I was aware of the special status cats enjoy in Morocco before I arrived. Coming from a family of Westerner cat lovers, I was really looking forward to seeing the phenomenon for myself.
For Westerners, most family pets enjoy a level of pampered leisure that most Moroccan humans would envy. Custom-developed food, fresh water at the flick of a tail, scented baths and enough treats and toys to sink a battleship. Most lead an indoor life… When they aren’t reclining on their favourite piece of expensive furniture or basking in the sunlight atop their specially designed window perch, they are usually curled up next to their owners in bed, sharing the pillow… or rather, allowing their human to share their pillow with them. A Western cat’s life is truly one to be envied. In fact, you hear it said all the time… “In my next life, I want to come back as a well-loved cat.”
At first the sight of so many Moroccan cats living on the street rattled me. I wanted to feed them… bathe them… take them all home. Slowly, however, after opening myself up to the Moroccan perspective, I came to realize that there really is something special about the Moroccan cat. I began to watch them more closely, fascinated by the way they carried themselves… so confident and carefree. They really do own the cities here. Before long it became comforting to see them striding along the street in lazy ease… or stretched out in the sun, basking in the glory of their own greatness. I got the feeling that these wee beasts could organize and overthrow their human custodians if given half the chance.
Mention of vaccinations or a spay/neuter initiative to control the feline populations will more than likely illicit a laugh from your average Moroccan. “Why?” they ask, claiming humans have no right to interfere with the natural existence of any animal, including their right to procreate.
In February of 1960, in the southern Moroccan city of Agadir, cats proved they possess special powers deserving of human respect. On the 29th day of that month the city was struck by a moderate earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale. The ancient city suffered devastating damage, with the death toll reaching between 12-15 thousand people. More than 35 thousand were left homeless. Prior to the quake hitting, the cats of Agadir disappeared only to reappear after the event. This prompted citizens to realize that the cats had actually behaved like an early warning system… if only someone had recognized the signs. Cats in Agadir have enjoyed well-earned respect ever since then.
So much about Morocco for a foreigner is simply about relaxing and allowing yourself to absorb your surroundings. It’s the same with the cat phenomenon. View it exclusively from your Western perspective and the sight of cats living on the streets of Morocco may well drive you mad. Let yourself open to the idea that these animals might actually be happy, cared for by entire communities, and I promise, the Moroccan cat will soon tell you himself that his is a natural, free life to be savoured.
For a closer look at the Moroccan street cat, be sure to watch our video on our Exchange Lab Morocco Facebook page… or visit our YouTube channel and don’t forget to LIKE & SUSCRIBE!