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Rescuing the Street Cats Who Once Lived With The Pharaohs

7 July, 2016
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Sheltering around fifty cats, the Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization (EMRO) rescues stray cats from Egypt's streets. Maus are a shorthair cat breed of pure Egyptian origin, closely related to the earliest Egyptian domesticated cats. Yet unlike many cat breeds, Maus are not locally considered valuable and are seen purely as street animals by most Egyptians.

Street animals are vulnerable to culls by both state and private actors. In 2014, there was an outcry by animal activists when news spread about the Gezira Sporting Club in Zamalek, Cairo, poisoning the stray cats that wander in from the neighboring streets in order that they no longer 'disturb' club members.

EMRO aims to help stray Maus by treating their injuries and finding them suitable families at home or abroad.

The organization's general manager Mostafa Nagy, told BECAUSE that Egyptians rarely adopt Maus as they are seen as 'just' street cats, with injured animals considered even less appealing. "… So the option of adopting a three-legged or a one-eyed cat is out of the question for people here." This means EMRO usually seeks interested families overseas.

A Mau is an elegant cat with slightly shorter forelimbs than its hind limbs, giving it 'tippy toe' stance. They require minimal grooming and are agile and highly active: they love to climb and chase things. Owners love the Mau cat's inteliigence; it is quick to learn how to turn doorknobs and open drawers. Although somewhat wary around strangers, it is gentle, composed and affectionate with family.

"We take care of all the paperwork necessary for the cat to have a safe flight to her future home." Nagy said. "We do all we can to encourage the adopters overseas and help them through the process."

EMRO are careful to make a good match between household and pet. There are several points Nagy scrutinizes in the adopter's application form. The most significant is not having a child younger than twelve in the house, if the cat is younger than a year and a half – the application is rejected in that case.

"We rescue kittens who have been in very dangerous situations on the street, so we won't put them at the same risks to traumatize them. If the child pulls a young cat's tail before it has matured its character, it will grow into a very weak feline," he explained.

In June this year, EMRO received at least ten cats. "People seem to get rid of their cats that way," Nagy commented. "Sometimes the cats we find on our doorstep are Persians; Persian cats are too delicate to live with Maus, especially Maus rescued from the streets – they're very aggressive!"

As Nagy explained, EMRO is not a suitable shelter for non-Maus, but the organization will not leave the abandoned pets like that to the dangers of the Egyptian streets, Nagy said. "In fact, last winter three stray dogs jumped over our fence to seek a warm shelter. This is a home for cats, but we couldn't leave the dogs out in the cold either if they came in seeking shelter." Nagy said. The dogs are kept separately until they find the right families to adopt them. 

Two years ago, EMRO was packed with cats and kittens with disabilities. Now the shelter has only three disabled Maus, and the rest have all found homes and families with the help of both EMRO and international rescue centers EMRO is friends with.

On a monthly rate, the organization spends not less than EGP 14,000 on food, EGP 7000 on medicines, EGP 23,000 on salaries of thirteen staff workers. To be able to raise that money, Nagy decided to sell pet products and open a clinic for pet owners instead of having it only for the service of the rescued Maus. "The clinic covers almost all of the cost," Nagy added. Aside from bone operations, the clinic is equipped to undertake operations and X-rays. 

Ever since the founding of EMRO in 2005, the organization was based on donations. In 2007, cat food company Friskies sponsored EMRO with 25% of the amount needed for the cats in the shelter. But in time, the shelter expanded beyond what Friskies could provide. By the end of 2013, Nagy had dreamed up the idea of funding themselves via the clinic.

EMRO celebrates its social responsibility by giving awareness lectures to international school students; they have had less luck persuading local schools. Locally, their best efforts to help street cats has been in following 'trap, neuter, return' in the neighborhoods where cats are routinely poisoned.

Tags MENA Because animal welfare cats CSR NGO social enterprise street cats EMRO Friskies cat breeds Egyptian Mau cats