Cats : Israel :: Squirrels : Northeastern America
Cats. Are. Everywhere. Why, you ask? Because the British thought that bringing a boatload of cats into Palestine during the Mandate was a wise means by which to eliminate the rodent infestation that plagued the area. It worked, sure, but it created a new problem: a cat infestation.
Stray cats are incredibly common in Israel. They can be seen grooming, feeding, fighting, nursing, hissing, and scratching all day, every day. As a lover of small, furry things, I can’t say that I’m whole-heartedly complaining. I love seeing a litter of kittens frolicking about, playing with a random piece of litter. It’s tragic, of course—there’s the litter, which is just unfortunate considering trash cans are almost as common as cats, and the kittens, who grow up malnourished in insanitary conditions. According to the Israeli Ministry, a stray cat’s lifespan is 3 years, less than a third of the 10-year life span of a house cat. But given the lack of a humanitarian solution, the cat infestation continues.
The tourist industry has taken advantage of the association of cats with Israel.
While we’re talking about cute, furry creatures, I’d like to briefly discuss Israeli dogs. Unspayed, unneutered, and largely unleashed, Israeli dogs seem absurdly well behaved (as a side note, we recently learned that fixing an animal goes against religious law. Despite individual’s levels of secularity, maybe that’s why so many Israeli pets aren’t fixed?)
I can’t imagine how many runners would get chased down by dogs in New York if as many dogs were unleashed along the Hudson River as are on the Tel Aviv tayelet. Somehow, Israeli dogs just seem better behaved. An explanation eludes me.
For my fellow animal lovers in Tel Aviv, a local shelter sets up an adoption stand every Friday morning in front of Gan Meir (Meir Park) on King George Street. They always have a good number of dogs available for adoption, often even having puppies and kittens as well. They even allow people to take dogs home for just a week; so if you’re not sure if you’re ready to have a pet, you can give it a trial run first. But beware, it’s actually hard to leave without a puppy: they’re so cute that Doug had to actually drag me away on multiple occasions.