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Street Cats in Israel

Photographer: Abir Sultan



Israel's street cat population is estimated to be more than two million. Due to lack of funding from the state, veterinary services and animal rights organizations are unable to keep up with the growing population when it comes to spaying and neutering.


Animal rights organizations and experts predict that within a few years there will be more street cats than people in Israel. The human population currently stands at eight million.


According to the animal welfare organization Spay Israel, which is tasked with spaying and neutering thousands of cats each year, the average lifespan of a cat on the street is between one and one and a half years. These felines don't have it easy – they have to toughen up for a life outside, forced to fight for their food and against predators and diseases. Survivors inevitably breed.


Spay Israel blames society and the state for neglecting or ignoring the issue of the ever growing street cat population. It claims that spaying and neutering not only prolongs the lifespan of cats, but is the only way to stop them breeding, thus controlling the population.


Israel's Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel recently suggested that street cats be deported as a means of tackling the problem. He proposed using the annual budget of 4.5 million NIS (about 1 million euro) for the treatment of strays to transfer cats of a single gender to a foreign country willing to accept them. Citing Jewish Halacha law, he argues that it is forbidden to spay and neuter animals as it contradicts God's wishes for them to 'be fruitful and multiply'.


For now, it remains unclear how Israel will try to tame its population of street cats.