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Israel Cats

Jericho_cat.JPG
Mindy Norton
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Cat sitting in the Jericho sunshine

Stray or feral cats pose a number of problems for their human neighbors, including unpleasant odors and noisy encounters between the animals.  TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) has proven effective in reducing the problems, but one organization in Israel has an enhanced approach to improving the situation for both humans and cats.

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Recently I visited Israel on a pilgrimage, going to Tel Aviv, Tiberias, Jerusalem, seeing many biblical sights and learning so much history. I saw camels, goats, sheep, a few dogs, and cats - lots of cats. I asked our guide about pets in Israel. He said people with dogs keep them in the house, while much of the feline population is stray or feral. That's why the cats are so visible.

More than sixty percent of households in the United States have pets, while in Israel only about thirty percent share their homes with various critters, mostly dogs and cats, with a few fish and some birds. Dogs outnumber the cats as housepets two-to-one. Every dog I saw was in a fenced area or on a leash. All the cats were in public places and seemed reasonably friendly, probably because they are accustomed to tourists and don't seem to mind the foot traffic. One even let me pet it although most were not that sociable.

In the 1930s, the British brought cats into the area to control the rodent population. The solution to one problem has become its own problem. It is estimated there are more than two million stray cats in Israel, compared with only two hundred thousand kept as housepets.

About three years ago, a non-profit organization Meow Mitzvah Mission of Israel was formed to solve the stray and feral cat epidemic. It started with the TNR concept - Trap-Neuter-Release - and expanded it to TNVR-M. Focusing on a colony of feral cats, the animals are trapped, neutered, vaccinated, released and then monitored so that basic needs are provided along with medical care if required.

The Israeli Agriculture Ministry has agreed to provide enough funding to spay and neuter forty-five thousand feral cats. Those that are surgically altered are identified by the internationally recognized tipped left ear - a small portion of the ear tip is surgically removed during the spay or neuter operation.

You can learn more about Meow Mitzvah Mission of Israel by visiting their Facebook page. It pleased me to learn that although I was a foreigner, I shared a common bond with those in Israel who care just as much about their furry four-footed companions, when we're speaking of pets.

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Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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