Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles Part 2

Egypt Chronicles 2/2017

It was quite something to experience the ginger cat’s transformation from that shy, scared in-survival-mode creature to an animal that would lovingly come and rub her back against your leg and even allow my husband to pick her up and hold her. It took a long time, but she learned to trust us and to feel save around us. The more we learned about her, we realised that she was a fierce fighter with a soft heart. We named her. Sort of. That’s even more dangerous than to start feeding them! We called her GemmerGat (in English literally Ginger Butt). She became happy and quite relaxed when she realised that she could rule our yard.

So, on a not-so-cold winter January day in Cairo, GemmerGat brought a camouflage coloured kitten (which we saw since that December in the flower pots in front of the building) into our yard to be fed. We weren’t very impressed, but we couldn’t refuse GemmerGat’s generosity to reach out to the little street cat and thought that maybe it was her way of ‘paying it forward’.

The kitten wasn’t very pretty and yet it was. We called her Camo. We soon realised that she doesn’t have the same likable personality as GemmerGat. She was only eight months old when our son, Michael, heard some faint crying sounds outside his window and found Camo with three little ones! We were terrified! We didn’t want more cats in our yard!

Camo was a terrible mother! She clapped her babies through their little faces if they wanted to eat and bit them. We liked her even less. We were away on a trip and when we came back the two kittens that were left (the third vanished earlier) were gone too. I am ashamed to say that we were relieved. So we kept feeding GemmerGat and Camo and kept chasing away the male cats. A few times we thought Camo looked pregnant again, but fortunately no more kittens appeared. Then one day, two months ago, Michael heard a noise again and there, from behind the big bag of charcoal, the little blue eyes of Camo’s latest offspring peeked at us.

We weren’t happy with another addition to our yard, but as it goes with baby animals – they steal your heart. This time around though, Camo is a model mommy! Instead of clapping and biting her baby, I was the one who got clapped when feeding her! Talk about haughtiness! (I don’t like that cat!) But she looks well after her baby, feeds him well and even shows affection. So, I have to commend her for that. She got so protective that she started scaring away GemmerGat – to our dismay! What a rotten attitude! GemmerGat brought her to our yard to be fed and she chased her away! I am so angry at her! And I’m even more disappointed in GemmerGat to let her without even fighting for her territory! We saw GemmerGat in the vicinity for a while, but then she disappeared. I’m still trying to come to terms with my feelings about that.

I can’t believe I miss an animal that doesn’t even belong to us! It’s just a building cat after all. I’ve even cried a bit over her. OK, I was actually crying over a situation friends of ours are having, and then I thought about GemmerGat and then I found that I had more reason to cry. Now, I’m just really worried about her and quite sad too, that she just abandoned us like that.

Maybe she is still around and just eating elsewhere, because we are not the only ones feeding them. The bohabs (doormen), policemen and other tenants also put out food. But what worries me is that while we still saw her in front of the building before, we haven’t seen her for weeks now. And that worries me more than I am willing to admit.

I can’t believe I’m writing about cats!

I can’t believe that I miss a bloody street cat!

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©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

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Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles Part 1

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GemmerGat (GingerButt)

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 that enough to help.

Eventually you hear about angel people, called 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 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 washed off the pavement after a Ramadan slaughter, you find yourself standing in a little shop, checking out the cheapest 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 bohab (doorman) and cheekily sits and waits for her treat. And when you open the door, she only slightly rubs against your leg when 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 cat carer.

You shush the male cats away because they spray and it stinks and the stink gives you headaches and they fight with ‘your’ ginger. You know this because you hear the unearthly cries at 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 door and she 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.

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©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.