I do not like cats. Between the hair-balls, the licking, litter-boxes complete indifference to their "owners" and the minor allergies to them, I think I have some legitimate reasons for disliking these creatures. To quell any questions, when I was a lot younger we did have a cat. Nowhere near as good of a pet as a any of the dogs I've ever had.
Pets are completely irrelevant to Israel. I was not even going to consider having one here. The time it takes to have a pet, to train them and to care for them are just insane to try to do this year. Plus the whole issue of bringing it back with me to the states. But then I got here and to my surprise there are cats everywhere. For those of you who have been at the University of Minnesota, the best comparison I could give you is that the cats here are like the squirrels that populate the entire U of M campus.
They live in the streets, eat out of trash cans, hide from the heat under cars. They are everywhere. When I first got here, I was disgusted by them. I can sit at night and listen to the females in heat calling for a partner. Sometimes I can hear when they are successful - yea, MORE cats for Jerusalem. Other times I can hear them fighting and hissing at each other. Presumably because another cat has encroached on someone's territory.
They swarm around apartment entrances and cry for food. This wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that someone in my building was feeding them from their door. Yes, from the inside of the apartment building. Since our front door doesn't close, the cats wander around inside the building meowing for food. One morning we even found a nice pile of cat-sick on the ground level of our apartment. This is just plain disgusting.
Before I continue, you may be wondering where did these cats come from? How did this get so bad? I don't know how true this anecdote is, but it's a good story that I've heard since coming here. To run with a great line from one of my favorite radio personalities, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story." The story goes back to when the British were running this part of the world. They were so disgusted by the numbers of rats running around they brought in cats to chase the rats (who ate the spider, who swallowed the fly...). Well, the cats in Israel did such a great job killing off the rats that you don't really see them at all.
But here is the rub (you know there would be one or I wouldn't be writing about it); they are starting to grow on me. Yep, that's right. The cats are starting to grow on me. Sometimes they are actually a little but cute to look at as they sit at the gateways to apartment buildings. Watching them struggle to get enough to eat is heart-wrenching. I saw one cat a while back that looked like he had been so mangled in a fight, his eye was scarred over and looked like he had been run through hell and back. There is something a little endearing about these filthy pests that roam the street.
The inquisitive way the little ones look up at you when you walk close by, much like the squirrels at the U of M, they look up to ask for a small morsel of food. I haven't softened to the point that I am going to feed them myself, but I do feel bad for them sometimes.
I will leave you with an amusing link about cats. Thanks to Brian A for this one. It's a Cat (meow) Flushing A Toilet
And no, I will still not be adopting a cat any time soon.