I originally booked a trip to Morocco because I missed the desert. About once a year my husband and I would drive through the American southwest to hike and camp and live among nature for a week or two. I knew we couldn't afford to fly back home to make this happen, so I looked for a desert closer to Portugal that was reasonably priced and ended up choosing Morocco.
During my research for our trip, I kept seeing photos from Morocco of cats on the streets and throughout the souks. I read travel reviews that mentioned cats, mostly telling people to stay away from them because they might have rabies. I decided early on I wasn't going to stay away from them. I gathered up all the treats my cats refused to eat because they are spoiled American cats and packed them in my luggage.
After arriving in Marrakech, I discovered that there weren't just a few cats here and there. They were everywhere, like pigeons, and people treated them the way most of us treat pigeons: as though they were invisible. No one was cruel, but most people completely ignored them - regardless of their level of suffering - including the tourists.
I stopped for every cat I saw. Most were friendly and very hungry, some were too afraid to come out for the treats until after I distanced myself. Occasionally one would follow us through the souks, begging for more. There were cats that were in too much pain to eat. Some of them just wanted love.
On our last day in Marrakech we were heading back to our riad after visiting a wonderful bakery in Gueliz. As we turned the corner, a small orange kitten came running up to us from the road. One of his eyeballs was destroyed and completely infected. The other eye was infected as well. His nose had been ripped off his face and both of his front paws had been smashed and were causing him great pain to stand on.
We had to do something. I sat with him while my husband bought a can of fish from a vendor down the street. He shivered and hid underneath me as I crouched down to shelter him. When my husband returned with the food, he couldn't eat. He just wanted to crawl inside our arms and be loved. I found a veterinarian about 1/2 an hour away on my smartphone and we walked, my husband carrying the kitten in his scarf while passersby stared, sometimes looking confused, sometimes laughing.
The veterinarian's office was clean and bright, completely the opposite of the Medina. We sat there for awhile with the kitten until a vet came over to us. He told us that the kitten had multiple infections and injuries, showed us a painful-looking and infected tongue and gums inside the kitten's mouth, and told us that extensive surgery and in-patient time in the vet's office would be required. He said it would cost thousands for the surgery and potentially thousands more for the treatment. He said it would be best if we rescheduled our trip to stay an extra week to oversee the medical treatments. He said there was no guarantee that the kitten would live, even after the surgery and treatment, and that he was in a lot of pain.
Tears began to stream from my face as the vet spoke. I knew we couldn't afford to reschedule our flight, to pay for the surgery and medical treatment and more nights in a hotel. We were leaving the next day and there was no way we could change that. If we put that cat back out on the street, he would die a slow, painful death, alone, with no one to love him.
We did the only compassionate thing we could afford to do. We held that kitten, speaking softly to him as the vet gently gave him the injection that would stop his heart. His eyes went blank, his little claws still digging into my husband's scarf. I couldn't stop crying - it shouldn't have to be like this.
We left Morocco heartbroken. It is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen, with great food and lovely people, but this experience tore my heart and it took awhile before I was able to go through these photos and think about what happened again.
I hope someday I can do more for the animals of this country, and every country where they are suffering. For now though, I can introduce you to some of the amazing cats of Morocco so that they are not forgotten and ignored. If you visit, don't be afraid to bring a few bags of cat treats. You will make some very good friends.
If you would like to help the cats of Morocco, I know of a very reputable charity called SarE: Secours Animalier Roulant in Essaouira that can use any donation or offering of help. They are fairly new, but they have a Facebook page that has all the details regarding the work they do and what your donations will being going to fund. The animals will appreciate it!