UAE Real Life: Catwoman
Lesley Muncey once had 27 hungry cats under her roof. “I coped alright!” she laughs. “But I had to have help.” She now has eight cats staying at her home near Silicon Oasis. Four are former foster cats she’s kept as her own, while the other four are currently installed in various rooms of her house while they await new homes.
As well as being chairwoman of cat charity Feline Friends for the past five yeas, Lesley’s also one of around 60 fosterers who care for the rescued moggies until they can be found permanent homes. “I do it for the cats,” says Lesley, 56, who is originally from the UK. “I like all animals. But it’s very emotionally draining.” Though she’s cared for hundreds, Lesley still remembers the first cats she helped.
Slinky doesn’t let a lack of front legs hold her back
“My housekeeper found a newborn kitten outside the villa,” she said. “I called Feline Friends and they said I’d have to bottle feed it. I had to feed it every two hours – you literally have to wake them up to stop their sugar levels dropping. It was like having a baby. So that was my start and I did hundreds of ‘bottle-feeders’ after that, and I used to have mums and kittens.”
Over the years, Lesley has got attached to some of her charges, such as Slinky who she kept. She’s a small black cat who has no front legs, just little stumps.
Lesley says, “The call came through that they’d found a cat without any front legs. They said they’d euthanise her, but when she got to the vet they said there was nothing wrong with her. I said we’d help house her. I took her to our adoption day and there were a few people that were interested, but they were wary. I took her home and put her in the downstairs bathroom with everything low down for her. I kept her there until she got used to it, then let her into the house and lost her! She went into a cabinet and she’d jumped on a shelf and I couldn’t see her. It was really high! She’s got more and more friendly. She’s my favourite. She’s become a bit of a mascot for Feline Friends.”
Of course there are many who have not been so lucky, and Lesley has been involved in numerous rescue attempts.
“There was a really sad one,” recalls Lesley, who was born in Kenya but grew up in Surrey in England and has lived in Dubai for eight years. “We got a call from a lovely Indian gentleman who said he’d heard a cat in his engine as he was driving along. I rushed out to Al Wasl Road, and it was stuck. It was probably my most traumatic rescue. I called a vet down the road but they couldn’t come out as they had an emergency, so I called another and they came to sedate it, but we had to euthanise it. The Indian family gave us a donation. There have been many cats that have been quite mauled up, but we’ve amputated legs or tails and saved them.”
Lesley has gone to great lengths to help cats in the past and has a few tricks up her sleeve. “We had two kittens stuck down a pipe in Satwa. They got in it but couldn’t get out. The mum was howling and one of our helpers was there. So I went down and managed to catch sight of one and just grabbed it. I couldn’t get the other and the pipe was too slippery for it to climb up, and I remembered somebody giving me some advice to use a towel, because they can use their claws to grip onto it, so I ripped a towel up and dropped it down the pipe and in the morning the kitten had come out by itself.”
However, the biggest influx of cats Feline Friends care for are not strays, but those being given up by expats heading home. “I can’t understand it,” Lesley says. “It’s never been easier to take them with you. I say to people, ‘Are you taking your furniture?’ I would sell every stick of my furniture to take my cats. I’ve got a kitty fund, and I’d advise people to do this. Every month I put a bit away so you’ve got the money there for them if you have to leave.”
In need of
a home: Kitten Chaley
As well as finding new homes for cats, the charity, now in its 22nd year, tries to control Dubai’s moggy population by sterilising street cats. They carry out 1,000 operations a year, and cats that have been sterilised are given a mark across their ear. The initiative has had a big impact.
“Within five years, one cat can be responsible for 20,000 offspring,” said Lesley. “There are probably over 200,000 cats out there in Dubai.”
Lesley’s current home-hunters include a sweet black moggie called Donny, who was found in Falcon City in bad condition, and a sweet black male cat called Bingo, who loves to lounge on Lesley’s bed. He’s only seven or eight months old and was given up by a man whose new wife had a cat phobia.
There’s also little white kitten, Chaley, who is deaf, and was found with his mum on Jumeirah Beach Road. Lesley has to sleep with him at night as he meows wildly when he’s left alone.
Her newest resident is long-haired cat Jemima, who was found in The Meadows, painfully thin and suffering from a bad case of ear mites. Her fur had to be shaved off as it was so matted, but Lesley’s hopeful she’ll recover.
Lesley has two grown-up children, Bianca, 24, and Michael, 23. Amazingly her husband, Nigel, 56, who works as an engineer for Emirates was not originally a fan of felines.
“He was a dog person, but he’s been fantastic and he just lets me get on with it,” she laughs. “I think he likes cats now.”
Lesley’s rescued cat, Clyde
Feline Friends in Figures
• Dhs500,000 Last year’s vets bills, even with discounts and the The Veterinary Hospital in Al Quoz performing some operations for free
• 11,300 cats rehomed since the charity was set up in 1991|• 16,000 cats sterilised since Feline Friends started their initiative
Follow in the footsteps of these celebs who love their A-list moggies
Choupette, owned by designer Karl Lagerfeld, 79 Choupette has an iPad and a Twitter account, she eats cake with pink icing, not on the floor but at Karl’s dining table. She also has two personal maids to care for her 24 hours a day, and has even been in ads for Karl’s company, Chanel.
Kitty Purry, owned by singer Katy Perry, 28
Kitty Purry has made appearances in Katy’s music videos and has haircuts that always keep her in fashion. Kitty Purry even had an inflatable balloon lookalike designed for her owner’s Hello Katy tour.
Earnie, owned by designer Victoria Beckham, 39
Earnie was introduced to the world on Twitter… dressed in
a floral frock by his owner!