U.S. Embassy in Kabul Faces Feline Insurgency

Cat-lovers on the American staff resort to guerrilla tactic to save their furry friends

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Players: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul;  The Cat Committee, embassy staff members and cat lovers.

The Opening Serve: The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Embassy is in Kabul is home to around 25-30 cats. First the cats then the bites they say.  At least one, if not two, embassy staffers were bitten and perhaps scratched by the somewhat-feral cats says The Post. The embassy responded with warnings and rabies vaccines. Another said that this was sign of the cats' demise. "That meant exterminate," one staffer told The Post. In April, one of the embassy’s top diplomats, James Keith, held a discussion on exterminating the felines. The proposal allowed for 60 days to adopt and perhaps ship the cats to asylum, while the rest would meet an uncertain fate.

The Return Volley: The calls for extermination resulted in the formation of the embassy's "Cat Committee."  "We basically can’t go out at all. We can’t walk across the street; we have to take a tunnel. There are no kids, no families, and basically what we have is the cats,” one member of the committee told The Post. “It’s as close as we come to normality." Someone writing under the name "Bacon and the Katz" posted a plea on behalf of the cats obtained by The Post: “Why oh why must we die?...Most of you will return to the US where the living is easy and good / We apologize if our actions (purring and eating) have been misunderstood. / Please do not despise us nor wish for our demise / We cannot help it that we have cat’s eyes.”

The Post reports that 60 days have now passed without any extermination. Though staffers, The Post says, have spotted fewer cats, officials assert that no cats have been killed. They report that many are housed in trailers and apartments. Asylum exit strategies are also in the mix. One official has found shelters in Berkeley, California, willing to house "Afghan refugee cats."

What They Say They're Fighting About: The health of embassy staffers. The anti-cat movement is concerned that not all the cats are safe and could possibly spread diseases such as rabies. "I’m not anti-cat," one senior diplomat explained to The Post. "I’m pro-public health."

What They're Really Fighting About: Cat-lovers. There is nothing more inexplicable to a non-cat-lover than someone who chooses to live surrounded by near-feral felines. While the embassy situation doesn't quite sound like an animal hoarding situation, that's the kind of image people get in their head when they imagine a couple dozen cats prowling around a compound. Cat people have never had an easy time defending themselves.

Who's Winning Now: The cats. The longer this impasse goes on, the better it looks for them.  They've already made it past the 60-day window for extermination. And now that the story has made The Washington Post, any feline cleansing operation will not go unnoticed. Instead of taking a firm, if harsh, policy toward the cats, they're now stuck in an unsavory war of attrition.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.