In answering the comments on the previous post, I was reminded of an amazing cat story in which I participated briefly. This happened in New York City’s East Village circa 1990. A woman, an artist, who is now deceased lived across the hall from me with her husband and a cat named Bass. It was a sixth floor walk-up with an elevator that sometimes worked. I did occasional readings for the woman in exchange for a glass of wine. We were sort of friends. I had a special relationship with the cat and would read him from time to time by petting him and mentally asking him questions, to which he would answer directly to my mind very clearly. I would convey this information to the woman, who would then generally do what the cat required.

One evening the woman told me how the cat had come to live with her. It was a cold winter night as she made her way home. When she got a few steps from the doorway of the tenement, she became aware of the cat meowing pitifully behind her. She bent down and petted his shivering body, promising to bring him a can of cat food when she got up to her apartment to fetch it. I think the woman had once had another cat that had passed on some years previously and she remembered the lingering can in her cupboard.

She unlocked the two bullet-proof glass doors that separated the January chill from the steam heat. The elevator worked that evening and sped her to the sixth floor. After unlocking the door to her tiny home, she put down her handbag on the kitchen table and fetched the promised can from the cupboard and headed back to the door of her apartment two steps away with the intention of bringing down the cat a nice supper.

Imagine her surprise when upon opening the door who ran into her apartment but the very cat! She hadn’t let him in and he wasn’t in the elevator with her, so it was rather mysterious how he had gotten in and found her door on the sixth floor so quickly. But it was clear that the cat was at home so she allowed him to stay, especially since her husband, a musician, was out of town on a gig.

Several nights later when her husband was still away, the woman had a startling dream, almost a nightmare, that filled her with awe. The cat came to her in a realistic dream as a giant cat-headed figure larger than a human, and in a deep and resonant voice that shook her body, proclaimed, “I am Bass!” or at least that is what she heard. So naturally she called the cat Bass. And Bass became an accepted member of the household.

Now the woman, an artist, as I had mentioned previously, was an intelligent college educated person, but apparently never studied any ancient Egyptian mythology, because when I asked her if she was certain that the cat in her dream said Bass and not BAST she looked at me blankly and said something like, “I think so, what difference does it make?” I found it remarkable that she had never heard of BAST.

BAST is/was the protector Goddess of lower Egypt, where cats were worshipped and none so much as BAST. She is a glorious cat-headed woman in some renderings while in others a proud lioness or an elegant cat. The town of Boubastis in the Nile Delta was her sacred place.

Now the problem with this whole story is that BAST is a Goddess and Bass was a male cat, yet I feel sure that the woman had a visitation from the Goddess BAST. I told her so and though she mulled it over in her mind, I remain unconvinced that she was duly impressed with the divine encounter she had been privileged to receive.

Several months later, it came out in a reading that the woman and her husband would be moving to California. She requested I ask Bass if he would be pleased with the move. I held the cat on my lap and questioned him. He was alarmed. He did not want to go under any circumstances. A couple of months later they moved to LA taking Bass with them, in my opinion, against his will. About two weeks after the move, I found out later, the cat got out of the house and was promptly run over.

BAST (courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)


One morning last week I woke up from a dream. The dream was weird and definitely in color. A certain large male orange cat of my acquaintance was prominently featured. In the dream I had filled a big sparkling white bathroom basin with cold water from the tap. The cat, who likes to put his paw in water and bat it, began doing so and then jumped in. Soon he put his head under the water too. Then, completely submerged, he tried to go to the bottom of the basin in order to breathe through the drain which was gurgling. I tried to pull him out but I could not do so. He remained at the bottom of the basin near the drain and seemed to be clinging to it trying to breathe. I was very upset about the cat in my dream.

Then I woke up and began to mull over the meaning of my dream. I opened my eyes and my long thin dark tan arm reached for the apricot stucco wall in the soft evening light. Whoa! I began to freak out! I do not have a long thin tan arm or an apricot stucco wall. Splat! I was pulled back into my chubbier whiter body and it was still the middle of the night (or at least still dark out) and I could see the outlines of my bookcase where the apricot stucco wall had been. I had experienced a false awakening while dreaming.

This has happened to me before but what stood out about this instance was that during my false awakening I was thinking about my previous dream about the cat. This may be a first for me to be actively thinking about and trying to figure out a previous dream while still dreaming.

Wikipedia defines A false awakening as “a vivid and convincing dream about awakening from sleep, while the dreamer in reality continues to sleep.”  I often have false awakenings in which I am awake in my real surroundings and get up and do something reasonably mundane and then realize that my physical body is still in the bed. These may also be spontaneous out of body experiences. But I can’t remember being in another body that felt like a real body in another room that looked real in which I was also thinking about my previous dream in a rational logical way.

It so happens that two days later out of the blue the orange cat went into a bad state of being, sitting by himself and hiding. The following day he was observed to be dripping a bloody substance from his rear quarters and was taken to the veterinarian where he was diagnosed with a urinary blockage in his urethra. His bladder was the size of a grapefruit and his kidneys were affected. He stayed at the animal clinic for several days. His condition was touch and go. When he was released back into the custody of his loving owners they were admonished to see that he drank more water and to add water to his food.

It seems to me that the dream was a premonition of the cat’s illness. He was in tip top shape at the time of the dream and did not begin to show any signs that anything was wrong until two days passed. My question is what was the dream telling me? If it was a premonition why was I unable to help? I have never dreamt of this cat before, so why now? Interestingly I feel I might not have remembered the dream if it weren’t for the false awakening.

Am I food?
Am I food?

This comes to me from Superior Bill. Though I am horrified I am not surprised. Considering the burgeoning human overpopulation, things like this are likely to become more rather than less common unfortunately. The slaughter and eating of cats is a very inauspicious activity to engage in.

China protest decries custom of eating cats

By GILLIAN WONG,Associated Press Writer AP – Friday, December 19

BEIJING – A southern Chinese province must stop the “shameful” and “cruel slaughter” of cats for food, a group of more than 40 animal lovers in Beijing said Thursday as they unfurled banners in a tearful protest.

Thousands of cats across the country have been caught in the past week by traders and transported to Guangdong province to be killed for food, said the protesters gathered at the Guangdong government’s office in Beijing.

“We are very angry because the cats are being skinned and then cooked alive. We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior,” said Wang Hongyao, who represented the group in submitting a letter to the Guangdong office.

The protesters urged the provincial government to crack down on cat traders and restaurants that serve cat meat, although no law says it is illegal to eat cats. It has long been common for cats and dogs to be eaten in some parts of China and in some other Asian countries.

The demonstrators held up banners saying “Cooking cats alive! Shame on Guangdong!” and “Resolutely oppose cruel slaughter” as they met with a representative of the Guangdong office.

Calls to the Guangdong provincial office in Beijing rang unanswered, while the government news office in the province refused to comment.

The protest was apparently in response to Chinese media reports in recent days that carried pictures of furry felines peering out through bamboo crates and metal cages, apparently en route to Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital. Other pictures show cats being skinned in restaurant kitchens.

About 5,000 cats were sent from Nanjing to Guangzhou, while cats from Shanghai, Hangzhou and other places were also being rounded up, the Chengdu Business Daily reported last week. The paper said people in Guangdong eat 10,000 cats a day.

No reason was given for the increased media coverage, or if there has been an increase in cat meat consumption.

Many of the protesters in Beijing were retirees who said they have been caring for strays cats. The protesters said they believed that some street cats in Beijing, “especially the fat ones,” have disappeared and were likely nabbed by cat meat dealers.

“These cats, they are like our children,” said Cui Qingzhen, a 56-year-old woman who said she has been feeding street cats for six years. “We can’t let these people do this to them.”

The demonstrators also noted that a virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, is suspected to have been spread to humans by civet cats, mongoose-like animals considered a delicacy in southern China.

SARS was first reported in Guangdong in November 2002 and killed 774 people worldwide before subsiding in July 2003. In 2004, Guangdong banned the raising, selling, killing and eating of civet cats.

“Haven’t they learned from SARS that some animals just shouldn’t be eaten by humans?” Cui said. “Ask the Guangdong people: What else must they eat?”

Associated Press researcher Xi Yue contributed to the report.

Luz, the orphaned kitten, by Doyle Phillips.

Good news: Luz has a new home at a school for handicapped children in Mexico. They adore her. And her sore eye has been healed.

A few articles of interest about cats.

Bad news from Peru- they have a Cat Eating Festival. I may choose to cancel my plans of visiting Macchu Picchu due to this disgusting ritual. My thanks to Superior Bill for this sad news, but news we need to know and act on.

Fury over cat eating festival

ANIMAL rights groups are up in arms over an annual festival in Peru that serves up hundreds of fried CATS to locals.

The ‘Gastronomical Festival of the Cat’ – dubbed the ‘Massacre of the Moggies’ – sees townsfolk in Canete, near Lima, feast on the fluffy pets for two days.

They believe that eating cat burgers – and fried cat legs and tails – can cure bronchial disease.

It is also believed that feline meat serves as an aphrodisiac.

The cats are bred especially for this festival – which takes place at the end of September on the Day of Santa Ifigenia.

But it has generated fury among animal rights groups.

A PETA spokesman said: ““If Peruvians really eat poor old Moggy because they think his meat cures bronchitis, that’s about as bizarre as it gets, although remember that Asians eat monkey bits thinking that will cure their impotence and even Europeans butcher poor old Bessie the cow or Henny Penny the hen, because they see them as nothing more than a bit of nourishment.

“Having toured slaughterhouses for dogs in Taiwan, horses in Texas, and chickens and cows in Europe, PETA’s staff says the last thing we need to do is add yet another poor animal to the list of those being frightened and slaughtered for a taste.

From Roxan Lucan, a item of interest about how cats’ purring is good for their health and yours as well:

Why Do Cats Purr?

Leslie A. Lyons, an assistant professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, explains:

Over the course of evolution, purring has probably offered some selective advantage to cats. Most felid species produce a “purr-like” vocalization. In domestic cats, purring is most noticeable when an animal is nursing her kittens or when humans provide social contact via petting, stroking or feeding. Although we assume that a cat’s purr is an expression of pleasure or is a means of communication with its young, perhaps the reasons for purring can be deciphered from the more stressful moments in a cat’s life.

Cats often purr while under duress, such as during a visit to the veterinarian or when recovering from injury. Thus, not all purring cats appear to be content or pleased with their current circumstances. This riddle has lead researchers to investigate how cats purr, which is also still under debate.

Scientists have demonstrated that cats produce the purr through intermittent signaling of the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles. Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing. This association between the frequencies of cats’ purrs and improved healing of bones and muscles may provide help for some humans.

Bone density loss and muscle atrophy is a serious concern for astronauts during extended periods at zero gravity. Their musculo-skeletal systems do not experience the normal stresses of physical activity, including routine standing or sitting, which requires strength for posture control.

Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy. The durability of the cat has facilitated the notion that cats have “nine lives” and a common veterinary legend holds that cats are able to reassemble their bones when placed in the same room with all their parts. Purring may provide a basis for this feline mythology.

The domestication and breeding of fancy cats occurred relatively recently compared to other pets and domesticated species, thus cats do not display as many muscle and bone abnormalities as their more strongly selected carnivore relative, the domestic dog. Perhaps cats’ purring helps alleviate the dysplasia or osteoporotic conditions that are more common in their canid cousins. Although it is tempting to state that cats purr because they are happy, it is more plausible that cat purring is a means of communication and a potential source of self-healing.

Answer originally published on January 27, 2003.

From Nadira Hall, we see how a cat, Mr. Green Genes, is helping science to find methods to cure diseases such as cystic fibrosis.  The cat has a manipulated gene that causes it to glow green under ultraviolet light. But is it ethical or animal cruelty?

Scientists make cat that glows in the dark

By day he is just a normal tabby but when the lights go out this ginger cat glows in the dark.

Scientists have genetically modified a cat as part of an experiement that could lead to treatments for conditions like cystic fibrosis.

Named Mr Green Genes, he look likes a six-month-old cat but, under ultraviolet light, his eyes, gums and tongue glow a vivid lime green, the result of a genetic experiment at the Audubon Centre for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans.

Mr. Green Genes is the first fluorescent cat in the United States and probably the world, said Betsy Dresser, the centre’s director.

The researchers made him so they could learn whether a gene could be introduced harmlessly into the feline’s genetic sequence to create what is formally known as a transgenic cat.

If so, it would be the first step in a process that could lead to the development of ways to combat diseases via gene therapy.

The gene, which was added to Mr. Green Genes’ DNA when he was created, has no effect on his health, Ms Dresser said.

Cats are ideal for this project because their genetic makeup is similar to that of humans, said Dr. Martha Gomez, a veterinarian and staff scientist at the center.

To show that the gene went where it was supposed to go, the researchers settled on one that would glow.

The gene “is just a marker,” said Leslie Lyons, an assistant professor of population health and reproduction at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, who is familiar with the Audubon center’s work.

“The glowing part is the fun part,” she said.

Glowing creatures made international news earlier this month when the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who had discovered the gene through their work with jellyfish.

They used the gene, whose formal name is enhanced green fluorescence protein, to see how things work inside animals and even inside cells.

The fluorescence gene will go alongside the cystic-fibrosis gene and make it easy to spot. The long-term goal of this process, for which there is no timetable, is the production of what Dr Gomez calls a “knockout gene.”

Sadly my mother passed away a few years ago. When she passed she was at a hospice. The last 2.5 months of her life were spent in hospital, in rehab, at a managed care facility and finally at the hospice facility. There were several uncanny events surrounding her passing. Firstly, although she was not in her right mind for several months before she departed and she had not been conscious for several days before death, she managed to die within 48 hours of the first anniversary of my father’s death.

Since she had been living in these various facilities for over two months she had not been at home during that time. She had both an indoor and an outdoor cat. At the time of this writing, the indoor cat continues to live. While my mother was away from home, I fed and took care of these cats along with a neighbor. From the day my mother died, the outdoor cat, a black spayed female, was never seen again by anyone in the neighborhood, though previously she was there everyday to be fed and generally hung around. On the same day my mother’s television ceased to work, though it had operated just fine the day before.

I am aware that such phenomena abound and when I read the following article sent to me by the ever resourceful Superior Bill, I knew I had to share it with you, dear reader. The article mentions two books one of which I’ve read and recommend highly: Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home by Rupert Sheldrake. The other book is new and from Great Britain as well: The Art Of Dying by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick. I hope to read it soon. Seems to me that the British, as a group, value their companion animals very highly and are aware of their special psychic gifts and extraordinary abilities. I wouldn’t want to get too close to anyone who is unkind to his or her companion animal.

Oh, yes, one final note, apparently “mog” is a British word for house cat (please correct me if I’m wrong).

From the Mail Online:

The weird world of mystic mogs and death-sensing dogs

Cats who know exactly when they are going to be taken to the vets. Dogs who sense their owners’ whereabouts – even if they are miles away. And birds who seem to mourn the deaths of those around them… our pets and other animals have always been intuitive – but do they really have a mysterious sixth sense?

A new book by Britain’s leading clinical authority on near-death experiences, Dr Peter Fenwick, and his wife Elizabeth, a counsellor, examines the remarkable cases of psychic animals. . .

Animals may have an extra sense we humans have now lost

There is nothing new about the idea that animals can acquire information from an extra sense that we humans have now lost – if we ever had it at all.

Most pet owners can probably quote some example of a cat or dog behaving like a mind-reader.

Dogs often behave as if they know when their owner is setting off for home, though the owner may be many miles away, and may wait by the door for them to arrive.

Cats are notorious for being able to sense when a visit to the vet is in the offing.

One academic, Rupert Sheldrake, author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, contacted 65 veterinary offices in London and asked if they had any problem with cat owners keeping their appointments.

Not only had 64 noticed such problems, but some were no longer making appointments for cat owners, explaining: ‘Cat appointments don’t work.’

It isn’t simply that the cats notice their owner approaching with a cat basket – the animals actually hide as soon as they sense that their owner is beginning to think: ‘I’d better start looking for Puss now if we’re to make it to the vets on time . . .’

Similarly, an awareness of death is certainly not restricted to us humans. The enormous interest generated by the case of the intuitive American cat, Oscar, indicates the fascination prescient pet behaviour holds.

Oscar lives in a nursing home and has an uncanny ability to sense when a resident is about to die. When a patient is near death, Oscar nearly always appears and hops on the bed.

The staff have come to recognise and respect Oscar’s instincts, and send for the relatives of any patient he has chosen to curl up beside.

But they have no explanation for it. Oscar shows no interest in patients who are simply in poor shape, or who still have a few days to live.

Oscar, a hospice cat has an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die

One theory says a cat’s acute sensitivity to smell might enable it to detect some subtle change in metabolism around the time of death, but no one has been able to explain why any moggy should show an interest in the approach of the Grim Reaper.

Given this, it is perhaps not surprising so many people have told us of deathbed-related cat and dog incidents.

Ann Liddell described the odd behaviour of her Newfoundland dog on the night her mother died.

‘At about 4.30am he started to bark – not his usual sharp warning bark, but howling. I knew instantly that my mother had died, and soon after we got the call from the hospital to confirm this.’

Michael Finch’s mother was dying of cancer. One night Michael left the hospital and returned home to let the dog out.

‘I will never forget this as long as I live. At 10.45pm, the dog began to howl like a wolf. It was spine-chilling. I just knew this was because Mum had died.

For five minutes he howled uncontrollably and then took to bed.

‘The dog was a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and had never made such a deep, wild and rasping sound. When my father and sister returned later, they confirmed Mum had died at 10.45 pm.’

Susan Burman told how when her husband was on his deathbed, their cat curled up by his feet. As he took his dying breath, the fur on the cat’s back stuck out as if by static electricity.

We were told by a carer of a very similar reaction by a resident’s cat which normally slept on his bed.

The cat happened to come into the room at the moment the resident died, and a nurse who was present reported: ‘It shrieked and sped around the room a couple of times – and then shot out of the room as though it didn’t want to be there.

The cat sensed the spirits had finally come for the resident.’

Cat tales

An even stranger story is that of the Cox’s cat. It concerns one of our oldest friends, Brian, a biochemist working in a university research department – a person, you might think, not given to imagining things, or jumping to conclusions.

For some years before she died, Brian’s elderly aunt would visit regularly. Each time she came she would spend most of her time sitting in one particular chair, and the cat (gratified, as cats usually are, to find a member of the household willing to sit still in one particular place for some considerable time) would spend most of its time sitting on her knee.

The aunt always insisted that when she died, Brian should ensure that she was buried beside her husband – otherwise, she said, she would haunt her nephew. Some months later, she died.

Between the day she died and the day of her funeral, the cat behaved strangely. On going into the sitting room, its hackles rose and its fur stood on end.

It avoided the aunt’s chair and hid behind the sofa. After the funeral, when the aunt had indeed been buried beside her husband, the cat’s behaviour returned to normal.

Far from reacting like Oscar the cat – who never lost his composure in the face of death (and indeed seemed to seek death out) – most of the animals we have been told about seem to have been very disturbed.

Dogs and cats often seem to ‘sense’ when a person has died

Dogs bark or howl, and cats’ fur stands on end. Perhaps they are experiencing the presence of the dying, or have an awareness of death – but there is no question of them finding it comforting.

Birds, however, are traditionally associated with death – usually as harbingers of doom – and several accounts sent to us concerned bird sightings.

In two cases shortly after the death, a small bird would fly into the house and perch, apparently unconcerned, on a piece of furniture before flying out again.

Not all that unusual, admittedly – but for the bird to appear unperturbed is certainly strange. It’s more usual for a bird that has flown into a house to fly around, beating itself against the windows in a panic to escape.

Everyone involved in each of these cases felt the bird’s visit was intimately related to the death. Alison Hole, a nurse, wrote to us describing the moments after the death of one of her patients.

The heaviness in the atmosphere of a room after a death, and the feeling that ‘something’ lingers on after a death and must be released, has also been mentioned by several other correspondents.

Alison reported: ‘Walking across the room was slow as the atmosphere was heavy and the floor was like walking through tar.

Birds such as this snowy owl are said to appear after someone has died

Once I opened the window, the atmosphere in the room cleared and I noticed a white bird the other side of the window.

‘While it is normal for birds to nest or rest on the hospital window ledges, this was around 4am in the winter. It was dark and too early for dawn – and this was not a seagull. I never saw another pale bird in the area.’

The following story describes bird behaviour that is way beyond what one would expect of a normal bird in normal circumstances.

Oliver Robinson’s owl made its appearance some time after the death it was associated with, so it falls into the category of after-death communication rather than deathbed coincidence.

But the extraordinary behaviour of the owl, together with the feelings it engendered in Oliver’s mother, made the temptation to include it here irresistible.

Strange behaviour

The first appearance of the owl was on one warm April morning, some months after the death of Oliver’s grandmother. Oliver’s mother here describes what happened.

‘There was a terrific commotion outside the kitchen, caused by our garden birds. When I went out to see what all the fuss was about, the birds were dive-bombing an owl which sat on one of the lower branches of the oak tree.

‘It seemed strange that an owl was out in the middle of the day, and although the small birds were trying to frighten it away, it just sat quietly in the tree.

‘As the day warmed up I opened the French windows on the south side of the house. When I stepped out into the garden, there was a great flapping of wings and the owl flew down and landed in front of me on the grass.

‘It was a large tawny owl about 12in high. It looked up at me with big brown eyes and mewed. It seemed very tame.

‘During the day, every time I went outside, the owl would come down and stand in front of me. It was almost as if it was trying to say something. The big brown eyes looked so human and reminded me of my mother, also brown-haired, who had died the previous summer.’

The feathered visitor’s strange behaviour didn’t end there.

Oliver’s mother continues: ‘When my husband and children came home I told them about the owl but thought no more about it.

‘We always sleep with our top windows open, and that night there was a lot of scuffling and rustling at the window. The owl came down to sit on the window – behaviour my husband didn’t like at all.

‘The next morning, I opened the kitchen windows. No sooner had I opened the large window over the sink, than there was a great flurry of wings and the owl flew right into the kitchen.

‘It seemed best for the children and my husband to go out and close the doors while I opened the outside door, hoping to coax it outside, but it seemed to be quite at home in the kitchen.

‘It flew down to the other end, and sat on the curtain rail watching me. It had a tremendous wing-span and it was remarkable that nothing was knocked over. Eventually it flew out of the window and sat on the back porch.

‘When we went out to the car later that morning, it came straight down and perched on the flowerpot I was carrying. As we drove out, it sat on the gatepost watching us.

‘It came down to our window again that night and to the porch the next day, but not down to my feet. After a few days it disappeared. Every now and then I would hear the sound of it nearby.’

The ability to fly has always been regarded as a magical power, the stuff of dreams.

Perhaps that is why birds have always been regarded as having an element of the supernatural and why, in so many myths and legends, they provide a link between the human world and the supernatural or divine, associated with both birth and death.

In some cultures, the human soul is believed to arrive on Earth in bird form, and in many societies, birds are seen as carriers or symbols of the human soul, flying heavenwards after death, or as guardians who guide the soul to the afterlife.

Perhaps these perplexing modern bird stories indicate the possible origin of these myths – or maybe they are a demonstration that these are more than simply legends.

The Art Of Dying by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, published by Continuum Books, is out now.

Silvey says: Fritzcam is worth waking up for! Ausgezeichnet!

This is the home of Fritz the German housecat whose artist housemate (notice I avoid the word owner) has affixed a camera around Fritz’s neck to take photos, so that we humans can get a cat’s eye view of his world.

It includes a video with a song in German.

People often do horrible things to other people in and out of war, but within a war zone, few people or agencies consider the harm done to animals and the environment. In ancient Egypt, cats were sacred and the whole household went into mourning when the cat died. All members of the family were forced to shave off their eyebrows as part of the mourning process.
Louise in the following story is clearly a hero. I am reprinting the following story as a tribute to Louise.

Another note: I really dislike calling the mercenaries in modern combat “contractors”. That sounds like they are going out and constructing buildings or something. Let’s call them what they are- MERCENARIES, soldiers for hire. They are often hired by corporations, corporations with their own armies. That alone should be pause for thought. No wonder they are killing pets as well.

To help wounded children in Iraq go to Obviously that is extremely important. But as humans we should never forget the harm we do to the non-human inhabitants of our planet.

On a mission: the Cat Lady of Baghdad

By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent


A former British soldier has been hailed as the “Cat Lady of Baghdad” after setting up a lifeline to evacuate pets from the war-torn city to Britain.

Simba al-Tikriti, who made an improbable escape from Iraq

It is cloak-and-danger work, which means the 35-year old woman only wants to be known by her first name, Louise.

But she has spent tens of thousands of pounds over the past four years adopting pets. To cope with the costs, she has set up a website, Baghdad Cat Rescue.

“Some people buy flash cars, others flash clothes,” she said. “But it’s my animals that float my boat.”

A Territorial Army call up in 2003 turned into a career as a security consultant, working in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.

On a posting near Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Louise adopted her first cat, Simba al-Tikriti, a name that made the white tabby an honorary clansman of the late dictator.

Simba was also the first cat to reach Britain and a total of eight pets have since been brought out, including two dogs.

While she is prepared to give pets away to the right home, Louise’s parents have to cope with the task of caring for the animals while she is in Iraq, earning money needed to pay the mounting upkeep bills.

Louise’s current worries centre around a dog that will be released to her two-bedroom home near Birmingham next month.

“He despises cats,” she said. “I am hoping it’s an instinct thing that I can train out of him before he eats my cats.”

Despite her worst fears, Louise is planning a quick return to Baghdad.

She acknowledges that in a city where violence is indiscriminate and deprivations extreme, it is easy for most to turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals.

Cats were first domesticated in the Mesopotamian cradle of civilisation. Ancient Babylonian culture raised the veneration of felines to an art form.

Even today Baghdad ranks with Cairo and Istanbul in a clutch of cities suffused with cats, stray and home-bound.

Most are well-fed and respected by the locals but Louise said there is no safety net for the abused.

Mortar attacks aside, the biggest danger for cats in the Baghdad diplomatic compound where Louise works, is the giant American corporation, KBR and other contractors signed up to the behavioral rules of the US military’s General Order No 1.

“If you live in diplomatic compounds or other villas protected by the big contractors, adopting or feeding cats and other pets is banned and they will set traps to kill pets,” she said.

“I’ve helped one man get his last cat back to the UK after the contractor killed all the animals he had been feeding.”

Leuitenant-Colonel Raymond Dunton, a US army medical officer in Baghdad, admitted that 7,100 animals were trapped across all its bases in Iraq last year and 5,300 were put down.

He said the order is designed to ensure personnel do not face the threat of rabies and other diseases.

Dennis Quine, a former British embassy worker, is one of those Louise helped to bring his cat, Missy, to the UK.The hurdles they faced were formidable, he said.

“Friends have said it is stupid, asked why I’m doing this,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Hold on, this is nothing less than what I’d do for a friend.’ I was prepared to risk my life to get my cat out.”

The Cat Lady of Baghdad believes she will be offering a safe haven to cats for as long as she is working there. “I don’t find them,” she said. “They find me.”