Jerusalem's cats have gone missing. A cat-astrophe?

Residents have been taking to social media lately to express concern over the recent disappearance of numbers of cats in certain areas of Jerusalem, particularly Nahlaot and Arnona.

A JERUSALEM alley cat. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A JERUSALEM alley cat.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ever since the British first brought cats over to Israel (then Palestine) in the first half of the 20th century to combat the rat problem, cats are a frequent sight on Israeli streets, particularly in Jerusalem.
However, residents have been taking to social media lately to express concern over the recent disappearance of numbers of cats in certain areas of Jerusalem, particularly Nahlaot and Arnona, and are warning people not to let their pet cats go outside, even if they have collars. A disturbing photo was also circulating on Facebook of a cat dissected in half, which people were claiming was more likely to be the work of a person than an animal as the attack was too “clean.”
While it is known that the municipal veterinary service carries out Trap, Neuter and Rescue programs in which they trap the cats and spay or neuter them in order to prevent the feline population from getting out of control, they are supposed to release them to the same areas from where they were taken.
There has also been speculation that perhaps the cats have been ingesting poison – either put down for rodents or put down by an individual. However, the fact that the majority of the cats going missing are friendly cats who are used to people and can therefore be more easily caught implies that someone is catching them. Another theory is that someone is being paid to trap cats and transfer them from one neighborhood to another. Complaints have been made to the Municipal Veterinary Service, the police and the Ministry of Agriculture, although it remains to be seen whether they have taken any steps to identify and stop this worrying phenomenon.
I contacted the spokesmen for the Jerusalem Municipality Veterinary Service for a reaction to this recent trend. The spokesman stated that the Veterinary Service was not aware of a mass disappearance or poisoning of cats throughout the city, but that there are suspicions that such a phenomenon is occurring. People with any information are encouraged to submit a complaint to the police, as this is a criminal offense.
In addition, they sent me a document outlining Mayor Lion’s recent initiative to set up 100 cat feeding stations throughout the city to provide food for the cats as more and more rubbish bins go underground.
Chaya Beili, the shelter manager for the Jerusalem Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, stated that a fellow rescuer told her that some 50 cats had disappeared in the past year in her neighborhood, but that while she had tried to get numbers of how many cats had gone missing from people, exact locations of where dead cats had been found and actual cats that had disappeared, she was unable to compile such concrete information.
Ines Lebel, an active rescuer and cat lover, said, “Several people are reporting that cats are completely gone from certain areas of Jerusalem. People are very sad and of course would like to know what happened to those cats.” She added that it is possible that cats had also disappeared from other neighborhoods in Jerusalem but were simply not mentioned or reported. People who contacted the municipality on 106 were told that nothing was known about it and as the municipality spokesman stated above, people were urged to report specific incidents to the police and to 106.
Lebel concluded with a personal request: “If people are aware of street or home cats having disappeared, they should come forward, post it on social media, and inform 106 and the police – if possible with some evidence.”
It is possible that the cats are simply suffering from the hot summer weather, as people are, and choose to find a cool shaded place to escape the heat during the day, thereby making them less visible, and emerge at night when it is cooler, which also makes them harder to be seen.
It is hoped that this recent spate of cat disappearances is not indicative of something sinister, but if you have information about cats disappearing from your neighborhood or being poisoned, please call the municipal veterinary service on 106 and submit a complaint to the police. In addition, as encouraged by Mayor Lion, please keep street cats in mind in this scorching weather and leave a bowl of water out for them if you can.