In Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, a couple has taken in no less than 300 cats. Farah Genzales-Uddin and her husband have five cats of their own but seven years ago, the family began feeding street cats that would wander over to their home.
Their efforts, though noble, were not appreciated by neighbors who claimed the Genzales-Uddin’s were attracting more stray cats to the neighborhood. Soon after, Farah and her husband decided to open their home to a rescue cat. It became the first of 300 felines, which they keep in different rooms in their house. “The cats kept in these rooms are either too mischievous or do not mix well with others,” said Genzales-Uddin, as she toured the rooms.
“There was a mother and her kittens that we used to feed, and also some cats by the masjid in our neighborhood. More and more cats started coming to eat. My husband always had a bag of cat food in his car to feed the cats when needed. All of a sudden, we were in charge of feeding around 18 stray cats in the neighborhood,” Farah said.
The Genzales-Uddin’s have rescued and cared for all types of cats, including many that have been blind, physically challenged, or simply old. In the living room of the couple’s residence, a hit-and-run survivor who has lost the use of his back legs has made himself at home. Farah recounted how a vet advised sacrificing the animal, to which she responded, “If he wants to live, who am I to stop him?”
Farah acts both as a loving owner and a vet, regularly checking up on the cats to ensure they are well-cared for and receiving treatment as needed. In the basement, the couple has a glass divider which keeps the cats in contact with one another so they don’t feel isolated. “When my husband and I were moving into the house, the moment I saw the basement I visualized it looking like this,” said Farah.
In the backyard, the Genzales-Uddin’s have a cat who suffered from calicivirus, “a common respiratory disease in cats. The virus attacks the respiratory tract -- lungs and nasal passages -- the mouth, with ulceration of the tongue, the intestines, and the musculoskeletal system,” according to petMD.
“I isolated him,” Farah said. “I used to wear double gloves and sanitize whatever and wherever the cat touched. I was so scared because if any of my other cats caught it, it meant the end for all of them. For 15 days, the cat survived only on antibiotics. The cat is now fully cured otherwise we would not have been able to come near him.”
Amazingly, Farah knows every cat by name, as well as their backstory, habits, and challenges. In addition to the cats she keeps in her home, she also feeds 600 street cats every day in the neighborhood while out for a bicycle ride. She looks for donations or help from people in the community, as well as adoptive homes, to keep her efforts going. Farah believes she receives as much from her feline family as they do from her.