KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – Cats! Yes, cats; common feral mammals in and around Kuwait City, whose population is growing quickly, according to John Peaveler, managing director of the Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and their Habitat.
Notably, a stroll along the Kuwait City coast might lead one to ask themselves, "Where did all these cats come from?"
One notion is that the invasion of Iraq in 1990 left many public services temporarily hindered. After a small buildup of trash, rats marched in to feast on the extra rubbish and rotten food. The solution, albeit a hasty one, was to bring in cats from Egypt.
Though it may have worked to rid the rodents, nomad cats now walk the midnight alleys, meowing, procreating, living among the Kuwaiti populous in the rich and flavorful city.
When a city needs a solution to its solution, Army veterinarians are here to spay and neuter these cats into submission.
The men and women of the Army veterinarian corps have partnered with a Kuwaiti animal advocacy organization to address an issue that plagues both Kuwait and many parts of the U.S.
“Our mission is to protect the health of humans and their pets,” said Capt. Lynn Miller, a veterinarian at Camp Arifjan. “Most diseases these feral animals carry [rabies, ringworm, intestinal parasites] are zoonotic.”
Zoonotic means a disease can be transferred from animals to humans, which is important to most, barring those die-hard rabies fans.
In short, the vets are working closely with Kuwait-based non-military organizations to spay and neuter more than 50 feral cats in the next few weeks in order to control the epidemic.
“The mission is called the Feline Trap Neuter, Vaccinate and Return program,” said Miller. “We just finished the program at the US Embassy. That area was inundated with diseased stray animals that threaten the State Department employee's pets. We cleaned all the nasty diseased animals out and sterilized/vaccinated the healthy ones who try to defend the territory now.”
Now, Miller and her partner, Capt. Natalie Spiliopoulos are working with Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and their Habitat (K’S PATH), to support stray animal management around Kuwait City.
K’S PATH is a volunteer organization that provides a wide range of services for animals in Kuwait including companion animal shelter, farm and equine sanctuary, wildlife rehabilitation and sanctuary, wildlife management, stray animal control, environmental clean up, and education to name but a few.
“The Scientific Center has given us a workspace for an indefinite amount of time so we’re setting up here and catching as many strays as we can,” said John Peaveler, managing director of K’S PATH.
The Scientific Center is something of a museum for Kuwaiti public elementary school children to burn calories through on annual field trips.
The workspace, which appeared to be converted from a small storage room for cleaning supplies, is in an odd location on the east of the building 20 yards from the Arabic Gulf and 100 yards away from any building entrance, a previous inconvenience for Scientific Center janitors, but perfect for the cause of neutering cats.
After a morning of feral cat round-up along the Arabian Gulf, the cats are brought into the oceanfront but not-so-spacious operating room.
Army vets introduced the military’s techniques to the newest of the K’S PATH vets, Noel Cadiz of the Philippines, who only had spay/neuter experience from school. The more experienced K’S PATH vet, Madhu Villiyatte of India, had a lifetime of veterinary experience to share with Cadiz and the Army vets.
“Our work has an impact on Kuwait through these partnerships with local organizations we provide training to,” said Miller.
That partnership was apparent in the small operating room, which compelled the vets to quite literally work side-by-side.
Now the Army vets and vets from abroad team up and go to work sedating, comforting, removing testicles and telling them everything is going to be okay.
The cats undergo a sedation method involving a needle and some ketamine. Rest assured, the cats feel no pain, less some dizziness and confusion, which the hardcore cats seemed to enjoy.
Precision and skill prevail for the next few hours until eleven cats begin sobering up and planning their weekends, which thankfully for the city of Kuwait, will no longer involve unwanted pregnancies. Although they awake short an organ, the greater cause has been served.
“This will help control the population of feral and unwanted cats,” said Peaveler. “These cats will live longer and healthier lives.”
A small dent in the major obstacle that is the infestation of cats in Kuwait, but Peaveler is optimistic.
“Next week we are looking to do thirty more,” he said.
For the military vets here in Kuwait, this mission was one of many. Whether its is controlling the feral animal population, diagnosing injuries on baby ponies or even inspecting the Soldiers’ food supply here in Kuwait, the U.S. Army veterinarians are here to protect.