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Despite the proliferation of rescue groups, shelters, and other animal protection groups over the last decade, pet homelessness still remains a large problem today. Around two million cats and between 250 to 300 million stray dogs roam the world’s streets, with 70 million strays — both dogs and cats – calling the U.S. their home.
Unfortunately, the majority of these animals are seen as nuisances, or “biological trash,” in the words of Alakesi Sorokin, director of Basya Services, a company hired to exterminate strays prior to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
In an attempt to deal with a stray animal problem, many areas, like Sochi, opt for culls, which are typically carried out through inhumane means, such as with poison or beatings.
Yet, all hope is not lost as a number of countries have realized culling is not the answer and have instead instituted large-scale spay and neuter campaigns to combat stray overpopulation. Israel, for example, has committed to a $1.27 million effort to spay 45,000 of the country’s feral cats.
On a smaller scale, animal-loving citizens are doing their best to care for stray animals and also change the public’s perceptions about them. Photographer Alex Greenshpun of Tel Aviv, Israel is just one of these kind animal lovers.
Greenshpun calls herself a “visual poetess,” seeing photography as a “form of mediation, a continuous awareness of the beauty and silence,” as she tells OGP. Much of her work is focused on the natural world, yet when she steps out of her home, she says she never knows exactly what she’ll photograph that day.
While flora dominates much of her portfolio (available online here or on Facebook), she tells us that animals “have a very special place in my heart” and so she has often ended up photographing street cats since they are common in Israel.
How Greenshpun approaches her feline subjects is key. Instead of focusing on the negative, Greenshpun has instead set out to highlight their true personalities through her photography, calling them “regal and beautiful creatures” who are “easy to connect to.”
“Since street cats are a very common sight here, people often pass them by without paying any attention. So, I try to present street cats in ways that would allow the viewers to experience the same connection I did while taking the photo. I want to reveal their beauty and uniqueness in order to, at the very least, evoke warm feelings and ideally, a kind of awe and admiration towards them,” she tells OGP.
Greenshpun says that she reached a turning point when she tried to rescue two newborn kittens with her partner. They found the babies in a cardboard box “in the scorching July sun” with their umbilical cords still intact. They were told by their vet that the kittens chances for survival were low, yet they did their best to nurse them back to health.
Sadly, one of the kittens passed away the day after the rescue, and the other “fought for about a month,” Greenshpun tells us.
Greenshpun documented the rescue experience, calling it both “humbling” and “heartbreaking.”
“I shared some of these images and the story with the world in hope that people would understand how important it is to spay and neuter their pets, to prevent any such misfortune from an innocent being,” she says.
Since their first rescue effort, Greenshpun and her partner have gone on to adopt another rescued kitten, and Greenshpun has been busy “documenting his growth and playfulness.”
Through all her feline photographs, she ultimately hopes to show “how similar we truly are.”
“We are all living creatures – we are born, we live, get older and die; we experience pain and pleasure and we all try to avoid the former and move more towards the latter. I feel that at the fundamental level, each of my images tries to deliver this message and awaken a spark of compassion in the viewers.”
Below, meet a few of the inspiring cats Greenshpun has met along her photographic journey.
Lead image source: Alex Greenshpun