Feline pampered: Basra moggies set paw in Iraq's first cat hotel


Basra (Iraq) (AFP)

Cats in Iraq's southern city of Basra are purring with delight as the country's first feline hotel opens for guests.

In a part of the country where many struggle to make ends meet, a prime venue for cat naps may seem like a luxury.

But Mehdi Fadel, owner of Bella, a longhaired Angora, was enthusiastic when he heard about the "4Cats Pet Hotel" on social media.

"I really liked the idea because my family and I travel a lot and it's always hard to find a place where we can leave our cat," he said as he came to take Bella home.

The hotel was the brainchild of Ahmad Taher, a 24-year-old veterinary student and feline fan.

Located above a vet's clinic, it provides a comfortable place for cats to play when the owners are away.

A night's stay, including meals of pate, grooming and various other treatments, costs between 5,000 and 7,000 Iraqi dinars ($4-6).

But it's not just for fat cats -- cash-strapped clients receive a discount.

Cats are king in the hotel's two rooms.

Its three current guests are free to play with toys, relax in beds, or take a snooze on a carpet of fake grass.

There are even scratching posts for those who feel the urge to climb or sharpen their claws.

Fadel, 23, said the hotel regularly sent him messages and pictures via the WhatsApp messaging app while he was away, keeping him up-to-date on Bella's stay.

Mohammed Jassem, the vet who runs the clinic on the ground floor, said the idea of setting up a hotel for cats initially shocked residents of Basra, rich in oil but poor in infrastructure.

But cat lovers quickly embraced the idea, he said.

"They like it and people began leaving their animals with us when they took off on holiday," he said.

Taher said he plans to expand the hotel to host dogs and even birds.