DUBAI: Pakistani Atif Mehmood, a salesman in Dubai, was on his way to work last month when he was stopped in his tracks by the distressed whimpers of what sounded like a cat.
When he looked up, he saw a pregnant cat stuck on the second floor balcony of a residential building in Deira, the commercial hub of Dubai.
What happened next has changed the life of the 24-year-old from Pakistan’s northwestern Lakki Marwat district, winning him fame, prayers and a monetary reward — that too from the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“I saw that the cat was crying loudly and was afraid to jump off because of the height,” Mehmood told Arab News. “I decided that I could not just leave it there.”
The man picked up a box and held it up to the cat but it wouldn’t budge.
“I then asked for the help of an Indian and a Moroccan man, and also asked someone to give us a bedsheet,” he said.
As this was going on, Abdul Rashid, the Indian owner of a grocery store located just across the road, rushed over and started filming.
“I posted the video on my Instagram and shared it on my WhatsApp group, and within 15 minutes, it went viral,” Rashid told Arab News.
The video shows the three men holding up the bedsheet for the cat, who initially hesitates, but then jumps into it and is saved.
Viewed over 1.1 million times, the footage caught the eye of the ruler of Dubai who posted it on Twitter and asked people to help identify the “unsung heroes” so he could thank them.
Proud and happy to see such acts of kindness in our beautiful city.
Whoever identifies these unsung heroes, please help us thank them. pic.twitter.com/SvSBmM7Oxe
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) August 24, 2021
Social media users helped identify the three men who saved the cat, and Rashid who shot the video, who were then called in by police the day after the incident.
“I got a call from the police and someone asked me, ‘Did you save a cat?’,” Mehmood said. “I got scared and said yes, I did, and then they asked me to visit the police station.”
He said he entered the police station to cheers and applause. Three days later, he was told he had been awarded AED50,000, the equivalent of over $13,000, by the Dubai government.
“I did not believe it at first,” he said, “but it has become a reality.”
Mehmood, who is single, has already spent most of the reward money to buy a car for his father and help out his brother. He now plans to use the rest of the cash to try to set up a business in Dubai.
“I have a lot of dreams,” he said, “and now that my financial worries are over, I will set up a business in Dubai.”
The Consulate General of Pakistan in Dubai did not respond to a request for comment for this story.