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The Mangy Cats of Marrakech Need Names

The best thing about Marrakech is its out-of-control cat population. I like naming the cats and picking them up no matter how filthy they are.

Photos by the author

I go to Morocco at least twice a year to buy textiles for my shoe company, TEN & Co., so I know the country pretty well. When a VICE editor asked me if I wanted to write about the beautiful rugs I put in my shoes, I thought, Yeah, I could do that, but why would I write about rugs when I could tell you about the city’s cats? Last time I checked, 98 percent of the internet wasn't rug photos.

The best thing about Marrakech, one of my favorite Moroccan cities, is its out-of-control cat population. I love cats and have a soft spot for deformed and mangy cats, so Marrakech is heaven for me—all of the city’s friendly people, delicious food, and beautiful rugs are cool too, but I'm really all about the cats. I like naming the cats and picking them up no matter how filthy they are. Here are some of the cats I've met in Marrakech.

I named this cat Paris. He has a cute, wonky eye. I met him in the Ourika Valley while hunting for textiles on a rainy day. He has tiny paws.

This is my friend Alex holding three of the five kittens we found while getting dinner one night. One of them was blind, which was super sad, but he seemed happy otherwise. They slept in a cardboard box. It could be worse! 

Here’s the blind kitten eating a chicken bone. He's such a tiny monster!  

Here’s Moto. He was always lounging in the shade of this motorcycle.  

This is Palace Cat. Every day she sat outside the palace guarding it. I never saw anyone sitting on this bench besides her.

This is Meowy. He’s named Meowy because he meowed a lot when I took his picture. Afterwards, he walked over to me to receive a good pet. Marrakech's cats are typically friendly.   

It’s uncommon for people to have cats as pets in Morocco—at least not in the medinas—but some cats will hang out at shops and become shop cats. You can usually find this cat getting sun at this art shop. The owners don’t mind him because he eats mice and attracts tourists. 

This kitten is puny, especially compared to that big stone lion. There’s a shop I go to to get textiles, and going there is such a treat because cats and kittens rule the place. It’s called Mustapha Blaoui. It is the premier destination for Moroccan cat tourism.  

These cats are tired after a long day. It was around 100 degrees when this photo was taken. So sleepy!

Here’s a momma cat and her kitten outside a stuffing shop. The shop's soft cushions make it a sweet spot for cats to sleep. 

This poor kitty was yowling and bleeding, so she was probably in heat. Many people think cats have periods, but they don’t. They’re just in heat and looking for love. 

Here’s a group of happy cats napping on building supplies, which no one seemed to be building anything with.  

Where do street cats sleep at night? Good question. Who knows. Some nice person left this cushion out for cats to sleep on. Otherwise, the cats would have slept under parked motorcycles or on trash piles.  

This is one of my favorite kittens in Marrakech. He's so fresh and so clean. Unlike adult cats, kittens are clean because they haven't spent years roughing it on the street. 

For the record, I  kissed every single one of these cats. And yes, I am free of all feline diseases, thank you.

Here is a cat sleeping in a fishing boat's shade in Essaouira.

Pregnant cats are all over Marrakech. I named this mom Fluffy Cat. When a cat is a few days away from giving birth, she’ll stake out a house she thinks would be a good place to give birth. As soon as someone opens the door, she’ll run inside and start squeezing out babies. 

This is Felty, a black cat who lucked out. He found a felting shop and a giant pile of felt to sleep on, which is the best spot in town. 

Here are some of the kittens at my favorite shop trying to camouflage themselves on a couch.

When you first look at this photo, you probably think it's another shot of a cat hanging out at a stuffing shop, but please draw your attention to the kittens on the foam stack in the background. Little sneaks!

I was innocently writing postcards at a cafe when this cat, whom I named Sport, jumped on my lap and started purring and kneading me. This was one of the high points of my life so far.  

This is another cat I met at an Ourika Valley rug shop. I went inside to buy some rugs, and three hours and 16 rugs later, I came out to discover he was chilling in the same spot.  

This cat was the biggest pregnant cat I saw—her body was a foot wide, I swear. I named her Stripey.

This is Stripey up close. Babe alert! She’ll have no problem finding another dude to mate with.

Here’s my friend Alex with Lady, the cuddliest street cat in Marrakech. Any time I’m in town, I sincerely look forward to hanging out with her. She’s one of my closest Moroccan cat friends.

Man, these kittens. They live in a hole in the wall at a shop. Their mother was protective but did not stop me from manhandling her kids.

Look at that FACE.

These are the Dirty Cats. They’re best friends. I was people watching at a cafe, when the Dirty Cats came over to chill. I couldn’t touch anything after petting these guys. I had to wash my hands five times to make sure all the cat grime was off me. 

This is Zizi. She had given birth two days before this picture was taken. Only this single kitten survived, but Zizi was super sweet and let us pet her and her tiny kitty for maybe an hour. They live in a cabinet in someone’s house, and a shopkeeper gave me the heads up about them. I have kitten spies all over town. 

An unnamed cat posing in front of a pretty doorway.  

Here’s Shadow Cat ducking behind display rugs on a rooftop.

A butcher threw out some guts for this group of scrappy cats to snack on. They all seemed to be politely sharing the guts. I do not know what kind of guts they were. Nothing goes to waste in Morocco. 

Finally, here’s ATM. He lives at the local ATM.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Moroccan cat tour!