“Meow! Meow! Meow!” 

Who said that?

I stood on my sister-in-law’s porch in the southern Israeli suburb of Omer, trying to find the culprit. The streets there are filled with strays—multicolored calicos, black-and-white tuxedos, even fancy longhairs—but they’d all run away when I got close. This one sounded like it was calling to me. I searched until I found it. High in a tree, overlooking a construction site next door, was a tiny, orange kitten.

“Come!” I said. “I have food.”

The kitten climbed down and raced straight to me!

It ate so eagerly that it fell into the bowl. When I gently lifted it out, it climbed onto my foot, scrambled up my leg and sat on my shoulder, where it purred. It wanted to go into the house, but a boisterous golden retriever lived inside, so the kitten quickly learned to stay on the porch. Each morning and evening, it would meow until I called it. Then it would let me feed, carry, and even brush it.

This kitten really seemed to want a home. Yet I was there only on vacation, and soon, I’d have to leave.
So I went to every Israeli friend and neighbor I knew and asked if there was anyone who wanted to adopt an exceptional cat. I posted on Facebook and called rescue organizations. 

No one said yes.

“Everyone has enough strays,” explained my sister-in-law. And as if to prove that point, a news report was released that said there are two million strays in Israel—the highest cat-to-human ratio of any country—and that very few organizations are dedicated to helping them. Though there are all these strays, only 32% of Israelis own pets, and of those, just 10% have cats.

Today in Jerusalem, fifteen strays a day are spayed and released by the city’s municipal veterinary center, but that’s not nearly enough to make a change. So Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Lion, has announced the creation of feeding stations for strays. Yet many residents worry that will only lead to more kittens.

When I got back to the U.S., I received news from my sister-in-law. The construction site had become a new house. Its owners had knocked on my sister-in-law’s door to ask if the kitten was hers. When she'd said no, they were relieved. They wanted to adopt it!

It seemed the kitten had just been waiting for its forever home. And now, thanks to Kar-Ben and PJ Library, the “Hard Hat Cat’s” story will come to so many children’s homes, where I hope he also finds a place in their hearts!

Want to help Israeli cats?

Here are a few organizations that help cats in Israel:

The House for Rescuing Cats
Founded by Irit Engel and located in Hadera, this is Israel’s biggest feline sanctuary. It specializes in saving sick and disabled cats. All animals are spayed and neutered.

Bethlehem Animal Shelter
The only animal shelter in the West Bank, the Bethlehem Shelter was created by Diana George Babish. It is constantly under threat by Palestinian municipal authorities. The animals receive care from a Tel Aviv veterinarian. 

Let the Animals Live Israel 
This shelter seeks cat adoptions from abroad.

SPCA Israel
Know someone who’d like a pet in Israel? You can direct them to this site.