Sailors and Marines come and go. Civilians stay longer but still have homes to return to. Even local hires don’t stay forever. Only one group can legitimately claim ownership of Naval Support Activity Bahrain – the cats.
They are everywhere, and they are in charge.
Cats roam outside the gate, and inside. Meowing, faint or sometimes very loud, can be heard at all hours of the day and night. They come up to people and look for company… or food. Signs warn DO NOT FEED THE CATS. But little piles of kibble can still be found here and there. I think it’s the Marines – they’re all softies at heart.
These creatures are not devoid of personality. One had kittens a couple months ago whom I see now and then. They are skittish. Others are more assertive; two of them were involved in a very loud confrontation behind a bush when one came shooting out in front of me into the street, with the other immediately chasing at high speed.
There’s another wily one that consistently hangs out by the back exit of the Navy Exchange’s mini-grocery store. People often stop there to re-pack their groceries into backpacks or bicycle baskets. This orange cat has figured out that some of these people are nice to it, and always gives attention to those who pause there. I don’t know if it’s ever paid off with a snack, but the cat is apparently confident it will.
I did the usual blog-level cursory research to see if cats are a big deal in Bahrain, and I was surprised to find they actually are. Meet the Delmun cat – it has its own website. Very few cats can code in HTML, but Bahrain trains them well. The name, also spelled Dilmun, alludes to the civilization that flourished on the island 4,000 years ago, a contemporary and trading partner of Mesopotamia. The cats are native to the island, though through the centuries there has been some interbreeding with visiting cats gone feral. In their purebred incarnation, they are well-adapted to desert life and low water intake, while at the same time, they have webbed feet. These cats are seriously conflicted about their preferred lifestyle.
Whether the Delmun cat would rather hunt in the southern desert or swim to Saudi Arabia, it’s obvious it doesn’t require people to help. So the very needy cats on base are probably a big embarrassment to the native cats. This must contribute to some pretty cutthroat intrafeline politics here. And so in the cats we find yet another intractable Middle Eastern dispute.
I knew there was a reason I never liked “Cats.”