The Moroccan cats and dogs, all you need to know.
When I take travel photography in a certain location, I find it fascinating to chronicle the lives of all of its residents, not just the people. Morocco, like many other nations (particularly those in the Middle East), has a huge population of stray dogs and cats that walk the streets in search of food and comfort. Having previously produced an essay on What to Photograph in Morocco, I wanted to add images of our feline companions to the series. I found it fascinating that, despite the country’s poverty and awful living circumstances, many Moroccans went out of their way to feed and shelter stray dogs and cats.
Cats and dogs may be seen practically everywhere: on the street, in stores, in monuments, monitoring people, alone or in groups, more friendly or violent. And I’m not talking about the unmistakable salesmen who, if they haven’t already, taught everyone who visits Morocco how to gently but firmly say “no.”
I’m speaking about cats, which are abundant in the neighboring country and are particularly beloved by Moroccans. As a consequence, this article will concentrate on them and why, contrary to the common assumption in most countries, cats are much more popular as companion animals than dogs.
In a society where religion is so important, such as Moroccan culture, it is essential to seek an Islamic foundation for any deeply ingrained habit. It is important to understand that Moroccans have two primary theological sources to which they might turn: the Koran and Sunna, a collection of commandments based on the prophet’s sayings and acts as relayed by his followers (known as hadith).
In this regard, the Koran never mentions cats and only three times mentions dogs, stressing their ability as hunters and guardians. The hadiths provide a sharper contrast, stating, for example, that whereas a dog must fully cleanse a dish after licking it, cats do not need to do so.
Personally, I feel there is a hygienic issue: Islam, like many other religions, stresses conduct based on respect for others and oneself, while simultaneously seeking to safeguard the health of the community that belongs to it. Consider the problem of ablutions: in addition to their symbolic and ceremonial value, they were most likely designed to communicate certain requirements so that mosques would not become a source of infection, given previous health concerns.
I like to think that hygienic behavior is associated with a favorable religious attitude among Muslims and that the cat is preferred because it is seen to be cleaner. Obviously, there are several interpretations, ranging from the person who thinks that while establishing contact with a dog, one should just apply common sense to the person who feels that having a dog around is a terrible idea.
I don’t want to end this section without stating that, contrary to popular belief, Moroccans do not mistreat dogs. So much so that the Koran often cites the need to respect all animals and even deems their maltreatment to be a grave sin.
Is it true, however, that Moroccan cats are cleaner than dogs?
To summarize, contrary to the image at the start of this paragraph, and much to my partner’s chagrin, every time I kiss my dog, he looks on in horror: yes. While cats spend several hours a day cleaning, eliminating parasites, and shedding dead hair, dogs, being a subspecies of wolves, prefer to wallow in the dirt to hide their smell from their prey.
Yes, even if you don’t believe it, the pet you have at home and call by an endearing name has outstanding hunting instincts.
It would be easy to attribute the reason for admittance to a single religious basis, but it is more probable that a range of stories and traditions play an important part, with it being hard to establish what proportion obeys each one.
In popular culture, it has long been considered that the prophet had a fondness for animals, especially cats. He once got up to cut a piece of his robe because he didn’t want to disturb his favorite cat that was sleeping on him, according to oral legend.
The stories about dogs are a little more diverse. One that jumps out to me is the one that states that if a dog roams the desert like a scavenger, it may discover and collect the remains that are buried there. Surprisingly, it has some historical precedence, since Berbers used to bury their deceased in shallow graves, subsequently changing them to deeper ones when they discovered they had been unearthed by wild animals.
However, I think that one of the primary cultural characteristics that contribute to a Moroccan’s desire for a cat as a pet is their keen awareness of all the dimensions that comprise society: their street, their neighborhood, their city, and so on.
In that sense, an animal with greater freedom and the capacity to wander and assimilate into all parts of the city is likely to be favored over one that is too dependent on family care. Cats are often not allocated to a specific house and are instead cared for and fed by the whole community.
Whatever the reason, the reality is that they choose cats as daily companions, which is only one of their cultural distinctions. Using our western perspective as a yardstick and concluding that their preferences for sharing their lives with an animal are less valid is, of course, a complete blunder, because it is simply another difference, and as a difference, it is positive and adds to our interest in a country so different yet so close to us.
Finally, since I like photographing cats, I’ll leave you with a thorough portfolio of cats in Morocco. Because I am not the only one who appreciates this hobby, I’ve included some images from friends who have shared them with us on social media. Thank you very much, and I hope to see you in the next post!
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Among them are cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), caracals (Caracal caracal), sand cats (Felis margarita), and wildcats (Felis margarita) (Felis silvestris).
Dogs, on the other hand, are not often kept as family pets in Morocco. We saw a few stray dogs and hundreds of stray cats roaming the streets… As we learned, Moroccans see dogs as wild animals rather than family pets.
Cats have long been a part of Moroccan culture and everyday life, and live happily with Moroccans. Despite the fact that the majority of the cats are stray, neighbors often throw out bowls of water and food scraps as a show of good faith… Moulay Idriss, Morocco’s holy town, has a street cat.
Cats are the most popular pets in Morocco, in contrast to the rest of the globe, and they have a stranglehold over popular culture. This is because Islamic teachings have resulted in a long-standing veneration for cats that has extended across the Muslim world.
Cats, which may be found in large numbers across the country and are particularly beloved by Moroccans. Contrary to common assumption, it is often preferred as a companion animal above the dog in most countries. In Muslim culture, dogs are considered filthy, but cats are respected.
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