They claim that cats are the ones who choose their owners, not the other way around.
Enter Rachel Kibue, a mother of five, who accommodates over 400 cats in her Mihango residence in Nairobi County.
Since 2013, Kibue’s four-bedroom home has served as a refuge for various cat species, a mission she embarked on after developing a deep sense of compassion for animals during her visit to India in 2010. In India, she attended yoga classes, where she learned the importance of showing kindness to animals.
“In 2010, I traveled to India after hearing a lot about yoga classes, and that’s when I decided to learn about it from the source. We were taught how to be compassionate to animals, and I started looking at animals differently. They experience everything humans feel—affection, loneliness,” she shared in a Sunday interview with Citizen TV.
Though she could have rescued any animal, her limited space led her to focus solely on cats. Starting with just one cat, she now cares for 413, as December often sees an influx of abandoned cats when people travel.
“People started realizing that I like cats, so they would call me for cats. Maybe one was hit by a matatu; I would rescue, treat, and stay with it,” she explained.
In 2020, Kibue established the Nairobi Feline Sanctuary, allowing her to intensify her cat rescue efforts. With the assistance of her partner, William Macharia, responsible for transporting cats to the sanctuary, they have created a dedicated space with a maternity wing, a baby nursery for rescued kittens, and a sick bay for ill cats.
Macharia shared, “My work here is to capture the cats and bring them to the sanctuary. Some are easy to catch—just give them food, and they comply. Others get a bit furious; you can see the scratch marks on my hands. For those, I am forced to use a trap.”
The sanctuary sustains the cats with two meals a day, consisting of minced meat mixed with chicken and rice. Kibue primarily funds the operation herself, occasionally receiving donations of dry food from pet stores.
Kibue also offers cats for adoption under strict conditions, charging Ksh.3,000 for each cat or kitten. She provides cat boarding services for travelers, charging Ksh.500 for the service.
Adoption comes with a three-month monitoring period to ensure the well-being of the animal. Kibue emphasized, “If you adopt a cat or kitten, we have to come to your house for three constructive months to ensure that you can take good care of the animal. You have to sign an agreement with us that if we find the cat in a deplorable state, we take it with us but no refund whatsoever.”
Despite facing criticism for her unconventional work, Kibue remains steadfast in her mission, aiming to secure a larger space to accommodate even more vulnerable felines. Her unique business aligns with a growing trend of pet care centers and boarding facilities in Kenya, particularly in urban areas like Nairobi.