The cats of Zanzibar have a presence that I’ve rarely seen in the stray cat world. You see them in full and unguarded sleep on foot-worn steps in the middle of the day in the relentless cacophony of commerce. Since there are almost no dogs in the urban areas of this island archipelago off the East African coast, and since they are more than tolerated by the locals residents, they have little to fear except the traffic.
The Zanzibar cats also have very clear and marked out territories and are often ‘adopted’ unofficially by the hotel, restaurant or shop where they have staked their claim. It is rare to see one even flinch amidst constant weaving of cars, people, scooters and vegetable carts. They have learned to hold their ground.
They stake out the tables at outside cafes, and in the evenings when many people are enjoying the chance to eat in the cool air, three or four will attach themselves to a table, and wait and wait and wait for the accidental, or sometimes if they catch a sympathetic eye, purposefully dropped morsel.
Lena is in another category. I’m pretty sure that she would be appalled to be included in a blog about street cats, since she occupies notable pride of place in an Arabic-style four star beachfront hotel. She can often be seen lounging in the middle of the lobby while guests carefully steer their luggage around her. In the hotel office she has her own custom-built house and food and water bowls.
Firoz, who works at the reception desk, knows all about Lena’s family history. Two of her sisters were run over as were two of her kittens. Lena is a survivor. No, more than that, I think, when I look at the sleekness of her coat and the smile on Firoz’s face as he pets her, even though he is allergic to cats. She is a thriver.