A 51-year-old woman identified as Maryam al-Balushi has taken her love of animals to an unusual level as she currently shares her home with 480 cats and 12 dogs.
The cats are mostly strays and she spends almost $8,000 a month on food and vet bills for the animals. Most of the bill is covered through donations from her fans and supporters.
The retired civil servants live with her animals in her home in Muscat, Oman.
It is gathered that she became fond of animals in 2008 after her son brought home a small Persian cat as a pet.
She hasn’t always been an animal lover as Maryam is reported not to have been thrilled about it especially since her son didn’t really take care of it.
However, she got accustomed to the cat as time went by and eventually they became inseparable.
In 2011, Maryam al-Balushi went through a severe depression, and she credits her first cat for helping her through that difficult period. In the years that followed, she dedicated herself to helping stray cats and taking them into her home.
“It all began in 2008 when my son bought a small Persian cat,” al-Balushi recently told AFP. “Like many mothers, I refused to look after it as I did not like animals and my son did not pay it much attention or look after its hygiene, but soon I found myself totally immersed. I took care of her entirely, feeding her, bathing her and spending a lot of time with her.”
The pets soon started mating and before she realized it, she had 23 cats and kittens. This only encouraged her to take in more strays and that is how she has found herself with almost 500 animals in her home.
“God gave man the mind, with which he can think, and the tongue, so that if he is sick, he can seek treatment, and if he is hungry, he can ask for food, but the animal is silent and cannot not speak, even if it is in mortal danger,” Maryam al-Balushi explained. “Official and civil institutions and governments provide their services and donations to people, but there is no party that cares about the poor animals that don’t not have any voice, or any party to provide them with assistance, and there are also no laws that protect them, especially in the Gulf countries.”
In the beginning, Maryam took care of the felines all by herself, as there was no one to help her. In fact, neighbors only made things difficult, by denouncing her to Muscat authorities for having so many pets. She got her own home in 2014, following complaints about her growing menagerie, and she was able to take in even more cats.
Maryam who now dedicates her time to the animals didn’t receive any financial support for them until she started posting photos on social media platforms like Instagram and found many like-minded animal lovers who were more than willing to donate to her cause.
“My message to the community is to treat animals with compassion,” Maryam said. “Some people do not want them in their homes, they do not want them in their gardens, they do not want them near their cars, and they do not want them near the litter box, so where should they go? How will they eat? I ask these people: Was the earth created for us alone, or did God’s creatures share the earth and its bounties with us? So I say: Have mercy, have mercy, and when you do that, you will have done it because it is a moral and human duty that we must offer to everyone who lives on this planet.”