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At an awe-inspiring cat sanctuary in Syria, a cat with stunning eyes named Chimera finds a loving home in a constantly war-torn land.

In Syria’s over 10-year civil war zone, there are often forgotten victims, Syria’s animals, says Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats. The rescue’s leader is called the “Cat Man of Aleppo,” and he has loved cats since he was a boy. Notably, keeping pets isn’t generally customary in Syria. However, to this Cat Man, mercy begins with caring for every animal.

Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel, or Alla with cat via BBC

Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel, or Allaa with cat via BBC

“If you want to show mercy to people, start by showing mercy to everything else,” says Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel, or Alaa, who named Ernesto’s after his favorite orange cat.

Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel, or Alla with Ernesto via BBC

Allaa with Ernesto via BBC

Rebuilding a Sanctuary in Syria for Cats and People

In 2016, soon after appearing in a touching and classic BBC video, the Syrian government and key Russian and Iranian supporters led to a siege on Aleppo to fight pro-democracy, anti-government rebels. In the final stages of the siege, the forces bombed and chlorine-gassed the cat sanctuary. Sadly, most of the animals died, but Alaa continued to look after the surviving cats and people.

Then in 2016, he started his second shelter, Ernesto’s, in early 2017. This time, he returned from Turkey to rebel-held Kafr Naha west of Aleppo with Ernesto, the big orange Turkish cat.

“I do not want to be a refugee. I want to stay in my country, in Syria,” Alla said. Further, he added, “I want to help people in any way I can.”

Although Ernesto is front and center, the “ruler of the kingdom” is a funny tabby named Maxi.

“King Maxi and the cats are looking forwards to Valentines Day tomorrow – are you?💌💘”

King Maxi, Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook

Maxi via Facebook/Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

Orphans Help Care for the Animals and Learn Kindness

While rebuilding, Alaa made many improvements, such as an orphanage and kindergarten for kids who help look after the vulnerable animals. While helping to care for the animals, the kids learn about being kind, loving, and empathetic. 

“Children and animals are the big losers in the Syrian war,” he says. “It’s the adults who so often behave badly,” says Alaa.

The rescue saves cats and many farm animals, peacocks, rabbits, foxes, and even monkeys at their farm sanctuary. All are rescued from bad situations and receive veterinary care as a team of local residents care for the animals. In the town, they offer a never-before-available free clinic to help with vet care, spaying, and neutering.

As for the cats, they are helping to save so many beautiful kitties that would otherwise suffer or die. 

“We have over 1350 cats of all sizes, all shapes, all colors,” the group states on Facebook. “All of them are survivors, and all of them have their own story. Abandoned when their owners fled from the bombing or born onto the streets of deserted and ruined towns where survival is almost impossible.”

Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook

Image via Facebook

On their page, you can see the cats and animals playing in an idyllic but often crowded setting. Many times, the cats are playing in the pretty trees. Thanks to public support, Ernesto’s Sanctuary has moved to a much larger location.

Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook

Beautiful Chimera Found at a Market in Syria

One cat the rescuers recently saved is Chimera, a beauty queen with one blue and one blue and amber eye. When the rescuers spotted her, she was for sale at a market for $9. Beneath her cage, poultry and chickens were for sale.

Chimera, Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook, Syria

Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria shared:

“She was sold at the Friday market for $ 9, locked in a cage. She meowed desperately. We saw it by coincidence and decided that it deserves better! She will be called Chimera for her wonderful eyes.”

Chimera, Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook,

Now, Chimera is sitting pretty with a team of caring experts to help her.

Chimera, Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook,

Valentines Day Chimera

Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook

Chimera Might Be a Rare Turkish Van Cat

As one person commented, Chimera might be a rare Turkish Van cat, an ancient breed that may be thousands of years old. In Turkey, they are a national treasure.

According to one legend, the cats with occasional differently-colored eyes hail from the Lake Van region of Turkey. 

“The Turkish Van sailed aboard the ark with Noah. When the boat reached Mount Ararat, the cats supposedly hopped off the boat and swam until they found dry land. Coincidentally, Mount Ararat is not far from Lake Van, which is the believed location where this breed began.”

Chimera, Syria, Ernesto's Cat Sanctuary via Facebook, Syria

Another thing that makes these cats unusual is they tend to love playing in the water. As highly intelligent cats, they sometimes learn to turn on the faucet. So, we might expect to see Chimera taking a dip in the sink? For now, she’s enjoying a Valentines Day celebration.

 

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