Not all cultures share the same attitudes towards animals. While some cultures consider animals just as important as humans, there are other cultures that consider humans superior to all other species. In these cultures, strays have a particularly hard time as many people consider them nothing more than a nuisance. One such example is Israel, as many of the people from this country do not have a positive attitude towards animals. Although there are animal welfare and rights laws in place, these have little impact on the attitudes towards stray cats in that country.
Fortunately for the cats, there are many kind-hearted animal activists who are willing to go the extra mile to help stray cats. Haaretz describes the biggest feline shelter in Israel, which has become known as the kibbutz of cats. The House for Rescuing Cats is located in the northern city of Hadera and it is run by cat lover Irit Engel. Kindhearted Irit hated seeing the struggles of the cats living on the streets in the local area, so she decided to help by opening up her home to stray cats. However, she had a big task ahead of her and not everyone is supporting her project.
In Israel, here are more than two million cats living on the streets, so strays are a massive issue in this country. Some people try to help them by bringing them food. Some lucky cats living in the country’s capital, Tel Aviv, will have people who regularly bring them food if they are in a certain place at the right time of the day. Many people disagree with the actions of those who are helping the street cats by feeding them, and there are two reasons for this. The first is that in their view, feeding the cats is only encouraging and exacerbating the problem with strays.
Second, there are those who believe that people feeding strays are doing it for the wrong reasons. They think that animal welfare activists are only doing this for their own satisfaction and not for the benefit of the cats. Due to the attitudes to animals in Israel, there are many who feel that taking pity on animals is narcissistic. Of course, this is a view with which the animal welfare activists disagree. Although they do get a lot of satisfaction from helping the cats, their efforts require a lot of hard work and dedication. They say the effort and time they put into their work helping cats overrides any satisfaction they feel.
These attitudes make it very difficult for those who help out the strays. Many of them are met with hostility from other members of the community and some even end up in debt as they spend so much time and money trying to help the stray animals. Like many other animal welfare activists, Irit was no stranger to the hostility and financial struggles that come with helping out the strays of Israel. It started off as a personal mission to help the cats, and there were times that she felt great despair. One such occasion was when she was single-handedly caring for 17 kittens.
However, she managed to turn her despair into a positive project. With a lot of effort on her part and with the help of donations from other animal lovers, she was able to form the largest cat shelter in Israel. From simply caring for the cats on her own she extended her ambitious project to a proper shelter. It began in an abandoned building set in a field in Hadera. There were already approximately 90 stray cats living in the building, including many litters of kittens. Some of the cats were chronically ill, and Irit devoted herself to providing them with around the clock care.
Abandoned buildings are often depressing places, but Irit has made sure that the shelter is a happy and bright place by filling it with hammocks, rugs, climbing trees, and cat toys. She also made the most of the outdoor space for them by adding nets and giving them lots of space to climb and play. Irit created a separate wing for the sick cats, so they had somewhere to rest and recover. For Irit, the psychological component of the shelter was very important.
By 2015, the building has been designated as a convalescent shelter for cats and it was called the Hatuliyya. Roughly translated into English, this means the Cat Place. At that time, thee were so many cats living in the shelter that Irit needed some help, so she added seven volunteers. Over the years, Irit and her volunteers accepted even more cats and kittens to their shelter. Many of these cats were injured, ill, or on the verge of death. The team devoted all their time to treating the cats, taking them to the veterinarian, and giving them lots of love.
Life changed for Irit in 2018 when she was appointed as the manager of The House for Saving Cats, which is an established foundation in Hadera. The building was falling apart and just one volunteer was taking care of more than 300 cats every day. Irit worked hard for a year to transform the space so that she could transfer her 90 cats from Hatuliyya. Like before, she made the space comfortable, created separate areas for the sick cats, and made the open space surrounding the building a place where the cats could play. The building is surrounded by greenery and fruit orchards, just like a kibbutz. This led to the shelter earning the nickname ‘the kibbutz of cats’.
Irit posts updates about the cats to an Instagram page that she set up to raise awareness of the shelter and the needs of the cats. She posts photographs and tells the stories of individual cats in the hope of getting more donations so that she can continue to provide the stray cats of Israel with medical attention, food, love, and affection.