Caged for a reason. Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi volunteers take trapped cats to Falcon Hospital to neuter them before returning them to Lulu Island Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI An Abu Dhabi-based animal welfare group is going all out to control an exploding stray cat population on the capital’s Lulu Island with an aggressive trap-neuter-return programme (TNR).

Susan Aylott, founder of Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi, said the island can be accessed only by boat, but that is not stopping the group’s volunteers from getting there every other week to pursue their mission.

“It all started three years ago when I took a boat trip to Lulu Island and came across a sick cat on the beach. I followed him and my heart sank as I observed around 50 more in similar condition. Given that access to the island is purely by boat, this colony must have been the result of dumping,” said Aylott.

“I got in touch with the Abu Dhabi Municipality and we trapped and neutered 30 cats. But those which were unsterilised have multiplied exponentially,” she said, adding she had spotted over 180 cats on the island in July.

Aylott said despite the considerable effort that goes into arranging a TNR on the island, it has to be done as the cat population can become unmanageable.

“Every time we want to go there, we have to hire a flat bottom boat as the island can be reached only through the back waters. This costs us Dh200-Dh300,” she said.

Municipality support

In Abu Dhabi, neutering of cats is sponsored by the municipality which works with dedicated pest control companies. “We have tied up with Eagle Environmental Services and Pest Control, and together we trap the strays. Once caged, the cats are taken to Falcon Hospital where they are sterilised for free. They are also vaccinated and given a free health check-up. It’s a great initiative by the Abu Dhabi government, but we need to be more aggressive as the cats are reproducing faster than we are neutering. A number of cats are also feral, making it difficult sometimes to cage them,” she said.

Aylott said she and her volunteers are also actively targeting other areas of Abu Dhabi besides Lulu Island. “We have put up several feeding stations across the city to prevent stray cats from feeding on the main roads.

“We need more volunteers to come on board to help us out as we find more strays on the streets. For those new to this, we are getting enormous help from Dr Fadi of the Australian Veterinary Clinic who teaches our volunteers animal handling, welfare and trapping.”