Cats are the masters and footpaths are their domain in some areas of the UAE Image Credit: Jari Hytonen

I come from India where dogs, domesticated or derelict, are inseparable parts of most lives. Cats, on the other hand, are infrequent pets that are largely stray and reclusive. They generally fear human contact and skulk about human dwellings cautiously.

In contrast, Dubai is a feline idyll. The part of Dubai that I live in, is predominantly residential and has long stretches of lush green astride the community roads. Like all green stretches, they are watered every evening with cool sprinklers.

Fine mist and moderate evening temperature create a very pleasant ambience and a post-dinner stroll is the high point of my day. One thing that I can’t help observing and then comparing it with country of my birth, is the life of a Dubai cat.

Cats are the masters and footpaths are their domain. They saunter about with an indifferent air and have no fear of humans. Sometimes they give the impression that they have the right of way and look you in the eye for denying them the first right of passage.

More by Dr Rakesh Maggon

They cross your path (or you cross theirs), sniff at something lazily and then sprawl on the cool wet grass. They exactly know the time of onset of the sprinkler spray and have clearly defined zones where a cat can enjoy a misty shower without getting uncomfortably wet.

Cats in India always appear scurried. They grab anything that comes their way and attempt to climb the nearest safe height as the stray dogs harass them. Cats here have no such threats and appear languid. An obvious reason for them to be smug and sated is the liberal availability of food.

They ‘get it on a platter’ as numerous do-gooders buy exotic cat food and serve it to them in some spots. So much so, that an occasional cat discards a certain food and arrogantly walks to another waiting do-gooder with a superior cat food reputation. Cats make very fastidious parents as they drag their kittens with them towards better nourishment leaving behind a dejected do-gooder.

Remarkable economy of effort

Another feline feature that stands out vis-a-vis their subcontinental counterparts is their state of health. Cats here are distinctly healthy and display remarkable economy of effort. They make the least possible movement at slowest possible pace in order to conserve their energy.

They indulge in any motion only when they must and usually lie slouched in any place of their preference. Crossing roads, if ever necessary, is an unhurried way. I have many times seen some cars stop and wait for the cats to pass. I am yet to see a cat climb or jump off any height of over 2 feet. To my envy, they never ever have to.

Indian felines, on the contrary, have a certain apprehension in their appearance. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s like an ‘always-being-watched’ look as they remain constantly wary of human, canine, simian or territorial challenge. Cats here — on the other hand — wear a bored entitled appearance that is reminiscent of the wasted overlord of the past.

They seem to have more than they know what to do with and are therefore, slow and unsteady (result of overfeeding). Placid and peaceful, they bear no territorial disputes with fellow cats and are great believers in the principle of ‘laze and let laze’. My theory to explain such tolerance is their probable emergence from the same family.

An Indian Street may be a bit of ‘Cat and mouse’ between dogs and cats, but in this part of the world every ‘Cat has her day’, every day. While leading an idiomatic ‘Dog’s life’ has traditionally conveyed duress and difficulty, Cats have enjoyed metaphorical advantage too.

Anyone of any notable achievement is considered ‘Cat’s Whiskers’ who in time may ‘Catwalk’ his/her way to being a ‘Fat Cat’ and may even live nine lives to enjoy many a ‘Cat Nap’.

Dr Rakesh Maggon is a specialist ophthalmologist with an interest in literature