One of the more poignant scenes in Qatar is the enormous number of stray cats roaming the back streets. Many are extremely friendly, which makes their precarious situation even more heartbreaking. It’s worse with stray dogs who find it harder to thrive in the local environment. Unlike most cats, they have very few survival skills.
If you’ve ever wondered if you could do something for those animals, this is your cue. Here are a few ways you can help Qatar’s animal overpopulation problem. Some involve low effort (but still high impact) volunteer opportunities, while others are more time-intensive activities that will help bring comfort to our furry little friends.
Become a Dog Walker or Cat Cuddler
If you have ever wanted to have a dog but live in cramped quarters, you can visit an animal rescue for some puppy love. Take one of the dogs out for a walk or cuddle up with an adorable kitty. While seemingly trivial, you are helping to socialise these animals. Getting them used to humans will give them a much higher chance of finding a “forever” home with a loving family.
Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS) currently has 300 animals in their shelter near Aqua Park Qatar. You don’t even need to register beforehand, as they are open to drop-in visitors every Friday and Saturday afternoon. QAWS not only has dogs to walk and cats to brush, but they also have a handful of other rescue animals on-site, such as donkeys, chickens, goats, and sheep.
Paws Rescue Qatar (PAWS) used to welcome families to their shelter, but they are currently relocating. Once they find a new base of operations, they too will invite visitors to come and play with their rescue animals.
Get Behind the Wheel
For both PAWS and QAWS, there is a surprisingly huge demand for drivers. Animal rescue involves a lot of ferrying cats and dogs to veterinarian clinics and picking up basic pet supplies or animal export paperwork. They particularly need drivers during workday hours. So, if you have the odd spare morning, consider getting in touch with one of the rescue groups listed in the contact section and offer them some time on the road. “We struggle with that,” says Alison Caldwell of PAWS. “[We really] need help during school hours to pick up animals at the vets!”
Become a Foster (Pup) Parent
Perhaps you love the idea of dog or cat ownership, but you cannot totally commit. Maybe you plan to move to a country with eye-wateringly expensive import processes, or you know your time in Qatar will be short-term. Whatever the reason, you can register your interest in being a foster pup/cat parent with one of the many rescue groups in Qatar. First, determine the conditions under which you’d like to foster: some arrangements are very brief, perhaps just a few weeks or months. “It’s never open-ended [with QAWS]. We look for foster homes for travelling animals that will be adopted in the UK or Europe. They move out of the shelter and into a home while waiting for their blood test. This frees up shelter space,” explains Kelly Allen of QAWS. Pregnant or nursing cats will also need a safe, quiet space for a limited number of months—usually just until the kittens are ready to be adopted.
Offer Your Skills
Many new arrivals to Doha are trailing spouses who have left rewarding careers to follow their husband or wife to Qatar. If you fit that bill and have in-demand skills, consider offering them to animal groups on a volunteer basis. For instance, volunteers with a graphic design background are needed to help make posters advertising upcoming events or adoptable pets. Likewise, if you have amazing photography skills, consider helping snap pictures of rescue cats and dogs. “We always need help with photography. Taking cute, non-blurry photos is hard!” admits Kelly.
Recently, PAWS has organised pub quizzes and 80s nights, so if you are an experienced events planner or have the time to assist with logistics, get in touch. “We always need people to help run fundraisers,” says Alison, “there’s just not enough volunteers for our events!”
Be a Flight Buddy
Expats in Qatar are a jet-setting bunch—always coming and going from (often multiple) home countries. If you are flying somewhere at a relatively relaxed pace with no tight layovers, get in touch with an animal rescue to see if they can use your ticket to send one of their pets abroad.
This might seem like a strange request. However, the reality in Qatar is that the number of stray animals in need of good homes far outstrips the supply. That is why so many rescue groups have increasingly sought adopters living abroad. Direct flights to American cities are especially prized by cat rescuers (where, for the moment, rescue dogs are banned). European destinations like Amsterdam in the Netherlands and bigger cities in Germany and France are also heavily used by cat and dog rescuers. Even places further afield like the Philippines are looking for “flight buddies”, so do check to see if any rescue could use your spot. Often, you can contact just one rescue with your flight plans, and they’ll put the word out effectively through their tight-knit community. This is how it works: the animal rescue will book an animal on the flight using your ticket details. Then, they will arrange all the paperwork and deliver the animal to the airport themselves. As a flight buddy, all you need to do is walk the animal through customs to a volunteer group waiting on the other end. This beats lounging around an airport cafe anytime.
Spay/Neuter Community Strays
Bunnies are notorious for multiplying rapidly, but we think cats are somehow more productive. Left alone, a breeding pair of cats and their surviving kittens can reach 10,000 individuals in just five years! Unfortunately, there are far too many cats and not enough homes for them. It’s heartbreaking, but there’s quite a lot you can do to improve their situation.
TNR Qatar is a volunteer group that tries to solve the cat overpopulation problem in a humane way. They organise trap-neuter-return (TNR) activities for their managed cat colonies across Doha. TNR refers to a practice of trapping cats with special cages, sterilising them, and then returning them to “managed” colonies that are looked after by a volunteer or nearby resident. Post-surgery, they are given a characteristic tip on the left ear to let other rescuers know which cats have already been fixed. This is considered a humane method of animal control, as the numbers of a managed colony will slowly dwindle by the year. Trapping activities will occasionally have to be repeated to catch newcomers to the colony.
Volunteers are needed to help trap and transport cats to vet clinics for sterilisation. Alternatively, you can help feed the cat colonies overseen by TNR Qatar. Even just a couple of spare mornings or evenings during the week would be highly appreciated, so get in touch to see if there’s a managed colony near your home or place of work.
You can also help cats closer to home by organising TNR activities with your neighbours. But before you start grabbing cats, it is highly recommended to consult with TNR Qatar, as they can provide expert guidance on how to do it right. Olga Piven, a solo cat rescuer, followed their advice on meeting with building management. After she and TNR Qatar met with facility management, they handed out printed sheets in Arabic explaining their plans for the compound’s cats. They received permission to do TNR, and Olga and her fellow residents managed to trap and sterilise an astonishing 100 cats.
With TNR, you’ll quickly see changes such as quieter nights due to the lack of aggressive fighting and reduced squawking from cats in heat. In time, you’ll also notice the compound cats looking calmer and healthier. Plus, it’s just nice to see the same friendly kitty faces when you come home from work or school pickup.
That said, during your time in Qatar, you will likely come across a distressed cat or dog. While you may have success contacting an animal rescue, there is no guarantee they will be able to help with resources stretched so thin. For the best chance of survival, take the animal to a vet clinic immediately. Don’t just upload a picture to Facebook and hope for the best, as it will often be too late.
Even if you’re afraid you’ll get “stuck” with an animal, don’t give up, urges Olga. The animal rescue community is extremely supportive and ready to help newbies. If you feel overwhelmed caring for an animal, reach out for advice. Keep sharing the animal’s special story online, and point out their adorably unique characteristics. That way, you might just find a new home for your rescue among your friendship circle. Just make sure they are trustworthy individuals who understand the responsibilities of pet ownership!
A Final Word
So many expats left Qatar during the pandemic, with few arrivals to replace them. This has left many volunteer groups with a serious shortage. Now that restrictions are easing, please consider using your free time to help make Doha a better place for both the human and four-legged communities.
Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS)
Paws Rescue Qatar (PAWS)
2nd Chance Rescue – Qatar
Kimmy Clarkson (flight buddies)