By Kiannah Sepeda-Miller
RABAT, Morocco — Several times each day, Mohammed Amine Hennaoui, 19, feeds a nameless cat and her three kittens by hand amid the hustle-bustle of his father’s construction supply store.
“The Prophet Mohammed tells us to care for cats,” Hennaoui said. “If you feed them, God will bless you.”
Cats abound in Rabat. Many do not have homes and some bear battle scars on their scrawny bodies. In the medina, Rabat’s ancient inner city where Hennaoui lives and works, there are cats on every street. They loiter outside stores, nap on car roofs and nibble on tossed fish, but the most fortunate are cared for by devoted cat lovers like Hennaoui.
Islam teaches that cats are clean and Muslims are free to live with cats, provided they treat them well. A good deed done to a cat equals a good deed done to a person — and the same goes for an evil act. In a hadith, the oral tradition that tells the prophet’s story, a woman was sentenced to hell for confining and starving a cat.
Hennaoui said he believes cats are good, beautiful creatures, but like many other caretakers in the medina, he did not seek out cat ownership. When a pregnant stray showed up in the shop and gave birth, he decided not to turn her away.
He continues to feed the cats with whatever he has on hand, usually cheese or fish.
“It comes from the heart,” Hennaoui said.