It is no secret that humans and animals can come together to offer each other comfort in times of need. That has certainly been the case in the Syrian town of Kafr Nabl, where the human and feline residents have supported each other during a difficult time. According to the BBC, Kafr Nabl has suffered months of intensive bombing by both Syrian and Russian forces. The town, which is located in the last rebel-held province of Syria, is now home to more feline residents than humans. Although the town was once home to more than 40,000 people, there are now fewer than 100 human residents. However, there is still a large feline population in the town. Although there are no exact numbers, it is believed that there are thousands of cats living in Kafr Nabl. The cats are offering comfort to the remaining human residents, and it seems as though this works both ways.
The BBC spoke to a resident called Salah Haar. During the interview, the 32-year-old Syrian was crouching for protection from the bombs below a table in his basement, which is strewn with rubbish. He is not alone in the basement as he has with him around half a dozen cats. Jaar has said that he finds it comforting having the cats with him while the bombs are falling. He has described how the bombardment, demolition, and fear seem somehow more bearable when they are around. The town has always had a large cat population, but the human population has diminished for two reasons. First, people have been killed in the bombings. Second, whole families have fled the town to escape the constant bombardment. Even though many people have fled the town, the cats living there still need people to feed them and care for them. The cats have moved into the remaining occupied houses, which means that each occupied house now has approximately 15 cats each.
Jaar works as a reporter for the local radio. Just before the recent horrific airstrikes, the radio station moved its operations to a safer town nearby. It was fortunate that they made the move because the original station has since been reduced to rubble. Other than reporting local news, the radio station also broadcasts warnings of bombing raids. The founder of the radio station was Raed Fares, an activist who was filled in November 2018 by Islamist gunmen. As there were many cats who made the radio station their home, Fares allocated an allowance to the station to buy milk and cheese to feed the cats. Jaar told reporters that many of the cats who lived in the former radio station were born there. There was even a white cat with brown spots that had developed a special affinity with Fares and would follow him around or sleep by his side.
When the combing stopped during the interview, Jaar decided to risk leaving his hiding place and venture outside what was left of his home. As he stepped outside, he was greeted by cats meowing from every direction, some of them sounding desperate. He told the reporters that this happens to everyone who is still living in the town after a bombing. He says that he is sometimes followed by up to 30 cats at any one time. It is not only the stray cats that need care and comfort from the human residents of Kafr Nabl. As night falls, it is also possible to hear the whines and barks of the stray dogs living in the town that have been left behind by their former owners. Often, the cats and dogs are fighting for the attention of the humans living in the town.
Despite the hunger and fear of the remaining residents of the town, everyone is doing their best to make sure the cats and dogs are being cared for as well as possible. The humans are now accustomed to sharing what little food they have with their four-legged neighbors. Jaar says that he and other residents know that the strays are also weak creatures, so they will share their dry bread, noodles, and vegetables with the animals. Due to the constant bombings, many of the strays have been injured. There is a lack of medical care and supplies to help the injured animals. However, Jaar and other residents do their best to help out the animals when they are inured. Whenever possible, they will take the most seriously injured to the nearby city of Idlib in northwestern Syria for treatment.
The situation looks dire for Kafr Nabl, especially as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are now not far from the town. This is something that Jaar is very worried about, and he also fears for the town’s cat population. It is possible that it will not be long before everyone is forced to flee the two, both humans and animals. They may have no other option but to find new homes in a safer place if they want to survive. Jaar describes how the humans and cats of the town have stuck together through both the good times and the bad. He believes that no matter what happens, the humans will continue to support the cats and will not leave them behind. Jaar thinks that if the residents are forced to flee, they will take as many of the cats with them as they possibly can.
This story is both horrific and heartwarming at the same time. It shows the incredible bond that humans and animals can form between them, especially during the most difficult times. In this case, the horrors of war have brought humans and felines close together to support each other. Each can offer the other some comfort during the worst times. Jaar’s belief that the humans will take the cats with them shows how the bond between humans and animals is often difficult to break.