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Cats in the city

BEIRUT | June 29, 2014, 16h04
Par Vivecca Chatila
I bought a hamster over the holiday vacation. Now, it’s your turn to say: “Nyaah a hamster!? They’re like rats!” To which I would giggle and reply with a big smile, “Yes. I know they’re rodents and I love them!”
Anyone who knows me, knows that I adore animals. Coming from the US, and from a family of animal lovers, I simply cannot understand those who do not share my passion for them. I thought everyone loved animals, until I came to Lebanon.
Cats are everywhere in this city. Many people do have them as pets, but most are strays and running around the streets left to fend for themselves, hiding under cars and most subsisting on scraps from the garbage dumps.

The only place that looks like a haven for them is the AUB campus, where they can  roam around, surrounded by nature and shelter within its walls. On my daily trips to  the campus, I’ve seen students go up to them and pet them, giving them some  attention that they’ve probably been craving for a long time.

For all the “yii shu maghdoum” comments, there exists equal to more “tfeh!”s or  “nyahh!”s. Some citizens go as far as abusing animals and then defending their  actions. I’ve seen with my own eyes, a veiled girl literally kick a cat multiple times, as he kept trying to approach her, meowing and asking her for attention. After which  she continued laughing with her friends as if nothing had happened.

Even though, the animals of Lebanon are as much a part of Lebanon as its human  citizens, the latter find ways to make them feel unwelcome in their own land. After all…who was here first?

I do however know of a few kind souls who care enough to share the little they have  to feed cats every morning. One lady goes around different neighborhoods, putting food out for them, and making sure they get their fill. I’ve seen her wandering the streets looking for cats who may be hiding in bushes or under cars. She calls them out and they come to her like she’s their savior. I don’t blame them.

People make fun of her, calling her crazy or stupid for feeding them, touching them and wasting the little money she has for herself. I call it kindness. Sacrifice for the greater good of those who cannot help themselves. So why is she being taunted for it? And why is it that the majority of those who help animals in this country are those who are underprivileged or homeless? Where is humility?

Unfortunately, acts of animal abuse occur every single day. This recent story is just one of many. Just a few weeks ago, two young Lebanese men posted a video of them burning a hamster and watching it run around frantically. The men were laughing and making fun. Click here to read more.

I’m thankful for organizations like Animals Lebanon and BETA, who dedicate their time to helping the animals. When the organizations and those who work for them come into casual conversation, some people say, “Forget about the animals. What about the Lebanese people?” To that, I say this: There are plenty of organizations helping people so why can’t both coexist? Why can’t we help both?

You say you’re a country that wants peace? Then act like it and make peace with all creatures. Not just humans.
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