Six Lucky Cats From The Middle East Now Call The Central Valley Home

By Jackie Dale

On June 22, 2012 the final chapter of an epic 8,000-mile journey for six very lucky cats came to a happy conclusion. Lynea Lattanzio, founder and director of The Cat House on the Kings in Parlier, California drove to the San Francisco Airport to meet the five kitties arriving from Oman (United Arab Emirates) and one 3-legged kitty from Kuwait. Along with volunteer Jackie Dale, Lynea jumped through the hoops more commonly known as customs and waited hours for the cats to be released to them.

An American woman living in the mountains of Oman, Sara Lawrence had contacted The Cat House on the Kings on behalf of two English ladies who feed and care for the thousands of homeless cats in Muscat, Oman. They trap many of the strays, have them spayed or neutered and then release them back onto the street. There are simply no homes for them so their goal is to simply reduce the feral population as much as possible. They were desperate to find homes for five kittens they had rescued and grown to love. They were not able to keep them permanently and had been unable to place them in homes. They were soon due to be released back onto the streets. The alternatives for cats in the Middle East are grim. Unwanted pets are frequently just taken out to the desert and left to die. There are very few animal shelters and they generally only take dogs. Disease is rampant and many of the cats don’t make it past the first year. Food and water is extremely scarce and the homeless cats are frequent targets of cruel and vicious acts.

Coincidently, at the same time an American couple living in Kuwait contacted The Cat House on the Kings after seeing the Animal Planet show “Must Love Cats”. Zach Holden and Ashley Hartley both live and work in Kuwait. Zach has personally rescued numerous cats and found homes for them in the United States. They took in a kitten that Ashley rescued as it was crawling through traffic while dragging a horribly broken leg. They took it to the only vet in Kuwait for treatment. The leg was so badly damaged that amputation was the only answer for the kitten, now named Buddy Lee. They nursed Buddy Lee back to health but due to the fact that Zach already had his limit of cats and Ashley lived in company housing, they were forced to find Buddy Lee a new home. If you think finding a home for a healthy cat is hard, try finding a home for a cat with three legs. Lynea agreed to take Buddy on the conditions that he arrange to get it on the same flight as the Omani cats and pay for the flight charges. Zach and Ashley will send money each month to help pay Buddy Lee’s expenses.. She agreed to waive the substantial surrender fee as a goodwill gesture to cat-rescuing Americans living abroad. She also hoped to bring some attention to the overwhelming problem of feral cat colonies in the Middle East.

Kuwait and Oman are home to some of the largest feral cat colonies in the world. Much like in America, animals are often viewed as disposable property. There is very little concept of kindness to animals in countries such as Oman and Kuwait. Virtually no one spays or neuters their animals. The homeless cats (and dogs) endure 5 months of searing summer temperatures that often rise up to 130°. Frequent dust storms make breathing difficult. People deliberately run the animals over with their cars, set out poisoned food and commit heinous acts of unbelievable cruelty against them. Police often come out and shoot the stray dogs and cats, leaving them to die in the street.

The British ladies, Lesley Lewins and Christine Barlow, raised the money to ship the five cats from Muscat, Oman where the circumstances are especially dire. In the past seven years they have trapped, neutered and released approximately 3,000 cats. Their philosophy is that the cats will have a better chance if they only have to fend for themselves. They are doing an amazing job amid the monumental hopelessness of trying to help so many homeless cats while also trying to reduce the feral population. The governments of these countries do nothing to address these problems and speaking out can get one into a lot of trouble. Lesley often spends her own money to help feed the cats however there is little to no cat food available in the stores. Lesley convinced the big hotels to save the kitchen scraps for her. She cooks everything up into a big sort of stew and then she drives around in the middle of the night feeding as many as 100 cats a night. Lesley does not limit her tremendous kindness to animals. She also tries to help the Indian laborers who are forced to work in the horrible heat often with no available water. Human rights are also a huge issue in Oman but the government downplays these things and speaking out against the government can bring extremely unpleasant consequences.

These six lucky cats will now call The Cat House on the Kings home. After a period of quarantine and then some socialization they will join the rest of the nearly 1,000 cats that reside there. They will live in peace and serenity while they wait for their forever homes. The owners have expressed their desire to retrieve their pets when they return to their homelands, if they have not yet been adopted. A lot of hearts were broken the day the six cats were loaded onto the airplane to begin their arduous journey. But they felt that it was worth all the time, effort and money to make certain that the cats they loved so much would be going to a safe and loving place. The world certainly needs more people like that. Follow the progress of the Omani cats and Buddy Lee on the website,

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