JEDDAH: Animal-lovers in a Saudi city have come up with the purrfect solution for feeding hungry stray cats during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Feral felines on Alkhobar’s corniche used to live off food from visitors, but due to restrictions on movement introduced to stop the spread of the deadly virus, the area has become almost deserted and scraps have been scarce.
But with the backing of caring residents, Alkhobar municipality has launched its Food of Mercy initiative to feed the cats and other animals on the waterfront.
Municipality leader, Eng. Sultan Al-Zaidi, told Arab News: “The initiative comes in compliance with the merciful teachings of Islam that demand us to show mercy to all living creatures. Taking good care of animals and treating them well is a noble Islamic principle.”
He said cats on the corniche had relied on food given to them by people visiting the area, but COVID-19 preventive regulations had forced trippers to stay at home leaving the strays to go hungry.
“The precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have included the closure of restaurants, which has also added to the struggle of these animals in finding a source of food. So, this initiative will help these cats survive.
“On a small budget, we have done a good job. In different locations along the seafront we have installed more than 60 food and water tubes to feed stray cats and to provide them with the dry meals they need to survive,” Al-Zaidi added.
He denied claims that some animals had been found dead on the seafront, and said the project was “a gesture of humanity after the coronavirus affected the source of food these animals have depended on for a long time.”
Local residents have contacted the municipality to volunteer their support for the initiative which Al-Zaidi said could continue once the health crisis was over “due to its positive returns.”
He noted that animal protection organizations, including the Humane Society of Saudi Arabia (Rifq) and the Saudi Society for Animal Welfare, along with citizens, officials, social media users, and private bodies had shown their appreciation for the initiative.
Animal abuse and mistreatment is a criminal offence in Saudi Arabia. In October 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture fined 28 offenders a total of SR1.76 million ($470,000) for animal cruelty and food-health violations which took place between June and August of that year.