Today we are featuring an organisation based in Azemmour, Morrocco which seeks to end the suffering of their street cats. Below is the post by the founder Anne Heslop – please be advised it contains some sad and upsetting images.
Rescuing cats in Morocco has its funny and rewarding moments! The joy of seeing a sick kitten pull through and finding it a new, secure loving home is wonderful.
Sabi was alone, frightened and lost in the medina. He was suffering from cat flu, but underneath his crusted firmly-closed eyes were 2 perfect blue ones! After a week of TLC, nourishing food and 3 x daily eye treatments he was well and ready to be adopted. He is now 3 years old and is a much loved family member.
Shadow had severe eye infections and was already blind when I found him. I nursed him back to health and a compassionate Moroccan family gave him a home. He is now the most amazing, affectionate and clever 4 year old cat!
So here’s how and why I became the accidental cat rescuer! In 2008 I bought a little house in Azemmour, Morocco. I imagined it would be a lovely place to rest, indulge in another culture and enjoy my photography. And then I noticed the cats!
Some of course are pets, earning their keep as mousers and are healthy and cared for.
But in the streets there were scrawny females suffering a constant cycle of hunger and reproduction, ragged war torn males and so many sick and abandoned kittens. It was heartbreaking.
As an animal lover I couldn’t turn my back on their need for help, and begun by humorously encouraging my cat-less local friends to adopt the tiny kittens who were too young to survive alone in the medina. I soon ran out of friends!
Finding homes for cute, healthy kittens is difficult enough but for sick ones it’s a different story. Alerted by a friend to 2 kittens who had been abandoned by a rubbish bin with severe eye infections, I realised that my roof top terrace was about to become a kitten hospital! The 2 kittens quickly became 5 and that was it for me – reinvention no 12 – Annie the accidental cat rescuer.
Getting the word out about the difficult lives the street cats and kittens endure in Azemmour was essential, so I made a short film to raise awareness and to fundraise for the project.
Please note that the video contains some scenes of a graphic nature which some viewers may find upsetting
It soon became obvious that reducing the population by sterilisation was the only humane way to stop these unwanted, unsupported kittens being born into lives of misery, so I went in search of a vet and cat loving Moroccans. Together, we formed a charity – ERHAM. It took over a year to get the paperwork sorted, but in August 2017 we were finally registered.
ERHAM (Effective Rescue to Help Azemmour’s Moggies) means ‘take pity’ in Arabic and that’s the message we are spreading throughout the town to help the cats an kittens.We launched the charity in October 2017 with the ‘Miaow Festival’ to raise awareness for the need for sterilisation and to encourage people to care for and celebrate their cats! Everything was cat orientated with artists, poets, vets, cat face painting, cat care workshops and even cat rap! It was a great success and people are now enquiring about the next one!
It’s lovely now to see changes in people’s behaviour towards cats. I see many more water and food bowls in the streets and I am often guided to a cardboard box or cupboard where a poor Mum has been given refuge and is being fed to help her produce enough milk for her hungry kittens.
Locals approach me in the street these days. They love their cats but cannot cope with the kittens they constantly produce. I usually visit the house to check that their cat is at the right stage in its cycle to be sterilised and to be sure that the people can’t afford to pay for the operation. ERHAM will sterilise not only street cats, but pets whose owners clearly can’t manage to pay vet bills.
ERHAM has started its sterilisation programme, focusing at first on female cats to rapidly reduce the population. We will carry out campaigns throughout the year and also run other cat-orientated events to constantly remind people that cats are to be cherished!
You can find out more about ERHAM and how to make a donation on their Facebook page
Thanks for reading