How a street cat named Salem inspired an Emirati author’s book: ‘My heart went out to him’

Bashayer Arif had a serious one until a few years ago fear of cats. The Emirati author, whose children’s book The Secret Life of Dubai’s Street Cats was published in February, would refuse to pet her and would even change her way if she spotted one the street. She found her movements shadowy and her eyes threatening.

But one night in 2015 an Arab Mau stumbled into the garden of Arif’s family home in Jumeirah. “He looked so fragile and innocent,” she says The national. “He looked like he needed some maintenance and care, so I left him saucers of food and water. but from a safe distance. “

The fragile Mau returned night after night, and Arif left food and water, hurried back into the house to watch the cat slapping through the window the contents of each saucer.

She named the cat Salem, after the American who spoke Shorthair in the 1996 sitcom Sabrina the teenage witch.

“The Secret Life of the Street Cats of Dubai” by Bashayer Arif. The Dreamwork collective

After a few nights of leaving saucers with food and water behind, Arif encountered the cat in daylight. He was found to be badly wounded and in need of medical attention. A few hours later, Arif and her sister managed to put the cat in a neighbor’s carrier and take it with them to a veterinary clinic.

“My heart just went to him,” says Arif. “The whole time he was in the car, he just screamed and screamed. When we got to the clinic and got him out of the Bearer, I remember the fearful look in his eyes. Pure fear. And it shook me. “

The vet found Salem suffered from countless Health problems the most serious of which was an old injury to his tongue afflicted by the cat unable to care for themselves or Eat properly.

Nobody thinks they are animals that belong here and deserve a place here. That made me very sad

Bashayer Arif, author

“I had to find a home for him, but I knew it would be a challenge, both because of his health problems and the fact that he is a black cat. Lots of people don’t like black cats and don’t like to keep lost.”

A year later, Arif managed to find a home for Salem – in the Netherlands. “It took a long time”, says. “Somehow this woman from the Netherlands heard from him and got in touch to adopt him. She was an animal lover and has had several cats. So I handed in the papers, got Salem the animal passport and he went to the Netherlands. “

However, Arif says that she often ponders how Salem has influenced her life. The two spent more than a year together. you kept Salem in her grandparents house and visited her daily. She joined online cat communities to find him a good home and read blogs about cat grooming and articles on the Arabian Mau. Arif’s fear of cats eventually disappeared, and instead a protective empathy for the animals grew.

It is this transformative experience that inspired Arif to write The secret life of Dubai’s street cats. She hopes it will pique her interest the arabic mau, even with its non-cat-loving readers.

Bashayer Arif was inspired to write “The Secret Life of the Street Cats of Dubai” after meeting an Arab Mau in her garden. The Dreamwork collective

“After I saved Salem, I learned a lot about cats and the Arabian Mau,” she says. “Before I met him, I called them stray cats. I didn’t know that they are native to our country. “

None of the cats in Arif’s children’s book is based directly on Salem, she says. But he was instrumental in changing her mind about cats, particularly the Arab Mau, the short hair species native to the Arabian Peninsula.

Many across the country encounter the Arab Mau on a daily basis. They can be seen curled up under parked cars prancing in or out of garbage Trash cans or auditing passers-by on the streets of UAE, where grocery stores usually have saucers of food and water ready for them at the door. Arif says she wants readers from her Book to see the species for what it is: majestic, misunderstood and neglected.

“They are only seen as pests,” she says says. “Nobody thinks they are animals that belong here and deserve a place here. That made me very sad because a lot of people are on the lookout for Persians and Scots Wrinkles and all these exotic races. But they don’t see how friendly these Arab mice are. I’ve met so many and they are so dynamic, so funny. They are great with adults and children. And would make great pets. “

Published by The Dreamwork Collective, The secret life of Dubai’s street cats revolves around an Arab mau named Sharpclaw, a spirited, born leader who spends her days with best friends Twitch and Blacktail, sleeping in the sun and meowing people who feed them. The trio’s peace in the neighborhood is threatened when a new house cat, Killtooth, moves in.

The neighborhood is never explicitly mentioned in the book, but between Arif’s writing and In the illustrations by Eilis Boyle, the environment in the first part of the book seems to reflect the suburbs of Jumeirah.

Arif says she was careful not to be clear about where the events were taking place in Dubai occur.

“For me personally, I envision the story taking place in Jumeirah before moving towards Satwa and Safa Park,” she says. “But it would be more fun for readers to imagine the places in their own way. It could be Karama or Mirdif. ”

Arif is now taking care of three cats, one of which is a mixed Arabian Mau, which she mistakenly calls Sharpclaw from time to time. Looking back, she says that she often cannot believe how their feelings towards cats changed because of them her relationship with Salem and how that transformation inspired her to write a book.

“I had a personal experience that changed everything for me,” she says. “I saved a Street cat. “