Egypt Chronicles 1/2017
One phenomenon everyone living in or visiting Egypt are guaranteed to encounter is the presence of street animals, be it dogs, cats or other animals – like horses, donkeys and camels, which are used for work and/or entertainment.
Although the work animals are looked after by their owners, most of the time they look a bit different than the well-nourished farm animals one would be used to seeing in your native country. For various reasons I won’t elaborate much further on the subject of Egypt’s work animals.
One has to learn soon that you can’t rescue every street creature you come across. In fact, you have to learn to become a bit thick-skinned in your approach to these animals – something that is very difficult for an animal lover. And there are phases to this process.
In the beginning you feel terrible for the dogs running in packs, looking for food. You feel worse when you see that almost every female bears the ‘Baywatch’ look as our son calls it – with their milk giving ‘tools’ swinging around their undernourished bodies when they run through the streets looking for something to eat and drink. What makes it even worse, is when you stumble upon a thin, dirty litter of puppies or kittens stowed away somewhere where the mom though it to be safe.
The terribleness develop into a depression of sorts when it seems that all you see are stray animals looking for food and you realise that you can’t do enough to help.
Eventually you hear about angel people – some expats, some veterinarians – who try to at least sterilise some of the dogs and cats at own cost.
The next phase is when you walk in the street in the summer heat and you get that familiar smell in your nostrils and then see the decomposing evidence and you think: Ah, thankfully you don’t have to suffer anymore.
The next phase is the most dangerous one. On a hot day when all the different smells of human sweat hangs in the air, mixed with the smell of blood freshly washed off the pavement after a Ramadan slaughter, you find yourself standing in a little shop in Road 9, checking out the cheapest available cat food. Because by now, a very nice looking black-and-white had started following your neighbours’ son back from the gym, your friend down the street had picked up an almost dead kitten and nursed it back to life and when you get home from a function one night, a ginger living in your building had shyly followed you to your front door and after you have checked each other out a few times, you have fetched a bowl of milk one night and rapport had been established.
And after a few more weeks, the once scared, shy, in-survival-mode cat, greets you at the building door and show you to your front door as if it is the bowab (doorman) and cheekily sits and waits for her treat. And when you open the door a few nights later, she only slightly rubs against your leg before pushing past you, and runs perkily ahead, through the house to the other door. And before you know it, you fill an empty butter container with the cheap cat food from that little shop in Road 9. And when you go to the ‘plastic’shop’ the next time, the butter containers get replaced by plastic bowls. And almost without you realising it, you have become a street cat carer.
You shush the male cats away from your garden because they spray and it stinks and they fight with ‘your’ ginger. You know this because you hear the unearthly cries in the middle of the night and you see the ginger fluff rolling past your bedroom window in the slight breeze in the mornings. And you feel surprisingly relieved when you open the blinds and ‘your’ ginger sits there – battle scarred, but alive.
I never thought that I would become one of those crazy persons filling the Internet with writings about cats.
I’m a dog person, after all.
© Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock
Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.