Twenty felines left behind in Gaza Strip after cat cafe owner was forced to flee

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SINGAPORE – When Palestinian Naima Maabad left Gaza City and headed south for the Rafah crossing, more than just her house was left behind. 

Her newly-opened cafe and its 20 furry occupants remained in northern Gaza.

Madam Naima, who described herself as a cat lover, opened Meow Cat Cafe on Aug 17. She envisioned the cafe, the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip, to be a refuge from stress for customers. 

But less than two months after the cafe’s opening, the Israel-Hamas war started.

On Oct 7, militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel and killed at least 1,400 people. In retaliation, Israel declared a “state of war” and launched strikes on Gaza – killing at least 4,700 so far – while imposing a blockade on the densely populated enclave.

Madam Naima, 52, told The Straits Times her family had to escape quickly after the bombs hit her neighbourhood and she could not take the cats with her.

She said: “We had to move to a place where we could be protected from all the bombing. Closing the cafe became my last concern in the face of death.

“I brought the cats to my house, gave them food and water, and entrusted them to God.” 

Before its sudden closure, the cafe welcomed a steady stream of customers daily. It cost 10 shekel (S$3.40) for an hour to play with the cats, mainly Persians. The cost included a small packet of cat food.

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