The Coexisting Cats

Abu Ali lives with ten cats in Tripoli, and loves them as if they were his family.

We all eat out of one pot

Cats are pets, the fluffy creatures that occupy our time and demand our attention. One cat at home makes all the difference, and turns us to more sensitive humans, able to sympathize with all animals on Earth.

Is this what you call coexistence?

Abou Ali has a different experience with cats. He has not one, but ten of them. He named them himself; there’s Sabeh Assoubouh, Fahda Al Sayyada, Busayna, Balloula, Ghandoura, Kahla, Tiger, Obama, Puma and Batman, all of them walk around him as he sits in the carpenter tools shop he ran following his brother’s death 17 years ago. These cats all eat from the same plate, even though if you’re a cat owner yourself, you know that cats don’t like this at all. Abou Ali considers this fact as the biggest proof of coexistence among animals being much natural than among humans, remembering how the situation was when the Lebanese Civil War erupted, leading to men killing their brothers over political disputes… “Is this what you call coexistence?” Abou Ali mockingly asks, not waiting for the answer I wasn’t even going to give, as I watched him caress a cat that sat close to his small chair.

The cats of Tripoli call out for Abu Ali

All the cats in the neighbourhood know Abou Ali, they meow and purr when he passes by, and come to him when he calls each’s name. They follow him down the Mina alleys, waiting for their daily meal: leftover meat that Abou Moustapha the butcher had saved for Abou Ali to feed to the cats that meow when he arrives.

Is raising cats a hobby?

Raising cats is not a recent hobby that the sixty year-old exhausted man has adopted. In fact, he has liked them ever since he was a young boy, raising both a cat and a chicken at the same time in the house he lived in with his brothers and parents. His brothers all married early, so he stayed with his cat and chicken till he left to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and then the United Arab Emirates to work as an electrician. Abou Ali never married, he earned his nickname following the many little fights he got into in the neighbourhood with the other boys.

Loyal friends: Cats

Abou Ali found in cats the loyal friends he couldn’t find in humans; in Tripoli’s alleys and passages, he sits with those friends peacefully, chatting each in his own language, coexisting each in his own species.