Castrating the street cats of Jerusalem is vital but as you can see by the title above, not every Jerusalem resident can agree to it due to their religious beliefs.
Actually we’re talking about the neutering and spraying on a very large scale of the street cats of Jerusalem. This is indeed vital because over decades there has been a culture by the residents and the authorities of that great city to accept them and indeed feed and take care of them. It is believed that there are 2,000 cats per square kilometre and a total of around 250,000 in the city of around 900,000 residents.
It’s believed that the feral cat population in terms of density in Jerusalem is one of the highest in the world. I can believe it as I have been to the city and you do see stray cats everywhere. They are better described as community cats because they are semi-feral and part of the community. However, there is growing pressure to do something about them.
It’s believed that the only way forward is a large-scale, rapid sterilisation programme of about 80% of the feral cats in the city over a six-month period. This should bring the population under control.
Another idea being mooted by the authorities in Jerusalem is to remove their food source. They plan to put the rubbish underground. In removing the food source the population size would reduce. But that, I would have thought, would be considered cruel because you’d be starving the cats unless it was done in a very controlled and gradual way.
The city’s leaders are struggling to deal with their community cats. The city’s elected mayor, Moshe Lion (a highly appropriate name) announced in January the idea of feeding stations for the cats around the city. A small budget of US$28,000 was allocated. Personally, with that kind of budget and methodology I can’t see it working. One problem is that you attract other animals including jackals to the area.
It has been regarded as a cosmetic measure by Inbal Keidar, a lawyer specialising in animal welfare. She recommends a massive sterilisation campaign and the political will to carried out.
“What is needed is a real political decision to solve the problem with a massive sterilisation campaign for cats while mobilising associations and public authorities.”
Yes, mass TNR is the only way but it needs total commitment and a radical approach.
Orthodox Jews, it appears, do not agree with sterilisation of stray cats as mentioned in the title to this article. Therefore not everyone agrees with it. A 2010 report found that 20% of Israel’s Jewish population was either ultra-orthodox or orthodox. Clearly this is quite a large percentage with a voice.
In the meantime kindhearted people and volunteers deal with the ‘feral cat problem’ in Jerusalem on an ad hoc basis. For example, teacher Ilana Ben Joya feeds cats twice a day in a working-class area of Jerusalem. She regards it as a second job. Like many kindhearted people she can’t let the cats go hungry.
“I can’t handle knowing that there are so many outside hungry. What worries me is knowing that in a few weeks the females will have babies and we would again hear the meows of kittens.”
There are many people like her. This is one of the problems. The existence of the cats places an emotional pressure on many residents. They can’t accept not doing something which ironically perpetuates the ‘problem’.
Ilana wants a large-scale sterilisation programme to be instigated and I presume as a matter of urgency. It’s the only way, so come on Jerusalem: go for it.
P.S. Curiously, as I understand it, Buddhists also believe that sterilising cats is against their religion. This, too, leads to animal cruelty.