Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Akbar, The Greatest–A Cat Story

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Akbar, center, has the clipped ear that shows he has been neutered.
The other two cats were neutered before they left the UAE for USA.

This is a story about three very lucky cats, told in turns by Deb, me, and Dana.
Deb -- If you’ve been following Anne’s blog, you might remember reading about Dana’s and my cat, Akbar. We found him near our apartments, living life in the park along the Eastern Corniche.
Anne – Soon after Deb and I arrived in the UAE, we took a walk along the Eastern Corniche to a large park. Deb and I had been talking about all the cats we were seeing around town. How did they survive, we wondered? Is anyone in charge of controlling the populations? I found a non-profit organization online called Feline Friends. I knew that Deb was a cat person, and missed her pets back home, and I thought she might like to volunteer.

During the day the people inhabiting the parks are mostly maintenance workers.
The park where it all began.
We walked through the park to the end, noticing several cats, and one caught Deb’s attention and sympathy because he appeared to be hobbling.

Deb – Akbar has a handicap on his front leg and paw. He holds up his short leg and claw-like paw, and hops when he walks. He was following Anne and myself as we were walking in the park. “Don’t look back,” Anne said. “He’ll just follow us.”
Anne – I had this foreboding feeling, like this lame stray cat would follow us all the way back to our car, which was about two miles of sidewalk along the corniche. Or, that Deb would pick him up and carry him. What would we do then? “Oh, poor baby,” she was saying. “No!” I warned. “Let’s go. Hurry!” We weren’t sure what kind of diseases these feral cats might have!

Deb called Feline Friends and got some information from them. First, she learned that they spay and neuter cats, but it’s a losing battle to try to keep up with the ever expanding population. Sometimes they are able to get them adopted, but the need is just too great. People leave, and they just abandon their pets. She also found out that my fears of disease were largely unfounded
Deb kept talking about that cat in the park. He couldn’t have been there long, she said, because he looked pretty healthy. And … and…
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Akbar's sphinx-like pose.

Deb -- I took Dana my husband back to show him the cat, knowing he would win Dana’s sympathy. Within a month, we had befriended the cat and brought him in. He is The Greatest, and so we named him Akbar.

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Deb loves hanging out with the cats.

Anne – There are people who should have cats, and people who should not. Deb and Dana are in the first group, and Mark and I are in the second. To be perfectly honest, we were flabbergasted that Dana and Deb had taken on this responsibility. But they were so happy about Akbar – Dana picked the name, and at first Deb didn’t like it, but accepted it. Of course, it turned out to be the perfect name. There's a funny story behind the name, which I cannot go into here but you will understand if you know Mark's or Dana's sense of humor. You can read about it here.

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Akbar, The Greatest.

There were several trips to the American Veterinary Clinic to determine Akbar’s age and what his condition was. He was about two years old, already neutered. His lame paw turned out to be a congenital deformity, but one he managed with very well. He soon grew fat and sassy. His favorite food was frozen shrimp, but he would eat anything. Deb became convinced that he was a domestic cat that had been recently abandoned in the park.

Now, Deb was taking care of Akbar and still feeding and watching over the neighborhood cats. Soon, she reported to me that there was a litter of kittens.

Deb -- We later found kittens in our compound. Once again, because of our love for animals, we took one in. Akbar needed a playmate, anyway. We named this one M.E. (Middle East.) A few weeks went by, and there was only one kitten left from the litter. As you can guess, yes, we also adopted him and named him Sammy.
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Cats are just different here.

These orange and white cats clean up very well, once dusted. I’ve found their personalities to differ from cats in the U.S. Their legs are long, and they like to stretch out with the top half of their bodies in one direction while the bottom half is contorted in the opposite direction. They also lay on their back a lot, feet straight out.

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The cats have their way in the apartment.
Anne – Although Deb enjoyed being in the UAE, she missed being home in St. Louis, where she and Dana had other pets including two dogs and three cats, as well as Deb’s three daughters and six grandchildren, and a house that needed attention. Before long, Deb was back in St. Louis and Dana was left in Abu Dhabi with the cats for company. Every few months Deb came to visit for a couple of weeks, or Dana went back to the U.S. He would have one of the guys from work who lives on the base come and stay in the apartment to feed the cats.

What are they doing? Mark and I thought. What happens when they leave the UAE for good? Will they try to find someone to adopt all these cats? It seemed impossible.

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They seemed to be saying, "We are ready to go."

Deb – We are now taking the three of them back to the U.S. The American Vets here have been very helpful. We did a lot of the work ourselves, to cut costs. Even so, it cost us 7000 AED, or about $2,000 US. The vet charged us 1200 AED for the paperwork.

Anne – Cats are everywhere in the UAE. Every apartment compound or villa has its population, and any debris box left open on the street will have at least one cat inside, and probably several, rummaging through the trash, especially at night when it’s cooler.

Neighborhood cats live in the bushes.

People put out food and water for their neighborhood cats, although in our compound there are signs posted that say not to do it. Even Tom, who is allergic to cats, set out food and water in the little courtyard that he has at his villa when he discovered a pregnant cat. Last weekend, everyone in his compound got a notice from Feline Friends saying that cats there would be trapped, neutered and returned to where they were found, and asking for volunteers to help out. They do this a couple of times a year.

The other day I was disposing of a bag of trash from my adopted beach into a debris box in a deserted area under the bridges, and I heard a rustle from inside the box. Sure enough, out jumped a scrawny, dirty cat. I admit it - I was kind of disgusted. But there is another side of the coin. Mark told me they eradicated the cats on base and – you guessed it – were soon overrun with rats.

Neighborhood cats escape the heat under cars.

Deb – These three are the lucky ones. This is Sammy, Akbar, and M.E.’s story and their goodbye to the UAE. We’re going home to St. Louis. As Dana says, they are part of our family now. His friend at work, Saeed Rashid Al Shehhi, says they are very, very lucky to have the honor of becoming U.S. citizens.

If you are living in the UAE, and you can’t adopt a cat, maybe you can help by getting a cat neutered or spayed. Contact Feline Friends, Abu Dhabi Wildlife Center, or the Falcon Hospital.

Dana – Akbar, M.E., and Sammy made it safely to St. Louis. Akbar has taken over the house, intimidating the older cats. He gets as close as he can, and stares them down. They can’t stand it. He also has control of the two dogs. He walks past them slowly, and they don’t chase him. It took Akbar only a few days to figure out the dog door, and now the three cats go outside during the day and sit together on fallen trees in the open space behind the house.
M.E>, Akbar and Sammy survey their new territory.

Anne – Of course, Akbar is the king, sheikh, and ultimate ruler of the household. I expected nothing less. After all, he is “The Greatest!”

Thanks for reading.

Here is the photo album. Mark wrote the captions; they represent his unique sense of humor.

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