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Cats of Lamu

Lamu cats are famous – believed to be a preserved gene pool of the long-legged, fine-boned Egyptian cats of ancient times – honoured rat-catching passengers on the dhows of the Arab traders of centuries ago. On the ships and in the shops and houses they are appreciated for efficient work in keeping the rodent population down.

Their position in Lamu, a predominantly Muslim town, has been enhanced by the fact that the Prophet was particularly fond of cats, as was his first disciple, Abu Hureira, ‘The Father of Kittens’.

Today it is hard to estimate the precise number of cats in Lamu but a conservative figure could be as many as 4,000 in town alone and close to 10,000 in the archipelago. Although most are attached to some household, many are ‘street-cats’, struggling to survive on meager handouts from fishermen and shop-keepers, rooting in garbage and catching what rats and mice they can.

They suffer from worms, fungal skin infections, trauma wounds and 70% of the population carry the highly contagious cat flu. Lamu cats are also genetically predisposed to a high incidence of skin cancer; others are deformed by malnutrition.

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