The Cats (and Dogs) of Israel

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.

The stray cat colony of the Tel Aviv tayelet

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.

It looks like this cat fed on some other strays in the cat colony of the Tel Aviv tayelet. I like to call him the "Monster Cat"

The monster cat (the same one as in the picture above, but on a different day) must be the king of the cat colony of the Tel Aviv tayelet

The monster cat is surprisingly nimble and seems to have no problem grooming himself

The monster cat is taking a break from his hard day as the cat godfather

It shocked us to see the monster cat sitting--we didn't think his legs could hold up his body

After the monster cat let me pet him, I started to wonder if he was just a misunderstood, lonely kitty

Doug kept his distance from the monster cat

Standoff between one of the monster cat's henchmen and a black cat on the Tel Aviv tayelet. The henchman won

The monster cat's henchman feeds on a crab while the other cats in the colony wait patiently for their turn

The monster cat's henchman feeds on a crab while the other cats in the colony wait patiently for their turn

The strays of Neve Tzedek

A stray kitten by the Kinneret

Stray kittens by the Kinneret, drinking from their own personal water bowl (AKA a leaking sprinkler line)

Some people embrace their local strays, providing them with food and a place to lounge

A house cat just kickin' back and relaxing on his balcony

A sunbathing kitten

Ridin' dirty

The tourist industry has taken advantage of the association of cats with Israel.

Cardboard cat construction

Cat bookends

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.

Israeli dogs, snoozin' on the sidewalk

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.

Holding one of the puppies available for adoption

One of the puppies available for adoption

Dogs available for adoption

One of the puppies available for adoption

Dogs available for adoption

Dogs available for adoption

Puppies available for adoption

One of the puppies available for adoption


8 thoughts on “The Cats (and Dogs) of Israel

  1. That’s really funny about the cats – we have local cats that rule the streets, it seems as though there is a kingpin of sorts per every area. Needless to say, these kingpins don’t even turn their heads as cars careen around them, trying not to hit them. Cat kingpins have remarkable egos. One of the things I’ve noticed in my travels is that the cats that live right on the coast seem to lead happy lives.

  2. I didn’t realize that fixing an animal goes against religious law… because that would be the humane solution… In NY, there are vans with volunteer (I think) vets who scoop up street kitties, neuter / spay and release. It helps keep the stray population down.

    • Thank for commenting!

      We didn’t find out until recently that fixing an animal goes against religious law. We were staying with a religious family that had a dog and they told us how they had to “sell” her to a non-Jewish acquaintance the day they had her fixed because they weren’t technically allowed to do it.

      I think there was a project here led by Tel Aviv University that did the same thing you mentioned they do in NY–they collected stray cats and neutered/spayed them and then released them. It’s definitely the most effective way to control the cat population!

      • Actually yes there was something done here in Tel Aviv that neutered/spayed the stray cats. You can tell if a street cat has been “fixed” by it’s ears after they do it they clip one of the ear tips of the cat so that it can be identified as already taken care of. My resource for this is my girlfriends cat which she got off the street and has a clipped ear for this reason.

    • An actual MOB hierarchy, I don’t know. That’s just my theory.

      But there’s DEFINITELY a social hierarchy. The picture of the showdown between the monster cat’s henchman and the black cat? Henchman won. Black cat sat down submissively and the henchman cat trotted off.

      The pictures with the crab? Henchman cat swatted away another cat that tried to get in on the goods. All the cats then just sat and watched him eat. Only after he walked away did the others get to eat. Three black cats then started feasting at the same time. So we’re pretty sure there’s a social hierarchy in this cat colony.

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