What you need to know:
- She envisioned a career in veterinary medicine and volunteered to walk, wash, and groom dogs at a local veterinary clinic.
- Years later, she did a certificate in life sciences and attended classes on animal behaviour ecology and conservation in the UK.
In Mombasa, there are hundreds of feral cats and stray dogs. Thanks to the mystical beliefs in the region, the animals are often neglected and mistreated.
With the street animals struggling to survive, and the authorities unwilling to address the problem, they are at the mercy of volunteers.
One such person is Nusrat Mohammed, a personal assistant who picks up stray dogs and many cats off the streets of Mombasa and fosters them.
She rescues cats from Mombasa Town and dogs mainly from Nyali, also in Mombasa. Many people still consider stray dogs and cats as pests or demons and leave them to die on the streets.
Some are beaten, choked in sacks, bludgeoned to death, poisoned, and dropped in garbage bins. Nusrat walks the streets day and night to save the animals' lives.
"When people find abandoned animals or an injured animal they call me. A few days ago, we picked up neonatal kittens. They need 24-7 care. I also have to keep them warm. I never rest. She carries the kittens everywhere she goes," she says.
As she walked to our offices, she had two four-day-old squirming kittens. The rescued animals are taken to Charles Mundia of the Jingi Vet clinic in Nyali for treatment, rehabilitated at Nusrat house before they are rehomed.
At the moment, Nusrat has six dogs and 11 cats. She has fostered more than 150 cats and 22 dogs. "It breaks my heart to see sickly animals on the streets," says the 37-year-old.
Instagram has become Nusrat's main mode of finding her animals loving homes. She shares their stories and catalogues their daily routines with frequent updates to her feline-friendly following.
One of the latest additions is Raggy, a cat that she recently rescued from a street bin on her way from work.
"I thought it was dead. It barely meowed and weighed almost nothing. It was dirty but it was so gentle. The vet said it has worms. Will post updates soon," read a post on her page.
"I vet the adoptions. I am keen on one's personality," she says. The woman who is nicknamed, "the cat lady", started saving pets at the age of seven.
"I would pick a kitten from the streets and secretly take it home with me. I would cry a lot because my parents would not let me keep them. By the time I was 13, I was taking care of sick animals in the community," she says.
In her teens, she rescued a chained velvet monkey, small birds, and kept a garden snake, lizard, and chameleon.
She envisioned a career in veterinary medicine and volunteered to walk, wash, and groom dogs at a local veterinary clinic.
Her parents did not share these interests. "To our community, it is a crazy thing. No one took it seriously. I decided if I cannot do what I want to do then I would not pursue anything else," she recalls.
She got a job as an office assistant but still kept to her passion for rescuing animals. Years later, she did a certificate in life sciences and attended classes on animal behaviour ecology and conservation in the UK. She also took a course in pet care and vet assistant.
Together with a few of her friends, she founded Pwani Animal Welfare Organisation (PAW) in July 2019 to address the welfare of all domestic animals in Mombasa County.
"I want to have annual mass neuter and release for cats and dogs. We also want to have animal welfare offices at the community level. We plan to teach kids on diseases and animal care," she says.
Last year, the organisation held a free rabies vaccination camp for cats and dogs at Makadara Grounds in Mombasa.
A lot of her work is self-financed. "The kitten formula is Sh2,000 every two weeks. Most of my salary goes into animal welfare. When we want to have events where we ask for donations," she explains.
But superstitions prevail. "I have taken care of cats and dogs all the years and nothing has happened to me. I am slowly changing people's mentalities."
"I used to get angry and lash out at people who mistreat animals, but as I aged, I realised the best way to deal with such is by being more informative," she shares.
The coronavirus has had a positive effect on animal welfare. "I have a lot more requests now," but adds that she emphasizes that, "this is not a short-term decision".
Still, some pet owners fear that their pets pose a risk. "We assure people that pets are not a threat," she concludes.