he resembles. Sultan few hours old next to his feeding syringe.

 EDIT: over a week premature Sultan passed away 7 days after his birth

If you would like to help adopt a cat in KSA there's an organization called Saudi Paws, you can contact them at

Read more about the organization from American Bedus site:


Soile said...

The cats are adorable! I used to let two cats into my flat when I lived there and I also fed the cats outside occasionally.
It's very sad how they're treated, but it's good that there's people like you who'll rescue them. Just be careful that you don't end up with 50 cats soon ;-)

The Burdened Mary said...

I must say that this was a very touching post. I am horrified by the treatment of cats here in Riyadh. However, when you go to Makkah, it is a completely different story. Cats seem to be treated there the way the Prophet (SAW) would want them to be treated. Thank you for putting up information about Saudi Paws.

nassima said...

I understand that Cats are not a priority in the Third World. at the same time I don't agree the way how most people here treated cats they let children kick them and torture them as they want. they can ignore them if they do not feel any compassion to them but I cannot bear that they torture them. I have myself 5 cats and I feed many out of my house and especially I leave them some water everyday, the weather is so hot and dry here.

forgive my bad english,I speak fluent french and arabic. but I like your blog.

TRG said...

Asalamu Alaikum, great post Laylah masha'Allah! I posted it to the Open Paws on Facebook. One of the comments so far was, "what about sending this article to the hopital itself...and all those other pest controls in the other hospitals too. and to all those compounds." I think that is a good idea. May Allah reward you for your kindness to animals ameen.

Layla said...

@ Soile
Yes my husband does get worried that someday we will end up having 50 cats in our house :D

@ Burdened Mary
That is great news that in Mecca its so different!I changed the title because after what you wrote I felt it's too generalizing to say whole Saudi-Arabia..

@ Nassima
welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting, your english is good so don't worry and keep commenting!
Yes Ive also seen people are torturing cats, or they treat the ones they have as pets as childrens toys which they can handle anyway they want..very sad.

@ Tara
Wa aleikum salaam! Thanks for your kind words! makes me feel better, after a heartbreaking night with little Sultan, he passed away this morning ;(
I have been planning to post something on those noticeboards that forbid feeding of cats..I'm just scared they will terminate my contract!
The best would be to address to hospital chief executive director..Will see if I can gather my courage to write him!

TRG said...

I'm so sorry Laylah. You tried your best to save him, qadrAllah!

The Burdened Mary said...

I am sorry to hear about your Sultan :( I am so happy that you tried to save him. Maa Shaa'Allah you did a great thing.