When I moved to the center of Tel Aviv last summer, one of the first things I noticed, was all the free roaming cats. A recent study from Tel Aviv University, estimated around 39,000 of them live in Tel Aviv. That's almost one cat for every 10 people in the city. Except, unlike the people, a lot of the cats mostly look mangy — or sick. Riva Mayer, who is the overseas development director of Let the Animals Live, an Israel-based animal welfare organization, stresses that these cats are not meant to live indoors. "They were born on the streets and that's where they're comfortable. They don't know anything else. And they don't want to be inside the flat, because the feral cats, they cannot live inside the flat, the closed areas make them frightened, she said." Most street cats in Israel only live to be one or two years old. But despite their sadly short lives, they still manage to reproduce at amazing speed. "In Israel the rate of birth is very high. Three times a year they give birth and then when their kittens are about five to six months old, they give birth again," said Mayer. Dr. Zvi Galin, the Director of the Veterinary Department of Tel Aviv-Yafo, said that even though these cats don't have owners, thousands of people in Tel Aviv feed them every day, and that part of the reason there are so many cats in Tel Aviv, is because of all that people that feed them. In the late 1980s, Riva Myer was one of the people who actually brought the idea of spaying and neutering to Israel. Before that population control meant poisoning the street cats. But now that's illegal. And spaying and neutering has become the norm. But Mayer says it's hasn't become part of the culture yet. And that there needs to be more emphasis on the amount of cats getting fixed. "The municipality of Tel Aviv has good intentions, but they don't keep up with the amount of cats being born on the streets. They have to do at least 100 spaying and neutering a day to keep up with the rate of cats giving birth at the moment, she stressed." "We can do 10 cats today, so 10 cats are going to reproduce less kittens," Dr. Galin contends. "It's something. For me if I can help one, I can help one. It would be good to help thousand, but I can't do it." But for the street cat population to decrease, research shows that at least 80 percent of the cats need to be spayed and neutered. As of now, Tel Aviv is not meeting that mark.

The cat mating season has started with vigor in Israel. (Photo: Zak Rosen)

A feral cat in Tel Aviv, Israel (Photo: Zak Rosen)

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