Three of the four cats that were found dead by residents in Jumeirah 3 last week. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Residents of an upscale Dubai neighbourhood have expressed serious concerns about the safety of their children after the shocking discovery of dead stray cats due to suspected poisoning in the community.

Last Monday, animal activists told XPRESS four cats had died on a single stretch in Jumeirah 3 and alleged that the deaths were the handiwork of a “serial cat killer” who remained on the loose.

Still reeling under the shock, residents said they are piecing together any clues they can possibly lay their hands on in order to inform the authorities. They claimed at least 10 other cats have met a similar fate in recent weeks, and 12 birds were found dead in the same area four months ago.

Potential harm

They said they not only feared for the lives of other pets, but also their own children who could easily come into contact with toxic food while playing.

Khalid Al Falasi, whose family lives in the neighbourhood, said last Monday’s discovery of poison in the food trays of the strays could not be viewed in isolation.

He claimed, “Two years ago, a man used to take rubbish bags from the garbage bins and place them in front of our homes. When we confronted him about it, he tried to argue that he was trying to make Dubai a cleaner place. After that, my family has seen him kick plates of food that were left next to rubbish bins for the cats. One time, they even found a note under their door, allegedly from Dubai Municipality, saying people should not feed cats. What was strange was that the letter was not in Arabic. At this time, no cats were being poisoned to our knowledge and my family didn’t think much of the note. It was only after a few months that the birds and cats began to die of poisoning.”

Al Falasi said he suspected that the person hated to see rubbish bags and wanted to teach people a lesson by placing them at their doorsteps. “From there he might have noticed the cats’ food trays and targeted them,” he alleged. He clarified however that no one had ever seen anyone actually poison the food.

“My fear is what could potentially happen if some children playing in the area get poisoned? Also, if someone has a problem with trash or cats, they should take it up with the authorities. Thirdly, as outraged as the residents may feel, they should be wary of posting pictures on social media and contact the authorities directly with any evidence.”

Horrific state

A South African woman, who with the help of her husband and a friend rushed three poisoned cats to the vet last Monday, said, “If this doesn’t stop, my fear is that a child may fall sick due to poisoning. There are so many kids who ride bikes and play in the area. What if one of them accidentally touches the poisoned food or an affected cat or bird?”

The woman recollected the horrific state of the cats after they had eaten the poisoned food. “They were shaking, twitching and having terrible spasms. They messed themselves and bled. They had no heartbeat and their tongues hung out. They died a slow death in a couple of hours.”

The local vet who treated a cat that survived said that the feline could have been poisoned by highly toxic chemicals like organophosphate (OP), strychnine or carbamate.

This is not first time that pet poisoning cases have come to light in the city. An alleged spurt in dog poisoning cases raised similar concerns among pet owners in New Dubai earlier. Another vet, Dr Soheyl Simaei of Noble Veterinary Centre in Dubai Investment Park, said, “The most common source of poisoning among pets and strays is pesticides.”

He said he sees at least a couple of cases of pet poisoning every month, the victims usually being cats. “However, I have so far not received any major poisoning case, warranting an autopsy. The animals were brought to the clinic following severe diarrhoea, vomitting and dehydration and we were able to manage them effectively. In most of these instances, the animal had ingested a pesticide or traces of it.”

He said stray cats are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning because they roam around communities and eat whatever comes their way.