LIMA, PERU: THE PARK WHERE THE CATS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY

Parque Kennedy is the beating heart of Miraflores. As the sun sets in the evening twilight, dozens of tiny residents dart between the bushes, slink their way through railings and poke their heads into empty food containers. These feline residents are the gatekeepers of Parque Kennedy.

 

The human population of Miraflores have a special relationship with the cats. Locals, like Mariana, have been coming here every day to feed the cats for the last 16 years. Allegedly, the story began with a woman who abandoned her pregnant cat in Parque Kennedy and the cat population quickly grew. Another theory is that they came from the local church, who wanted to control the local rat problem and encouraged their cats to roam.

 

Nowadays the 80 or so cats that inhabit the park have taken over. Walking pedestrians part when a cat basks on the walkways and they all stroll with an air of confidence and nonchalance around the human population. But not everyone has the same attitude towards them as Mariana.

 

The online forums are full of debate about how to treat the cats, with several residents complaining that they make the park look messy and spread diseases to playing children. Several cats have even turned up dead, killed by outraged members of the community.

 

Hypothetically, the cats could pass on parasites if you are in contact with their faeces, but these cats are in good hands. A dedicated group of residents and a local vet have vaccinated and sterilized the cats out of their own pockets, making it highly unlikely that the cats have diseases they could pass on to the human population.

 

In the 1980s, before the arrival of the four-legged park rangers, Parque Kennedy was known for its rat problem. Under the cat’s watchful eyes, the rats have gone. For this reason, the municipality is considering helping with the costs of feeding and vaccinating the cats of Parque Kennedy as a local pest control service.

 

The symbiotic relationship between the cats and humans functions for the most part. The residents leave food and care for the thriving cat population, the cats keep the rats in check. However, there is no denying, the cats are in control of the park. They watch over their kingdom from street corners, the stone ledges of the church façade, and under benches. This is their park and everything on two legs is just a visitor.

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