Judith Rudnai writes to tell us about the cat sanctuary
she runs in Kenya, east Africa, the Simbani Trust, but she begins with a note to
BY JUDITH RUDNAI
I VERY MUCH ENJOYED MY COPY of The Ark and read it cover to cover. As some of
you also have felt, I often feel that the Christian Church keeps too quiet, not
exposing the many cruelties and exploitation of our fellow animals. I am very
happy to see that many Christians feel the same, and try to remedy the
We here at Simbani take animals seriously. Reverence for life is our motto
and is being literally followed. If flies are inside the house where they are
undesirable, they are send outside with an admonition never to return. Many wasp
villages are under construction right now mostly attached to the ceiling usually
near the attachment of ceiling lights. Some of our visitors are wary, saying
that these wasps may sting somebody. Maybe, but so far, peace has been observed.
I think many animals observe the rule: if you don’t bother me, I’ll not bother
you. At least this has been my experience.
Our seven housecats, all picked from streets, parking lots, and highways, are
most friendly with my old Alsatian dog, Tanga, whose tail they play with when
she is lying down.
Simbani is really a cat sanctuary, even though Simbani means ‘at the lions’.
There is a good reason for this apparent inconsistency. I had always been known
as ‘mam ya simba’, after my many years’ study of the lions in Nairobi National
What I really wanted to do recently was to establish a lion sanctuary
somewhere here in Kenya. I had been all over the country looking for a suitable
place. However, I failed to get a permit to do that so I had to compromise, and
found that even a cat sanctuary was very much needed. Even though the KSPCA
(Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals) is doing an excellent
job, they are hampered by lack of funds. So my taking over some of their surplus
cats does help them. We also get cats direct from people who for some reason
cannot keep them any longer. We are getting to be quite well known by now, after
six years of being ‘in business’.
Simbani now houses 35 residents and six to eight ‘floaters’, those that are
around, especially at mealtimes, but refuse to sleep in the houses.
There are six wooden houses on about one acre of fenced-off garden with many
trees. Each building houses six to eight cats who are let out twice a day into
the enclosure that is fenced. Not that fences ever kept cats in, but at least it
shows them where home is, and mostly they stay inside. Some enjoy an occasional
escapade, but they always return.
Our policy is not to turn down any needy cat. They often come to us when
their owners, who are leaving the country, had tried to re-house them, but
failed to do so. Then, if they are lucky, they had heard about us and head for
Most cats present no problems, but there is always the odd one whom we have
to treat in a special way. One, Panda, who is big and strong and wants to be the
dictator, is being let out when others are in and is locked up when the others
are out. This way, peace is preserved.
Caruso the cock, and other animals
Apart from a plethora of cats, we also have Caruso the cock, with his six
wives. Caruso likes cheese and always comes to ask for his portion when we are
out on the terrace. Luckily any cheese will do, it doesn’t have to be aged
Camembert. He is a very considerate husband and usually calls his wives so they
can steal any tidbit he receives.
Our other companions are five goats, three adults and their two youngsters
born here. They are supposed to take care of the large amount of greenery – you
could call them weeds – at the bottom of our five acres. But they are too
choosy, and leave a lot of the stuff as they don’t satisfy their finicky taste.
The cats, however, very much enjoy the goats’ milk which is very healthy stuff.
The latest project is to invite groups of schoolchildren, first to visit the
cats, then assembling in a hall where we will discuss animals: cats first are
foremost, both big and small, then all living creatures, very much including
what we in Kenya call ‘dudus’, the creepy-crawlies and flying kind. I hope it
will cure some of them of their distaste for these latter of God’s creatures. I
will stress their importance in the scheme of things, their interest and their
Return to: Number 207 - Autumn/Winter 2007