You only have to hint to google you are in Morocco and start typing Moroccan C… and it will of course auto fill the CATS bit for you. Everyone we know that has been here has told us about the street cats. Behind every shop, house, building or parking lot you will see cats. Oh, plenty of dogs too but this is all about the cats of Morocco.
The cats we know around the world today as domesticated pets have all come from around this part of the world. The first pet cats can be traced back over 9500 years based on archaeological evidence found in Cyprus. In fact, many archaeologists say once the formerly wild cats became domesticated, they appear to have accompanied human tribes as they gradually migrated and spread throughout the ancient world. Some of the Moroccan street cats are very closely related to, and are recognised as a sub species of the African Wildcat which split from the European Wildcat nearly 175,000 years ago! To the casual observer, a cat is a cat and few would be able to pick an African Wildcat from a European Wildcat or from pretty much any other cat on the street over here. We did wonder about these cats and how they look after themselves and live and prosper in such a tough environment. Turns out they get some help.
In Morocco, the street cats live parallel to the humans and are found everywhere, but are not common as pets. I guess people may have a favourite street cat that they throw scraps to but they come and go. It’s more like the cats have specific humans they might go back to rather than the other way around. Saying that, it’s obvious the Moroccans are very proud of the cats and don’t seem to discourage them at all. In this part of the world, a cat is to be loved and cared for by people. Mistreating a cat is considered to be a sin in Islam. We have seen cats in some pretty unusual places. When I was at the hospital having my thumb looked at (more on that later) cats were just wondering around the wards coming and going as they pleased. They wander in and out of restaurants and it’s totally normal to have a cat rubbing against your leg under the table looking for its next feed while you’re eating. I guess I am referring to the cheaper places to eat rather than any fine dining place (like we would be there anyway…) but its cats, cats, cats everywhere!
As you might be thinking, this is just fine for us two seeing as we are ‘cat people’. We are the restrained type of cat people these days choosing to have them one at a time now but we like having cats around. We had made cat friends in just about every place we have been to since we had left New Zealand. Natasha had 3 for us in Perth, Dave and Sarah in the USA have a lovely cat, as do Alistair and Doreen’s neighbour.. (hehe) and we loved David and Nicola’s Blackie too. So, after arriving here in Morocco, we headed to a campground and settled in for a few days to get into ‘Africa Time’ and relax. We chose a spot to set up and I was busy with the roof tent and I hear Christine say ‘ohhh, they have cats here’ Before I could finish what I was doing and have a look at the cat she has seen, I hear ‘oh look quick! I have one in my arms….’ We had been at the camp site no longer than 5 minutes and we had made a cat friend. I need not hurry to see this latest friend as she just stayed in Christine’s arms and started to purr. Hmmm.. OK. Friendly cat indeed! This cat was still small and less than 6 months old but it had completely worked out the ‘human = food’ concept and was also doing very well at the ‘being cute = getting way more food’ bit too. This wasn’t the only cat around the campsite. We counted at least 10 more, most looked older but none would come close to us at all except this little cat. It hung around all afternoon and of course at dinner time. We didn’t feed it at all and it looked like that wasn’t a problem for it as it had other friends too. A French couple who were camping (in a very luxury campervan) across the way from us were also seemingly attractive to this little kitty and we think they might have been feeding her. So anyway, evening came around and low and behold the little kitten decided that she wanted to be on our laps. It was around this time I could hear the drip, drip, drip of our hearts melting… bugger… looks like we have a cat. We didn’t admit it to each other for a few days but after it slept with us in the roof tent that first night, I would have said it was a done deal no matter what.
Over the next 4 days and nights we got to know kitty very well and she really ever left our sight and slept in the tent with us each night. People say that cats choose their owners and not the other way around. This really was the case here. We didn’t feed the cat until day 3 at which time we knew it was ‘over’ and we had a pet. We sat down and discussed the trip with a cat. Many, many, people travel with dogs but few with cats. We looked at the requirements for getting a cat across borders and around the world with us. As long as we have a ‘rabies passport’ for her, she will be fine. We may have to use the services of a pet relocation company once or twice and send her on ahead a week or 2 for quarantine when we are closer to home but otherwise she can go with us everywhere we are going. OK, so us 2 are now us 3. We are going to have to make room in the car and we have to find space for all the cat stuff. Then we have all the shots to do and we don’t want kittens (or do we?… NO) but we decided that before we did all that expensive stuff we would do a test trip for a few days and see how she went. To be honest, this is where things got weird. We packed up and the cat stayed. We put the cat in the car and it just got comfortable and went to sleep. We drove all day to the new campground where the cat wanted to play around the car and with us… had we in fact found the perfect cat?? We bought a harness for it to wear and it didn’t mind. Nothing was a problem for this cat. It even came when it was called!! All this and we had only had it for a week. We went to Fes looking for a suitable vet but decided the best English speaking vet was back in Casablanca so we headed back there. Until this time the cat really had been perfect but a trip to the vet is going to bring out the worst in any animal I’m sure. We talked to the vet and I went to bring her in for her first check-up.
The vet is under another shop and there are 6 steps down to the landing and front door of the vet clinic, I got the cat from the car with only her harness on, we had no cage at that stage. All good until I got to the second step of 6 and the cat started to smell the distress pheromones no doubt sent out by the 100s of cats here before her.
Step 3. Struggle…. She twists her head in an almost impossible direction and finds my left hand and latches on to my middle finger.
I get to step 4. She lets go from my left hand and whips around to find my right hand and specifically, my thumb…crunch, as she bites down hard. I try to get my left hand to her scruff but I miss…
Step 5. She lets go of my thumb, but only to get a better grip. What was already feeling like slow motion got real slow as I could see, feel and anticipate exactly what was going to happen next.
Between step 5 and 6 I had to make a decision. I could do what she wanted me to do and let her go before the next crunch, but that might mean we will never see her again or I could let her do her worst and we would still have a cat. I chose the latter and had to bear the consequences. She had my thumb right at the back of her mouth on the right side and she didn’t hold back. Wham! I felt the teeth sink right into my thumb pad and my thumb nail cracked where the teeth went right through. She gave it a couple of squeezes to make sure I felt it.
Step 6.. she let go as I finally had her by the scruff and we calmly walked into the vet as if nothing had happened. At that stage I didn’t realise I was trailing blood everywhere which really did give away the fact we had had some issues arriving to this point.
The vet and his staff loved her saying she was very well behaved. The vet said she is typical of a Moroccan street cat. Compact, hardy and friendly. She is likely to be from the African Wildcat breed due to her markings, colouring and build. Wherever she is from, she is now free of rabies, worms, cat flu and reproductive organs, and has a new microchip, all ready to see the world. I, on the other hand still have some healing to do.. The bite sure was a goodie. Her teeth are still very sharp and she crunched me with her molar that she would normally use to break the bones of the little animals she would snack on. I watched the redness move from my thumb to my hand and then it started to move up my arm. The first antibiotics didn’t work so I went to another clinic who took a look and ordered me to hospital. I saw 3 doctors in 2 hospitals in all and the last one decided to cut me open so it could drain and did it pretty much on the spot in the consultation room. Yes, it hurt. The worst is that it needs to be left open to heal from the inside out and the opening is right on the side and front of my main thumb.
So, we have been in hotels, campgrounds and Airbnb’s around Morocco for 3 weeks, now always with the cat. She appears to quite like it. All of it, which is a relief. We do still have a feeling we may have added a factor of difficulty to the trip, and it looks like we won’t be backpacking through India, but we’re pretty sure we have added a load of happiness by having this passenger along for the ride. We now have another 10 days to wait for her final rabies shot and we will be on our way south down the west coast of Africa. She is set to become a very well-travelled cat! She rides in a basket that sits on the driveshaft hump between the front and back seats. She sleeps most of the time but also looks out of the window a lot. We got her a litter tray for a hotel stay but discovered she really like to use it even when we are camping. That way she doesn’t need to worry about other cats and possible violation of a territory. It made her a lot more comfortable at a new stop and she now settles down in a few minutes. She loves the roof tent! She lays or sits by the opening at the top of the ladder looking out and will often lure us up so she can play! It took her a few days to get the hang of climbing up into the tent. Getting down was of course no problem. The tent and around the car are her safe places and she has a hiding spot up on the fuel tank. We have some security grills we can put on the back windows for ventilation for when she guards the car, or she can come along on the harness. She is OK with that but still not keen on sitting in a backpack or bag, yet…
We’re looking forward to answering any questions you might have on travelling with a cat, we couldn’t find much on it at all and maybe with good reason, it might be impossibly hard, but we’re up for it.
Anyhow, meet Luxy.
She would like to connect with you on her Instagram account luxy_the_travelling_cat. Make sure you follow her so you can keep up with her adventures across the globe. She plans on being the most well-travelled cat on Instagram! Do you think she can do it?
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!