Caring for Cats in Kenya

 

One of inter­est­ing places I visited in Kenya is the beauti­ful and ancient town and island of Lamu.  Lamu is an island not far from main land off the coast of north-east Kenya.  The old city is inscribed on the World Heritage List as “the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settle­ments in East Africa”.  Up until 1907 Lamu was the hub of all Arabian trading includ­ing the slave trade, adding to its fasci­nat­ing history.  Today its narrow streets weave through elegant Swahili archi­tec­ture, full of charm and charac­ter.  Since there are no cars on the island the alleys are constantly full of children playing, Muslim men chatting over chia, and CATS!  The old town has a very dense popula­tion of street cats.  Since it is a port town, fishing is big business here and there are lots of scraps for the kitties, there­fore they continue to repro­duce and quickly.

 

While in Lamu I had the oppor­tu­nity to spend time with the dedicated people from the Lamu Animal  Welfare Clinic. This grass roots organi­za­tion conducts an ABC (animal birth control) program for the stray cats that fill the island.

I was impressed with the deter­mi­na­tion of this organi­za­tion to continue their work in spite of the opposi­tion from many locals.  Much of the Muslim commu­nity of Lamu does not gener­ally support steril­iza­tion of any kind and many would rather see the cats killed.

There is clearly an over popula­tion of cats on the island of Lamu and this organi­za­tion is working to avoid a cruel and waste­ful cull.  We don’t always realize that stray animals exist as a result of other problems that occur in the commu­nity, such as inade­quate waste disposal.  Stray cats tend to populate areas where there is a lot of trash/scraps avail­able. Cats also play a vital role in keeping the rat popula­tions in check, and the diseases that often come with an over popula­tion of rats.

The caring people at Lamu Animal Welfare Clinic are often faced with hostil­ity from the commu­nity over their work.  Despite all finan­cial and commu­nity challenges this NGO contin­ues to devote their lives to helping these beauti­ful cats.


At the time of my visit there also happened to be 2 visit­ing vets so the organi­za­tion took advan­tage of their visitors by holding a spay/neuter blitz. Over the span of 3 days we managed to catch, steril­ize, treat and release 220 cats.  The cats which fill the streets of this enchant­ing Africa island live in close proxi­mately to people because they rely on human scraps for food, but they are in no way domes­ti­cated.  They are all wild, extremely clever and quick.  Catch­ing them was a challenge and that took all the smarts we had and a lot of patience.

 

 


 

It was an excit­ing and reward­ing few days of covertly snatch­ing feral cats while attempt­ing to keep out of sight of too many local people.  Although we didn’t receive many thank yous from the jungley felines, it was extremely reward­ing to release the steril­ized cats back into their home on the streets knowing that they now had a better chance at long healthy lives, with no more babies on the way.

 

 

 

For even more viewing pleasure click on the link below to watch a short video from the streets of Lamu includ­ing some of the photos seen here and a few more.  Special thanks to the wonder­ful Patrick Murphy for creat­ing this “catchy” video of our time at the  Lamu Animal Welfare Clinic.

Click here to watch a video of catch­ing cats in Lamu!

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