Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Is it wise and sensible to open a cat café in the Gaza Strip?

News media today reports that a 52-year-old woman, Naema Mabed, decided to open a cat café in the Gaza Strip because she envisaged the spot as a unique escape from the pressures of life in Gaza. My immediate thought was a cat café will certainly be a sanctuary of calm for people visiting it. So, she is correct in that respect.

Mabed's cat cafe. Image: AP.

But I am sure like many other people, I question whether it was wise and sensible to open a cat café in this area of the world. The Gaza Strip is synonymous with violence; being shelled by Israel. So, I did a quick search on Google, "How dangerous is the Gaza Strip?"

And a smart traveller website said that Gaza is extremely dangerous as the security situation is unpredictable and conflict can happen at any time without warning. They confirm that many rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza into Israel since 2001. And Israel retaliates by bombing parts of Gaza.

The dangers of living in the Gaza Strip are confirmed by the US Department of State which states that "The security environment within Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile".

I guess we know that so I don't really need to quote government agencies. However, it does confirm in my mind that it might be unfair on the cats to open a cat café in the Gaza Strip. The café might be shelled.

But there is a counterargument as I see it. The cats are probably shelter cats. Or they might be community cats and therefore to provide them with a home in a cat café is no bad thing.

The new Meow Café opened I believe last Thursday and it was successful. The owner of the café has some basic rules which is that visitors must cover their shoes with plastic and wash their hands before cuddling the cats. 

I guess she wants to stop diseases being transferred from people to cats. It is very unusual for people to pass diseases to cats by the way as there are very few diseases that can be transmitted from people to cats.

But the rules are quite nice. They help to keep the place clean and set some standards of hygiene.

The founder describes interacting with cats as a "global anti-depressant". She wants people who visit her cat café to feel better - to lighten their mood - and that's a very good objective.

The entrance fee is five Israeli shekels which translates to $1.30 and you can spend 30 minutes in the company of some beautiful cats.

This cat café will be a therapy to many people who've been scarred by years of war and hardship. A psychologist said that, "Any place that provides humans a kind of interaction with animals has a positive psychological impact". That's the power of interacting with animals. It is a known concept. 

It's great to get away from people interactions especially when the people are fighting each other all the time!

Postscript: in an ideal world, if you were thinking of animal welfare only, there should be no domestic cats in the Gaza Strip because of the inherent dangers of the place. If people want to kill each other then let them do it but don't involve animals who are innocent bystanders. And where there are domestic cats there are inevitably feral and stray cats. There should be none in Gaza Strip but that's a fictional ideal and a philosophical point.

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