Dubai, Jan 3: An expert in cat control is to be drafted in to sort out Dubai’s escalating stray problem.
A staggering 150,000 feral cats are now thought to be roaming the Emirate’s streets.
It is feared that they present a major health risk, potentially spreading diseases such as toxoplasmosis, which is dangerous to pregnant women and the weak.
Now, Dubai Municipality wants to bring in an international expert to advise it on what to do about the problem.
The intention is to virtually wipe out the stray population, getting it down to just a few hundred animals.
Dr Hisham Ahmed Fahmi, head of the veterinary section, said rapid growth in Dubai in recent years has fuelled the cat problem.
“A number of factors have led to their increase, especially the construction of new buildings and also the growth of the population,” he told 7DAYS.
“There are also environmental factors that have contributed to the growing numbers. The expert will take into consideration all these issues before suggesting how to control them.”
The aim is to bring down the number of strays to a satisfactory level without upsetting the natural balance.
“We will be adopting various strategies as recommended by the expert. Our only aim is to remove the stray cat menace and safeguard public health,” Dr Hisham said.
He added that the course of action would be decided by the expert, but that the Municipality’s preference was to sterilise animals rather than cull them.
He also urged the public not to feed stray cats.
“People should stop doing this. We are asking people not to feed these cats and encourage them in their streets. They are a potential health hazard. Their number has become too big,” he said.
Dubai Municipality launched a “Protection against Stray Cats” campaign in October and has already received 2,000 calls from people reporting strays in their neighbourhood.
But animal charity Feline Friends warned that getting rid of all the cats could have repercussions.
“Cats stop rats and cockroaches from infesting our homes and streets. The reason why we have a problem is because many of the cats have been thrown out on the street when people tire of their pets, leave Dubai or don’t want to pay for healthcare,” said Lesley Muncey, co-chair of Feline Friends.