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Kenyan 'Cat Woman' Shares Home With 600 Pets


Rachael Kabue, 51, trims one of 600 cats at the Nairobi Feline Sanctuary at her home in the Kenyan capital on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

Rachael Kabue is known in the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi as the "cat woman." That's because the 51-year-old has turned her four-bedroom home into a refuge for some 600 cats.

"I live here with the cats, of course 95% of this space is dedicated to the cats and then I live in one corner," Kabue said.

She takes in cats from the street that need shelter and medical care, and later puts them up for adoption.

The mother of five began the Nairobi Feline Sanctuary in 2020 which she said was inspired by the teachings of yoga she learned during a visit to India.

Despite growing financial costs needed to look after the pets, Kabue is still taking in more cats in need of help and relies on her family to assist with supplies and monetary contributions.

"No cats are too many, what would limit us is the space – we are quickly running out of space but there are still many cats that need shelter. Cats are out there in the streets and need shelter, especially the sick ones and the ones that are waiting to have kittens, those are the most vulnerable and they really do need space but we are quickly running out of space," she said.

Some of Rachael Kabue's cats at the Nairobi Feline Sanctuary at her home in the Kenyan capital on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.
Some of Rachael Kabue's cats at the Nairobi Feline Sanctuary at her home in the Kenyan capital on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

Kabue tries to dispelled a long held belief in parts of Africa that cats are demons.

"I tried to tell people that’s not the case because so many cats have passed through my hands, so many cats are living here, but I’ve never encountered any of those things," she said.

"These are animals, they are sentient just like you and me and they need care, they feel pain, they feel happiness, they feel sadness, they get depressed just like us so there’s no difference. They are not sinister or anything, it’s very hard for a cat to attack a human-being. Sometimes you may even provoke cats, they won’t attack you."

Joan Kariuki is a local resident who goes to Kabue's home to keep the animals company.

"People talk to animals – we’ve been talking with them, and that’s why we came all this way to give them a better place to stay," she said.

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