There’s something about cats in Morocco

There’s something about cats in Morocco, that’s a fact.

This Christmas, I spent a week in Marrakesh with my family. This was a trip we had been talking about for years, but never did together. I went nonetheless to Marrakesh on my own at a few occasions, and loved it every single time: the bustling city and its souks, the scent of spices and leather, the beautiful rugs and cloth, the tasty food, the scenic view from anywhere you’re standing, the singing voice of the Muezzin calling for prayer, and of course the kindness of its people.

However, there is something I never really noticed until today, maybe because I was somehow a little blind or numb to it; something that is completely part of the active scene of the city, but however so discrete or flowing, that its presence did not strike me during any of my previous trips. Something I was not mindful to, before I was properly introduced to this peculiar though totally intricate specie.

« This is not about cats; it’s about cats being cats. »

If there is one constant when traveling in Morocco, it is surely the out-of-control cat population. Roaming almost every street in the country, and dotted around in some of the most unlikely places, cats are everywhere in Morocco: in every mosque, Medina, market square, store, hotel, restaurant, garden and dig.

Not only are Moroccan cats omnipresent, they are also well fed and friendly. There indeed seems to be a mutual respect between the resident people and resident cats, no matter how filthy, mangy or deformed these are.

So, what’s with all the cats?

Well, it turns out that Muhammad, prophet of Allah, surrounded himself with cats and doted on his favorite, Muezza. The story goes that, one day, Mohammad woke up for the dawn call to prayer, and found Muezza asleep on the sleeve of his robe. Rather than disturb his pet, Muhammad cut off his sleeve, and went on his way. When he came home later, Muezza bowed in gratitude. The prophet stroked Muezza three times, thereby granting her nine lives and the ability to land on her feet. Muhammad was known to give sermons with a cat in his lap, and to share a food and water dish with Muezza. Another story claims a cat saved him from being attacked by a snake.

Legend or not, I however did not need this story to understand that cats in Morocco, and street cats in general, are niftier than our regular house cat.
From Marrakech to the foothill of the Atlas, far beyond the Ourika Valley, stopping by Essaouira and its fishermen on the western coast of Morroco, I saw A LOT of cats.

My ultimate attempt during this trip was not to merely take picture of cats, for the sake of documenting my journey, but to show cats being cats; cats being shy, curious, bold, friendly, adventurous, sleepy, uninterested, ecstatic, complex, proud, independent, resourceful.

I think each of them somehow showed me a side of his/her personality. That’s what I tried to express in every single photo I took.

11 thoughts on “There’s something about cats in Morocco

  1. Well I am a Muslim and I never heard about the story of granting lifes, Mohammad is not a God to grant lifes, he is a human and he was a good man 🙂

  2. Hi I am going to Marrakech on Thursday.. I know there are a lot of cats there and unfortunately I have a phobia of cats so therefore I will be spending most my time in the hotel but I really want to visit Atlas Mountains.. Are there cats in the Atlas Mountains? I knew it sounds so silly but I just can’t help it and it’s so frustrating..

  3. wait until you see my house , i have 20 cats lurking in my yard in morocco , i’ve been hooked to cats from my childhood , as an introvert they were my tight lipped confidents and my friends

    signed : a moroccan guy

  4. We have just returned from a week in Morrocco and I find nothing more depressing than seeing thousands of hungry cats and many needing medical attention, not so glamouris …

  5. I spent the last five days (Jan 2016) in Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech and agree wth the well fed cat observation. My issue is where are the dogs??

    1. That’s a very good question. If cats enjoy from some relative benevolence from locals, it doesn’t go the same way for representatives of the canine race. The few dogs I saw strolling the streets where in the best case ignored, and in most case shouted at if they paused too long near a food stall. Also, I remember that “traditionally, dogs have been seen as impure, and the Islamic legal tradition has developed several injunctions that warn Muslims against most contact with dogs.” There’s an interesting article on this topic, written by Dr. Ayoub M. Banderker (BVMCh), veterinary surgeon:
      There’s even a Wikipedia article about Animal in Islam:

  6. This article is soo misleading! I never seen so many starving, sick street cats on my life. Saw a kitten dead on the street this morning by the way! she looked like she got food poison. – this is in Marrakech

    1. Hi Salin, thank you for sharing with us your experience of cats in Morocco. We too saw a few sick individuals among hundreds of cats we met along our way. And it is true too that most of them were in big cities like Marrakech – also, cats in north africa tend to be skinier that their relatives in industrialized countries. And while there will always be a certain proportion of starving and sick cats in this country, they are generally well treated by its people. At least, they don’t chase them like dogs, or mistreat them. Once again, I agree with you that cats in Morocco are not as healthy or well fed as in Europe or North America.

  7. Nicolas Your observations are spot on ! Nothing misleading about them. One does not always need to compare what you see in other countries to your standards back home!
    Have we not seen enough homeless people in our streets (in the west) needing food, shelter and medical attention.?!? Given their lack of resources (compared to what we have in the west!) I think the Moroccans look after their own and their cats in a remarkable way often much better than we do!

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