Jerusalem Will Feed Its Street Cats Rather Than Let Them Starve

For the longest time, street cats in Jerusalem fended for themselves. They found food largely by digging in garbage cans — much like street cats everywhere in the world. But when the city decided to change its garbage collection practices, it put the cats at risk.

Outcry from Jerusalem’s cat lovers caught the attention of the city’s new mayor, Moshe Lion. Lion announced that he will have the city build designated cat feeding stations and will spend $27,000 this year to fill them with food.

“When I understood the magnitude of the problem and the great distress caused, I decided to take up the task immediately,” said Mayor Lion in a statement.

“The Jerusalem Municipality will maintain the balance between the quality of life of the residents and that of the street cats, through care rather than neglect. We will soon put in place organized feeders and the budget will provide backup for those who do sacred work with the animals of the city,” Lion added.

The city plans to buy and provide seven bags of cat food each day — 219 per month — to be distributed to the various cat feeding stations it will install.

City officials also anticipated calling a special meeting for cat supporters who’ve been feeding strays out of their own pockets. The city will explain the new program, as well as how individuals can claim for reimbursement for the costs of feeding they’ve been doing privately.

Jerusalem is literally packed with street cats. In fact, that’s true of cities throughout Israel. While the United States, China and Russia have more cats overall, Israel can claim the dubious honor of a higher cat-to-human ratio than any other country.

There about 2 million feral cats in Israel, and it’s likely this number will swell to 8 million within a few years. If that happens, the population of cats will equal the population of humans. But street cats are often dirty, ragged and prone to diseases.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

Cats weren’t a problem in Israel until the 1930s, when the British imported them to deal with rats. They inevitably multiplied until their numbers reached the overwhelming levels that are causing problems today.

Feeding the cats isn’t the government’s only feral cat management strategy. In 2013, Israel allotted $1.5 million to spay and neuter stray dogs and cats. At least 100,000 cats have been sterilized — but, of course, this is still just a drop in the bucket. Intact cats keep breeding, and they can have three litters every year.

Not everyone is happy about the mayor’s kind decision to feed the strays. Critics fear that providing food for the cats will ultimately cause more misery for them.

“It’s really crazy,” Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov told Haaretz. “The density of cats in Jerusalem is the highest ever recorded anywhere in the world — about 2,000 cats per square kilometer. That’s around 1,000 times the density of cats in the wild. The more cats are fed, the more cats there will be.”

What’s the best way to resolve this admittedly huge problem? Starve out the cats so their numbers drop, or feed and sterilize them?

It’s a tough decision. Jerusalem’s mayor has decided to feed the cats for now. How that choice will affect the nation’s feral cats in the long run remains to be seen.

Photo credit: Getty Images

72 comments

Jacqueline G

Why not a TNR program?

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Ildi E
Ildi E4 days ago

Thanks for Mayor Lion for this compassionate decision to save cats. We cat-lovers are very grateful for your caring for this sentient and highly social kitties.

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Janis K
Janis K9 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R9 days ago

thank you

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney10 days ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney10 days ago

Awesome Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney10 days ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney10 days ago

Fantastic Thank you for caring and sharing

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Shazaway R
Past Member 10 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Michael Friedmann

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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