World Animal Day was yesterday, 4th October. A day to celebrate our (mainly) four legged friends… (Don’t say that to our friends with 3, 2 or no legs…) Which led me to thinking about how this weird 2020 year has affected them, as well as us.
Many people assume that it’s been a great year for animals – we’ve all seen the stories on the news, haven’t we? Deer in Japanese cities, wild boar in Barcelona… Cleaner water, a return of many butterflies and birds. (Sadly, many of the truly awesome animal stories, such as dolphins in Venice and drunk elephants in a Chinese tea garden were later proved fake).
But has 2020 really been a good year for our friends? Alas, for many, no.
It was first apparent to me in on Gili Trawangan, the tiny dot of an Indonesian island where I became stranded. The two types of animals there – cats and horses – are both being badly affected. Feral cats abound on the island, and many “adopt” a local warung (restaurant) where the owners may give them scraps, and certainly the tourists are generous with their left over ayam (chicken). These cats, although not living in luxurious suites, are generally pretty sleek and well fed. Now? The tourists aren’t coming, the chefs aren’t cooking, the warungs are closed, so where do the Kuching (cats) eat? This is true of many thousands of animals all over the world, particularly on routes such as the banana pancake trail, where animals depend on tourism. (The banana pancake trail is a roughly defined route around south east Asia. It forms the steps taken by many Instagram trendy millennials lured by cheap accommodation, sunshine, parties, Instagram worthy photo opportunities, and as the locals have discovered the western sweet tooth, an endless supply of banana pancakes for breakfast…)
And, as people who know my blogs will have already read, the cidomo taxi ponies, who move tourists around these islands, are also out of work. No tourists, no need for tourist pony taxi, no work, no money. Charities such as Horses of Gili and Cats of Gili, (who are doing “pussy patrols” to feed the warung cats) have been hard hit by the huge financial burden of trying to feed these jobless animals, as well as the drop in donations from the closure of the tourism industry. Double whammy.
And then, you hear more. My cousin’s cat, in Australia, was taken to the vet and diagnosed with a bladder infection. According to the vet, bladder infections have gone through the roof in COVID quarantine time. His theory – cats are stressed by their humans being home all the time. They are used to independence and quiet and suddenly their humans – big and small – are doing all their office and school work online, getting stressed and on top of each other, and the cats are (literally) getting p’ed off… And all those hilarious videos of fed up dogs being taken for ANOTHER walk… Seriously?!
Horse charities across Europe have also been hit with many animals being surrendered because owners simply cannot afford to feed them, having lost their jobs. And, stable yards where owners have been restricted are seeing welfare issues in horses not being maintained to quite such a high standard, hectically rushed grooms just unable to give the 5* care that a single doting owner can. Also, sadly, many riding schools, who barely make it by month by month have gone under, leaving more homeless ponies and city children without access to discover the magic of ponies.
It’s not all doom and gloom – many horses who have been hard at work received a desperately needed holiday. And there are thousands of cats and dogs who lived lonely lives while their human guardians were at work, who are overjoyed at having their friends stay with them. Turbo, my Mom’s little Jack Russel is certainly in this group – he’s rightly over joyed at now being offered a seat ON the couch and having his human around 24/7….
So, how are the animals in your community coping? Take a look around and see which feathered, furry or finned friends are not coping so well, and see if you can offer a helping hand – from scattering bird food at a local tourist hot spot, to letting your cat have a peaceful sleep while you work on the balcony, how can you help your animal co-workers survive (and thrive) through the rest of this COVID time?