Don’t get attached to cats or dogs in Ethiopia, but if you do, be prepared for this:

  1. You will experience some of your biggest culture shocks when running into stray animals. They are everywhere. It may be a shaking puppy in a street corner or newborn kittens crying in a barrel. You will never get used to it. You will, however, learn to accept that you cannot save all of them. Nevertheless it is equally heartbreaking every single time.
  1. If you do decide to adopt a stray animal, do know that these animals will go into heat at some stage (yes they can be spayed, but see point 6 for further thoughts). If you do not want them to have more babies, you will have to listen to the now-comfortably-domestic cat sing a loud horny opera in the middle of the night. You will hear and see the male cats enjoying the concert just outside your window.
  1. You will cry over cats. A lot. Here’s to you: Bosse, Boksanya, Juhannus, Tinnish, Chicarito. You will sit on the sofa sipping red wine and listen to Frank Sinatra’s My Way and think about your deceased cats. You have discovered a new place in your heart; it is called the Cat Memorial and Funeral Corner.
  1. You will become an expert in things you previously did not master. You can suddenly tell the difference between a hookworm and a roundworm. You are a confident midwife when the cat gives birth. Blood and other bodily fluids, you got nothing on me. Bring it on!
  1. You are quickly finding out that bringing a cat from Africa to Europe is almost (only almost) as difficult as it is for African countries to enter the agricultural markets of Europe. You will have to schedule time for vaccinations, blood samples and micro chip installments. There is no way around this.
  1. And then you will wish that there were proper veterinary clinics in town. Meaning outside the range of mere cattle clinics. There are not. You will just have to wait that your lawyer-by-day-veterinarian-by-night will visit your house when he has got the time. And when he does finally arrive, you may have to assist him (e.g. performing a spaying operation on the kitchen table).
  1. You are sometimes / often seriously considering opening a shelter house for stray cats and dogs.
  1. Your biggest fear about ebola is that in case we are evacuated what will happen to our cats?!
  1. You will find out that there is no pet food for sale in the local mini shops. It will transform you into a skilled cat food maker. Potato and fish stew as well as avocado are big hits. Then you realize you are spending more money on making cat food than some locals are spending on their own food which makes you feel a bit idiotic and predictably Western.

10. You can’t help but love animals.

Laura ja kissa

13 thoughts on “Don’t get attached to cats or dogs in Ethiopia, but if you do, be prepared for this:

  1. Laura, i am of Ethiopian origin, love all animals. Like to meet like hearted people in Ethiopia. I live in the US but i come home a couple times a year. I really intend to do something in my life to benefit the animals there. Thinking about moving back in a couple of years.

    1. Hi Hanna, I am so happy you found my blog! Where do you live in the US? My sister lives in Colorado and I heard there is a big Ethiopian community there, but I understood also California and Minnesota are hotspots for the Ethiopian community 🙂

      Doing something for the animals here sounds like a wonderful idea. It is something I think about a lot, too. Animals are so close to my heart and my heart breaks every day when I see the street dogs and cats and how they are sometimes treated. There are a few vets here in Bahir Dar, but they don’t have the resources or supplies to run a proper vet clinic for small animals. They are all the time asking for ideas to start sth to help these animals better. So I’m all ears about your ideas and will be happy to link you with people as well as places. Hope we keep in touch, my email:

  2. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for this post. My family (my husband and our cat) and I are moving to Ethiopia in a month and, having visited the country before, I am already worrying for most of things you describe… and more: who will ever read her chip ID if she gets lost? How is it possible that 50 kg (50%) of the allowed case for relocation is her litter (and will only be sufficient for 3 months)? How many fights should I engage in daily with people saying that ‘animals are only animals’ (viz. destined to die, serve humans or suffer)?
    We are going to Addis Abeba and if you have any tips or good addresses for our cat, please let me know. Also, if you have met somebody that has opened an animal shelter, I’d be willing to join the project or help out 🙂


    1. Hi Lucy,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m really happy you found my blog post. I’m happy to help! About your questions: 1) Nobody will read her chip 😦 I haven’t seen such readers in Ethiopia, ever. I recommend you keep her indoors as much as possible – or are you planning to let her go outdoors? 2) About the litter weight allowance I wouldn’t know. We adopted our cat in Ethiopia, so we didn’t have any litter to begin with. Hopefully your cat will get used to the normal sand and you can use that as litter. At least that is what we did. We ordered a pile of sand (delivered by a donkey to our front door:-)) and used it as litter. We just emptied the litter box every morning and filled it with fresh sand. Not the most practical option but in those circumstances, it worked. 3) You will run into those fights with officials, as there is not a strong pet culture. But hopefully you will only need to have those fights when your enter/exit the country. If you paper work is in place, there shouldn’t be any problem. For us the most stressful part was to get the cats out of the country. You will also have the benefit of living in Addis Abeba, the only place in Ethiopia with up-to-standard (well, close…) veterinary clinics. I recommend Dr. Shenkut Teshome ( and Dr. Daniel Girma ( They are friendly, professional and experienced vets.
      I know some expats have started a Facebook group for rescue animals. Don’t know how active they are, but the group is here:
      I’ve also been in touch with an Ethiopian woman is planning to relocate to Ethiopia and start an animal rescue. I don’t know the current updates on that one, but I will let you know if I hear more.
      Good luck with everything! Have lots and lots of patience. 🙂

  3. Hi Laura thanks for this post.

    I easily solve most of my problems by googling or posting quesions on Quora. But when it comes to questions like: “How to raise a kitten ?”;where to find lactose free milk?;how to treat a sick cat…. The suggestions from the above websites wouldn’t be helpful because they are impractical or very expensive based on Ethiopian living standards. Imagine what would my Ethiopian mother would say if I ask her to get a home vet.

    Anyways I found a kitten and I have decided to raise her. From googling I found that cow’s milk is not good for kittens. So I am searching for a lactose free milk.

    So based on Ethiopian living standards what should I feed her?

      1. No problem.
        The best possible food for the kitten up until 12 weeks is its mothers’ milk, but if that is not possible, they are usually ready to eat solid food by the age of 8 weeks. What we offered them in Ethiopia was mixtures of rice/potato + meat/fish. Sometimes tuna, but not the kind in oil (instead by tuna in water). That should get you somewhere!
        Always have fresh water available.
        Remember lots of love for the kitten.

  4. Hey, I have a quick question. Is rabies one of the required vaccinations whenever a dog is taken to a vet for vaccinations in Addis Ababa? I was playing with a pet dog yesterday. It licked my hand, which may have an open wound. The owner said that the dog was vaccinated, but did not specify whether it was vaccinated for rabies–hence the question.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s