Meet the British woman who lives with 70 rescued cats in UAE
Abu Dhabi - The British expat's four-bedroom villa in Khalifa City is a sanctuary for over 70 cats.
Emma Button has lost count of the number of cats she has homed ever since she came to the UAE in 2011.
The British expat's four-bedroom villa in Khalifa City is a sanctuary for over 70 cats - most of them abandoned pets she had picked up from the streets.
They are everywhere in her house, in her living room, in the kitchen, on the staircase, in the kitchen sink, on the cupboard - there is a hardly a cat-free spot in her house. From the brown and white Siamese Princess who acts pricey to the territorial the black and white Arabian Mau Snowy, the ridiculously gentle 'Teddy Bear' with clipped ears and the haughty Turkish Angora Arthur Dent, Button knows each one by their names.
The oldest cat is 16 years and the youngest is just 14 days old.
How did her enduring love story with cats begin?
Button says it all began with 'Desire,' a tiny-weeny kitten that was found by Button's neighbour, who handed it over to her.
"I took her in. Soon, I started realising that there are far too many cats that are abandoned by their owners. And I started taking in more," said Button who runs a consultancy firm in Abu Dhabi.
"Rescuing is one of the things that you end up falling into. Once you start noticing the animal population here, you cannot un-notice it. And that is the problem."
Button claims she spends anything between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000 a month only on food and litter. "And the amount will be higher if there are vet bills. I had recently picked up a cat that had meningitis. And that bill was around Dh35,000," said Button.
But Button says she continues to do what she does because there is no choice.
"Sometimes, people come and drop at my door. That is nice. Otherwise, I pay it all by myself."
Button says many people think she is crazy. "Some of my friends don't understand why I am doing this. Many people have stopped coming to my house and I understand that. You cannot eat a dinner without walking around with your plate balanced in the air. I need to have diversionary tactics so that I can sit down and have a glass of water. It should not be like this. I am not saying that I am not going to do it anymore. But It shouldn't be like this."
She says rescuers like her are stressed because of the sheer number of dumped pets. "So far, this summer has been the worst year. I don't know what is happening."
Button is all praise for the UAE's efforts to protect animals.
"The UAE is making great strides forward. They are bringing in legislations against animal cruelty and making it illegal to dump animals. That is fantastic to see. "
She says it has to go in conjunction with other things like an international database for microchipping. "If you have a database, then every pet is registered to and that includes pets that come into the country. Then that pet is intractably linked to you. And then the laws are enforceable."
For the pet dumping to stop, Button says the UAE has to stop importing pets.
'We don't need more animals in this country unless it is for specific purposes like for the zoo."