The streets and alleyways of Essaouira are full of stray cats – they make very cute photo subjects. There are fewer stray dogs, but in the evening you see them roaming around in packs like the local teenagers. There is a charity which periodically neuters cats in an apparently futile attempt to keep numbers down – you can spot the treated cats as they have one clipped ear. Unusually for a Muslim country (some Muslims consider dogs to be dirty), the street cats and dogs are generally well looked after by the people in their neighbourhood, although no-one pays for the vet treatment of sick street animals and it really is a case of Darwinian survival. However, in a city of overflowing bins and an active port, there is always something for the cats and dogs to scavenge.
I have lived in Essaouira now for over 4 months and I continue to photograph local animals. However, now I have started to observe their behaviours and have even started to recognise a few local feline and canine characters. Here are a couple of my observations.
Hot nightspot… for dogs
I took these photos one autumn evening. The memorial commemorates Essaouira’s attainment of UNESCO World Heritage status. We were amazed to see so many dogs hanging out in this spot. Until we realised they were all male – bar one (un)fortunate female (depending on how you look at it). They were all lounging around nonchalantly, seemingly sleeping. However, but I am sure the dogs were plotting their move and that she was going to make it hard work for any of those doggy suitors to get close to her! Fittingly, this park is near a couple of Essaouira’s nightclubs, where a similar scene can be observed most weekends…
Around the same time, we noticed a cat outside one of our local shops – with a kitten on her back. Very cute and photogenic, but we wondered whether this kitten was really hers. She had a dark grey and white colouring while the kitten had a marmalade tiger stripe! The shopkeeper filled us in on the incredible story…
Apparently, the mum cat’s kittens died. The ginger kitten came by one day and she adopted it! I didn’t know that such a practice existed in the feline world! We pass by regularly and the kitten has grown. I always check on it and buy it a triangle of spreading cheese, which s/he devours. I used to buy one for the mum as well, but recently she has taken herself off. Her adopted kitten is starting to fend for itself and she is pregnant again. Any day now she’ll have kittens of her own.