Cats of Algeria

Algiers, Algeria

Woman and cat

Woman and stray cat on the steps of the Ketchoua Mosque

Algiers, Algeria

To say that Algiers has a lot of cats would be an understatement. Words like ‘inundated’ and ‘omnipresent’ come closer to the mark. Everywhere you go, there seem to be cats.

They are, for the most part, street cats. The sight of large numbers of strays never makes me very happy, because the life of a stray in a big city tends to be dirty, brutal and brief. Quite quickly, however, I understood that there was something different happening here.

The cats of Algiers were, for the most part, in astonishingly good shape for street cats. There were some that were visibly dirty or diseased, but the vast majority seemed to be well-fed and apparently healthy. Some were a little skittish, but most appeared unafraid of the people around them.

It quickly became clear that the people of Algiers like the cats. From time to time we’d come across little cans of cat food set out for the neighborhood felines, or see someone refilling water and food bowls in a public park. In the Babeloued neighborhood, I watched a woman tossing pieces of cheese to a small furry mob from a fourth-floor window. It wasn't uncommon to see someone stop to pet a passing cat, with the cat accepting the caresses with good grace and apparent pleasure before both cat and human went on about their business. I started to wonder if the cats weren’t so much strays as collectively owned by the entire city.

I don’t mean to give the impression that the life of a cat in Algiers is idyllic. A few times, I passed sad little corpses in some alley or corner. I also saw a few female cats so pregnant that they were practically spherical, a reminder that more could probably be done to keep the feline population within limits. The ubiquitous cats may be charming, but Algiers could definitely benefit from a good trap-neuter-release program. Still, given the sheer numbers, things could certainly be a lot worse.