The US Embassy compound in Kabul has become home to about 30 stray cats. Living in a war zone, who wouldn't want a some four legged fuzzballs to soften the atmosphere? Without attention and care, domestication falls by the wayside and a few employees have been scratched or bitten by the cats. Reminders about rabies vaccinations and other public health notifications went out. Then the calls for *gasp* "extermination." There has to be another way to deal with this, right?
Not surprisingly, a backlash has emerged, and the Cat Committee was born. The Washington Post interviewed Cat Committee members:
Working in Kabul is not easy. Staffers endure endless hours and monotonous food, walled off from the city where they work and a world away from their loved ones. Plus there’s the nagging threat that people want to kill them. The embassy bar is called the Duck and Cover.
“We basically can’t go out at all. We can’t walk across the street; we have to take a tunnel. There are no kids, no families, and basically what we have is the cats,” said one member of the committee. “It’s as close as we come to normality.”
A town hall resulted, and in response, diplomats were given 60 days to ship the cats out to new homes. The deadline passed and no cats were "exterminated" and many remain on the compound. Some have allowed the cats to take up shelter in the tin "boxes" they diplomats live in, and some have planned evacuations to places in the United States.
Now, of course, where there are humans, there are cats and dogs, right? Cats will continue to show up at the compound. And you could say there is a public health benefit to having them there: making the workers just a little less stressed, adding a little softness to the harsh environment. I hope that all parties can work together to make sure there is a balanced solution that will allow healthy cats to keep our diplomats company as they serve our country overseas.