AJMAN // The sight of dozens of malnourished stray cats and kittens on the streets of Ajman was enough to convince Alia Alchamaa to make the 140-kilometre round trip from her home in Dubai each day to help them.
The Syrian travels to the corniche and the Al Nuaimia 3, Al Bustan, Al Rashidiya and Mowaihat neighbourhoods feeding as many of the animals as she can, paying for food, water and sometimes even medicines out of her own pocket.
“Their health is not good and they get sick because of lack of food, especially in summer. When the temperature in August and September is very high, their condition becomes worse because they also suffer from dehydration.”
Ms Alchamaa, who works as a physiologist, has appealed to fellow animal lovers to lend a hand in caring for the strays by leaving out food at designated areas.
She also suggested that some of the cats could be neutered or taken in and rehomed after being checked by vets.
“We ask for help providing feeding stations for the mother cats and their kittens to save them, because we can not foster all of them. We also want to raise awareness among the community to stop people hurting them and for the police to fine motorists who run-over them intentionally,” the 50-year-old said.
Teenager Waliya Baig is one of a growing number of people who leave food for strays in Al Rashidiya. The Grade 9 student, who uses her pocket money to buy food, said the animals need to be cared for properly and taken off the streets to keep them safe and well.
“We are trying our best to improve their lives but there is no animal welfare education here. Nobody really cares about the small creatures. There are no trap, neuter and release programmes and no government support as far as I can see. It’s heartbreaking to be honest.”
Ms Baig is always on the look out for strays that could be neutered and possibly adopted and said children should be educated to care for animals and not to abuse them.
“I have seen little children kick injured cats, and I’ve seen men and women laughing at us when we feed cats and play with them,” the 15-year-old said. “TNR programmes should be carried out and there should be feeding stations to look after the cats.”
In September, an Emirati teenager was filmed throwing a cat against a wall in Ajman. He was arrested after the video was posted online but later released without charge. Police in the emirate later asked parents to urge their children to be kind to animals.
In June, people living in Al Mowaihat expressed their fears over packs of stray dogs roaming the neighbourhood. Many residents said they carry protection against the animals, especially at night or early morning.
To prevent the abuse of animals, President Sheikh Khalifa issued Federal Law No.18 for 2016 regarding animal welfare which carries a one-year jail term and/or fine not exceeding Dh200,000.
Palestinian teacher Mohammed Salim regularly sees a mother and her kittens lurking in bushes and near rubbish bins in Mowaihat looking for food and hiding from people who throw stones or kick the wretched creatures.
He invites the neighbourhood strays into his yard, where he puts out food each day. Unfortunately his generosity is not shared by others.
“I have a cat at my house and she is pregnant now, so I can not foster all of the cats I see on the street or around my villa. They enter into the yard of my villa and the only thing I can do for them is put food out. Sometimes I find them in the garbage bin searching for food,” the 56-year-old said.
“The cats need a feeding station and animal welfare associations to save them,” he said.