The Cat Lady

A Cat Lady in Be'er Sheva (click to enlarge)

According to local lore, cats were brought to Israel during the Mandate by the British to control the rat population.  Today feral cats are a fixture of every Israeli neighborhood, town and city, rural or urban.  Feral cats in Israel are not cuddly creatures; they are engaged in an ongoing battle for Survival of the Fittest and that includes tough tomcats missing various body parts or oozing infection, and females who have litters twice or more a year and who often commit kittencide on defective or weak kittens.  Despite frequent self grooming they live in garbage bins, so they’re always dirty.  When their overpopulation gets to be a problem, the municipality steps in and poisons them.  It’s not a pretty picture.

That said, every neighborhood seems to have a Cat Lady, someone who feels genuine pity for their plight and feeds them regularly.  One of my friends is a Cat Lady and lives in Ramat HaSharon in a villa; her backyard has been taken over by the permanent residence of 16 cats who live in cardboard boxes all over her patio.  She called the SPCA to come and get them to have them neutered; they are now back at her house and presumably infertile.  She also called the SPCA when she noticed a cat with an eye infection; they captured it, removed its eye (the infection was too advanced to save it), treated it and brought it back to its rightful place on the patio.

In Be’er Sheva the Cat Lady on Ayala Street comes every day around 5 p.m.  and brings food, which she scatters in measured clumps at 2-foot intervals along a stone retaining wall, and she refills a large plastic container of clean drinking water which she places along the ground, out of the way of passersby.  She gets no financial assistance for this; she feeds about 20 cats a day.

While admittedly I’m a “dog” person and Israel’s feral cats are slow to evoke my sympathy, it must be noted that Rabbi Aryeh Levin (The Tzaddik of Jerusalem who was famous during the 1940s – 1960s) used to feed cats bowls of milk on a regular basis.  He always showed love, hope and encouragement for creatures big and small, animal as well as human.  There are those who say some cats are a gilgul – a reincarnation of a human soul who did not fulfill his purpose while on earth.  All’s I know is the middle-of-the-night catfights and the smell of sprayed cat urine are not pleasant.  But at least they do keep rodents to a minimum.

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