There are an estimated 100,000-200,000 in stray cats in Jerusalem, with the population growing every day. The co-founders of Street Cats of Jerusalem aims to reduce those numbers through a Trap-Neuter-Release program.
One of those founders is Hindy Pearson. Her first encounter with stray cats happened at age 25. Since that time, she’s done a lot of work with cats. She’s cared for them as a pet sitter, helped to socialize them, answered behavior questions from owners, and cared for a community cat colony in her own neighborhood.
Pearson’s co-founder is Talli Ben Atar. She lives in Jerusalem and has been helping cats for about 30 years. All the cats in her neighborhood have been fixed. In addition to her job, her schooling, and her family Atar also finds foster homes for kittens rescued from the streets, as well as for cats and kittens recovering from illness or injury.
The two ladies met online. Out of that meeting came Street Cats of Jerusalem, started this past April.
ALLISON: How did you discover the plight of Jerusalem cats?
HINDY: I’ve known about it for over 25 years since I lived in Jerusalem. To be honest, the sadness of what’s going on kept me from returning all these years. My husband has wanted to go back as long as I’ve known him and we finally had a chat about it. Long story short I wouldn’t go visit unless I was going to help. My research into what’s going on nowadays led me to Talli.
ALLISON: How did you as a dog person and outsider get involved?
HINDY: I was a “cat person” for many years before I ever had a dog. I don’t consider myself an outsider because I lived in Jerusalem for five years. Also this may sound corny, but being Jewish we never feel like an outsider when it comes to Israel, even if we don’t live there.
ALLISON: How many others are helping this cause?
HINDY: There are many individuals working quietly behind the scenes, feeding and fixing cats using their own money. The local authority in Jerusalem is helping by providing feeding stations, food, and free spay/neuter for a set number of cats per years.
ALLISON: Why Jerusalem? And why now?
HINDY: There aren’t any community cat colonies where I live. My husband has wanted to go back to Israel since we met, but I haven’t wanted to because I knew how frustrated I would feel by not being able to help. I recently told him I would go if there was a way for me to do something, and that’s when I found Tali. When I lived in Jerusalem, I didn’t know anything about animal advocacy and wasn’t aware of TNR as a solution.
ALLISON: What has been the response to Street Cats of Jerusalem from Israel? From those outside?
HINDY: I’m afraid being so new it’s not known yet. My goal for our website is to create a resource for everything related to TNR so anyone in Jerusalem, the wider area, or worldwide can help community cats in the colonies where they live.
ALLISON: How can ones in Jerusalem most help? How about those outside?
HINDY: If you live in Jerusalem:
- We are in desperate need of foster homes for kittens, as well as cats of all ages recovering from illness or injury
- You can help by taking sick or injured cats you find to the vet
- Feed the cats in your neighborhood
- Get together with others in your community and trap, fix, and care for those cats
The following can be done no matter where in the world you live:
- Organize fundraisers, because without money to pay for spay/neuter surgery there is nothing we can do to stop cats breeding
- Share our website and social media posts to help us spread awareness
- Start conversations with people you know, and help change the apathy towards community cats
On our website you will find pages with a lot more details about volunteering and fund-raising ideas.
Numerous other ways are listed at: Animal Rescue Israel
ALLISON: Why should the world care about community cats?
HINDY: For me, it’s as simple as compassion towards all living beings.
ALLISON: What can community cats teach us about the care of all cats?
HINDY: I think I would reverse that and say, caring for our own cats should teach us compassion towards all of cats—no matter what their situation.
ALLISON: Anything else?
HINDY: Feral cats are not unique to Jerusalem; you will see street cats worldwide. Some countries are well known for being particularly cruel to their animals, so suffering is a lot more evident and widespread in some places than others.
Sadly, apathy is everywhere, and those who have no voice are the ones that suffer because of it. Turning a blind eye to a problem doesn’t make it go away, and giving those who are trying to help a hard time is unacceptable.
Surely it’s about time we finally accepted that animals are sentient beings, capable of pain and suffering just as humans are. The difference is they cannot escape their fate without our help. Humans created this problem, and it is our responsibility to fix it.