Dubai: An Indian woman living in Dubai wakes up every morning at the crack of dawn and proceeds to prep 35 kilos of food every day. For stray cats.
Forty-four-year-old Rakhi Choudhary, who has been a resident of the UAE for the past 22 years, has spent the past four years serving up breakfast to her about 200 feline friends around Dubai.
She is helped in her endeavor by her eldest son, Arjun Choudhary, and, other volunteers. This group forms packs and heads to different parts of the city - at 5am.
Rakhi, who works as a general manager for a private shipping company in Dubai, finishes this chore by 10am; she covers feeding stations from Dubai Marina – where she lives – all the way up to Satwa. Then, she heads to work.
Feeding 35 kilos of food to cats in Dubai
But before that she readies the food – most of which is prepared at home.
“We make a broth of chicken and vegetables like carrot, peas, etc. No salt or sugar is added. I have to buy canned food to supplement what is already prepared,” she says.
(Generally, the food cooked at home is made the night before - it takes about 3 hours.)
Rakhi spends an average Dh225 a day feeding the cats. “I purchase the chicken and vegetables in bulk from factories. Initially I used to buy from retailers and the cost hit me hard. So I liaised with factory outlets to give me ingredients on wholesale basis. For example, I buy chicken for Dh7.75 per kilo whereas outside it is for Dh15 a kilo. Some retailers also don’t sell damaged canned food for cats. They are all well within the expiry dates, but they don’t put it for sale because the cans maybe slightly damaged. I take these cans from them at very low rates. That is how I am able to keep the cost low. When there is a will, there is a way," she says.
Besides feeding these hungry souls, Rakhi also co-ordinates efforts to TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) the stray animals.
What does TNR mean?
TNR is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats and reducing their numbers. Typically, a colony of cats is trapped and brought to a veterinary clinic. They're then spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and ear tipped. After they've recovered from their surgeries, the cats are returned to their original territory where a caretaker provides regular food and shelter. When foster or permanent homes are available, young kittens and friendly adults are placed for adoption.
Taking the feral route
Why did she start feeding cats on such large scale?
“It all began [about four years ago] when I found a stray cat near my office. She was a tiny kitten and was hungry. I bought some canned food for her. Soon a group of other cats came to the spot where I fed the cat looking for food. I realised there was a whole colony of hungry ferals close to the area. Then I bought more cans of food to feed the cats.”
Soon, Rakhi said, feeding the strays became a trend. “My heart broke when I did not have food to offer these cats. A thought also struck me that there could be several other cats which need to be fed. So I chalked up a route from Dubai Marina to Satwa and I decided to start keeping food in designated feeding stations. I decided to start cooking for these animals, instead of outsourcing all the food from outside. After all, it would be home-cooked fresh food and it also proved to be less expensive.”
Addicted to feeding cats
Today, Rakhi feeds over 200 cats every day without fail. "I will continue doing what I am until my health permits. Every now and then my son also comes with me and feeds these cats. It is the basic thing I can do for these poor animals."
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