Ever since she moved to Jerusalem from Toronto, in the 1980s, Tova Saul has dedicated her life to looking after the street cats of Israel. She prowls the streets of the Old City carrying bags of food for the felines, provides medical attention to any injured animals she finds by either taking them to the vet, or welcoming them into her home, and takes females to be spayed in hopes of slowing down the rate at which the street cat population of Jerusalem has been growing for several decades. Some call her the “Cat Lady of Jerusalem”, but she is more of an unofficial chief caretaker of the stray cats in the Israeli city.
The Mediterranean basin in general is home to a lot of cats, due to the favorable climate – the weather is generally warm and winters are very mild. It is estimated that there are currently over two million street cats in Israel today, and about 100,000 of them are in Jerusalem. It wasn’t always like this. though. Up until the 1930s, the cat population was small, but under the British Mandate, felines were brought in to deal with the rat problem, and they thrived. They’ve been multiplying at such an accelerated rate that, a couple of years ago, the Israeli minister of agriculture suggested that all male or female cats be deported to another receptive country. That has yet to happen, but it gives you an idea of how authorities intend on dealing with the problem. That’s definitely not how Tova Saul sees things. She believes that compassion and responsibility are key to finding a viable solution to this issue.