When a Richmond couple set out in 2003 to bring back from Egypt a special cat for their young son, they had no idea what they were getting themselves in for.
Nine years later, Gloria Lauris Elkholy and Dr. Ismail Elkholy have successfully saved from the street and globally re-homed more than 250 Egyptian cats via the charity they founded — the Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization in Cairo.
“It was one of those things,” said Lauris Elkholy, a semi-retired entrepreneur.
“We didn’t set out to do it, but we thought someone should be doing it, so we ended up creating EMRO.”
“We were looking for a special cat for our son at the time and, since my husband is Egyptian-Canadian, we hoped to bring back a native Egyptian Mau for our son from Egypt.”
Breeders in North America will sell an Egyptian Mau for $600 to $800. A show quality Egyptian Mau will go for $1,000 to $1,500.
However, few people in Cairo or Egypt seemed to know what the couple was talking about.
Instead, what they did find was hundreds of cats running feral on the street and in abysmal situations, with the government poisoning stray cats to keep the population under control.
Out of compassion for the animals, the couple founded EMRO out of the base of their Cairo apartment block, where they frequently stayed for part of the year while visiting Elkholy’s family.
EMRO is now an international shelter and vet clinic, run by a handful of local staff (administrator, manager, vets, animal workers) along with several volunteers working locally and remotely from Europe and North America.
Run on a cost-recovery basis, the charity also aims to educate the public about the cats and humane treatment of them.
Although the couple has, over the years, taken more of a back seat in the running of EMRO, they’re still board directors and fly out to Cairo at least once a year to check on the operations.
“My husband was working on contract in Saudi Arabia, and the EMRO outreach also spread to there where we helped neuter/spay street cats and work with grassroots animal groups at the East Gulf and in Riyadh,” said Lauris Elkholy.
“We currently are fostering two Riyadh yard cat siblings (semi-long haired mix of Persian with street Arabian cats) which we brought back from Saudi Arabia for re-homing locally and are looking for a suitable home for them.
“We also have a list of homeable cats from overseas for those interested in adopting a unique pet and saving some lives at the same time.”
Anyone interested in adopting a cat should contact Lauris Elkholy at firstname.lastname@example.org.