Expo City Dubai boasts an eclectic mix of residents, including Darth Vader, Shakira, and Thomas Shelby. Thanks to Expo City's pet-friendly policies, these felines prowl freely in and around the bustling metropolis.

While the notorious Darth Vader had to be rescued by a lift from the top of a building, Thomas Shelby is always getting into fights. Meanwhile, office pet Fred always jumps into any buggy that passes by him, leaving behind his twin George.

There are almost 80 cats that live on the site, which has several 'cat condos' (cat houses) built with towers and scratching stations - as well as feeding stations. These are located in the grassy and shaded areas for the cats to enjoy. All the cats have been subjected to TNR- trap, neuter and release- to control their population.

Darth Vader being rescued in the video below:

The initiative is the brainchild of animal lover Faida Sabouneh, who works as the food safety and sustainability manager at Expo City. According to her, many cats like Paulina have fixed spots. "She is the Rove reception cat," she said. "She is stationed outside the hotel doors and sometimes saunters inside to interact with the guests and children."

Spreadsheet of information

The entire program requires a lot of effort from Faida. "I have a spreadsheet of each and every cat on site, along with their names and any medical conditions they have," she said. "However, I also have a lot of support from my colleagues. One of them gave me the go-ahead for putting up the feeding stations and the cat condos."

While walking around with team KT, Faida stopped to feed mother cat Debbie and her kittens. "I don't usually feed the cats wet food because we are training them to be self-sustainable in the open," she said. "However, Debbie gave birth just a little while ago and she and the kittens need that extra nourishment."

Faida names each of the cats based on their personalities. "Darth Vader is really naughty, and that is why he has his name," she said. "His brother Thomas Shelby is a ginger who picks a fight with any cat that crosses his path. Their mother, Shakira, is a quirky one. Fred and George are a bit like the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter series. So I name them based on how they are."

Now, her priority is getting Debbie's kittens adopted. "I want them to go to a good home," she said. "Right now, the adoptions are done only internally and not open to the public. I vet every application and ensure the cat is fit for the family."

About 30 of the Expo cats have been adopted from around the globe. "Some are in the UK, while others are in Scotland and Ireland," said Faida. "We had some NGOs helping us with the paperwork and so on but otherwise it was the support of several volunteers that made the relocation possible."


The biggest challenge for the volunteers is people dumping cats in Expo City. "People think that because we are cat-friendly, let me dump my cats here," she said. "However, that is not how it works. Cats develop their instincts to survive outdoors in the first six months of their lives. An indoor cat will never be able to hunt like an outdoor cat and often hides."

Faida said they have had many dumped cats found in malnourished and dehydrated conditions. "Unfortunately, many of them didn't make it," she said. "Recently, we found a purebred, microchipped cat in a very bad state. Luckily, he pulled through, and we rehomed him. However, that is not possible for every cat."

Her initiatives have led to several changes. "One is that the employees here have become more friendly and the atmosphere is very positive," she said. "A lot of people stop to pat the cats, and many have bonded with co-workers because of this. Also, we now have a vet clinic on-site at Expo, which makes it possible to care for cats in emergencies."

Faida's purpose is to show other communities that it is possible to be cat-friendly. "Many communities treat cats as pests and try to get rid of them," she said. "But we just want to show that it is possible to be a cat-friendly location with a little bit of work."

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