Tag: pets

In Ukraine, Cats and Dogs Suffer Along With Their Human Companions

If you’ve got a cat who doesn’t handle the Fourth of July well and gets freaked out by the annual fireworks, imagine that multiplied by about a thousand, with no respite.

Then imagine that, instead of reassurance from calm humans who know the explosions are just part of a celebration, the cats and dogs of cities like Kiev pick up on the anxiety of the people around them, sensing their fear, reading their body language.

War takes a terrible toll on humanity, a fact that’s been well-documented for centuries, but much less has been written about the suffering and fate of animals in the crossfire of forces they can’t comprehend. (One outstanding take on animals in war is 2006’s Pride of Baghdad, a heartbreaking account of four lions who escaped Baghdad Zoo as US bombs rained down on the Iraqi capital. While Pride of Baghdad is a fictionalized account of what happened to those lions, the story is sadly, infuriatingly true and remains one of the lesser-known accounts among the tens of thousands of stories told about the toll of that war.)

In Ukraine, where the Russian military has taken control of the local airspace and destroyed the country’s airports, people are taking their pets and what possessions they can as they try to escape by land via routes to the border that are backed up by 15 miles or more.

Ukrainian soldier with stray cat
A soldier holds a cat in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine. Credit: Aleksey Filippov

Meanwhile, as all men of fighting age have been called to stay, stray dogs have been a comfort to Ukrainians on the front line. The soldiers feed the dogs, and the hyper-vigilant dogs alert the soldiers to any unusual activity they pick up on.

“She immediately barks or growls if the enemy is planning an attack. It’s safer and calmer with her – no wonder they say that a dog is man’s best friend,” a 21-year-old Ukrainian soldier named Mykyta told Agency France-Presse as he gave an affectionate pet to a dog adopted by his unit.

Stray cats are cozying up to the soldiers as well. Dmytro, a 29-year-old soldier, said a black cat he named Chernukha has kept him company and helped him cope.

“You come back to the post, lie down on the bed, and here comes Chernukha,” Dmytro told AFP. Chernukha “lies on your stomach and looks at you as if she wants to be petted. It’s a sedative.”

Like many Ukrainians, staff and volunteers who man the country’s shelters have remained defiant and refused to leave. In Kiev, staff at Best Friends shelter are rationing food and trying to locate more.

“It is very difficult and scary for [the animals] and for us. Due to the fighting, suppliers of food for animals are not working,” a shelter staffer told Newsweek. “We need help now with animal food and its transportation to the shelter. We will also be grateful for the financial support.”

Getting food is already difficult and will become more so as Russian troops push further into the capital and civilians hunker down in homes, basements and bomb shelters.

Nastya Aboliesheva, who works for Kiev-based Happy Paw shelter, said “no one is willing to risk their lives to deliver what is needed.”

“Our work now remains important and necessary, because animals do not understand what is happening and also need food and treatment….the main thing that people can help now is not to throw their animals at random, but to be near them or to evacuate with the animals,” she said. “We very much hope that local authorities in Kyiv and other cities will allow people to take animals in boxes to bomb shelters.”

Top image: A Ukrainian soldier petting a cat. Credit: AFP

Do You Consider Your Cat Your ‘Child’?

The Washington Post has an interesting story from an anthropologist who’s taken an interest in studying the relationships between people and their pets.

Anyone familiar with evolutionary biology has heard the oft-repeated idea that we’re hardwired to propagate our DNA, and every decision we make — from who we date, when we get married, whether we put career goals on the line to take care of children — is ultimately dictated by that goal.

If that’s true, then “parenting” pets doesn’t make sense. They aren’t our biological children. They won’t carry on our family names and history after we’re gone, they won’t go to college and have careers and take care of us when we’re old. In stark terms, we’re “wasting” resources on raising — and often pampering — the offspring of other species.

Yet we do it, so the question is: Why?

Shelly Volsche, an anthropologist at Boise State University, thinks the explanation can be traced back to our roots in pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer societies, when alloparenting — cooperative parenting — was key to raising children.

“If people evolved to alloparent, and our environment is now making caring for children more difficult or less appealing to some, it makes sense for people to alloparent other species entering their homes,” Volsche wrote. “Alloparenting companion animals can offer a way to fulfill the evolved need to nurture while reducing the investment of time, money and emotional energy compared to raising children.”

As readers of this blog know, I don’t refer to my cat as my “child” and I don’t see him as some sort of child replacement. He’s Buddy, my buddy. We’re best buds. Other people choose to “parent” their children, and that’s cool. Whatever works for you.

A female macaque takes care of two babies. Alloparenting is common in macaque troops.

I think Volsche’s ideas are interesting, especially in the context of our primate cousins and the way they raise their young. Orangutans are quasi-solitary, and children stick with their moms for about eight years because it takes that long for them to mature and learn how to survive in the jungle on their own.

But more social primates, like chimpanzees, Capuchin monkeys, macaques and vervet monkeys, live in groups and cooperative parenting is a major part of how they handle raising “kids” when there’s no daycare or schools.

A mother who goes out to forage, for example, might leave her baby with an aunt or a trusted female of the troop, and it’s common to see female monkeys caring for babies that aren’t theirs.

Human and proto-human hunter-gatherer societies were essentially upjumped primate troops, so it’s that ingrained behavior we’re talking about here.

Ultimately, Volsche says we’re driven by a “need to nurture.”

“Although the details may look quite different — attending training classes instead of school functions, or providing smell walks for dogs instead of coloring books for children — both practices fulfill the same evolved function,” she wrote. “Whether child or pet, people are meeting the same evolved need to care for, teach and love a sentient other.”

Would Your Cat Wait Outside The Hospital For You?

A story about an extraordinarily loyal dog has touched the hearts of animal lovers all over the world, and probably has many of us thinking: If I had a medical emergency, would my pet chase an ambulance to the hospital and wait there for days until I emerged?

That’s what Boncuk the loyal dog did after her owner, Cemal Senturk, suffered a brain embolism and was taken to a hospital in the northern Turkish city of Trabzon on Jan. 14.

Boncuk waited patiently for her best friend until Aynur Egeli, Senturk’s daughter, took the loving pup home the first night.

The next morning Boncuk was gone, and Egeli knew exactly where she was going.

“She comes every day around 9 a.m. and waits until nightfall,” Muhammet Akdeniz, a security guard at the hospital, told local media. “When the door opens she pokes her head inside,” Akseniz said, but the polite pooch “doesn’t go in.”

Boncuk
Boncuk poked her head inside but knew she wasn’t allowed inside the hospital.

Boncuk was reunited with Senturk on Wednesday when an orderly wheeled the man out to the hospital entrance. Senturk was later discharged.

In photos and a short video of the reunion, Boncuk is the image of happiness and relief: Her tail wags uncontrollably and she can’t contain her enthusiasm as she literally jumps for joy.

“She’s very used to me,” Senturk said. “And I miss her, too, constantly.”

Boncuk’s story reminds us of Hachiko, the Japanese Akita dog who was so devoted to his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, that he’d run to Shibuya station every day to greet Ueno as he stepped off the subway. Ueno was in mid-lecture in front of a class of students when he suffered a brain hemorrhage and died on the spot.

Hachiko returned to Shibuya every day at the same time for the next 10 years, waiting for his beloved human.

It’s a story of animal devotion that resonates so strongly with people that Hachiko was memorialized with a statue just feet from the spot where he stood every day, waiting for Ueno.

turkishdog
Boncuk waits for her owner in front of the hospital.

Yes, this wonderful story begs the question: Would my pet do the same for me?

Putting aside the problem of actually getting to the hospital — which would be almost impossible given the distance, traffic and the fact that he’s an indoor cat — if Bud were allowed to stay in a hospital room with me, I believe wholeheartedly that he would remain by my side.

Like other pets who have strong bonds with their people, he knows when I’m not feeling well, and when I was sidelined with Bell’s palsy and a debilitating headache a few years ago, he never left my side.

That is not to say he wouldn’t be his usual incorrigible self. You know that little button that calls the nurse? He would abuse the hell out of it if he knew its function, and he’d probably think the nurses were there to serve him, bring him snacks and fluff his pillow.

Buddy Buddy
“Nurse! In here! My pillow needs fluffing! Also, could you be a doll and fetch me some Temptations?”

The truth is that pets are not allowed in the vast majority of hospitals. Writing in PetLife, Alicia Beyer notes pets “not only brighten patients’ spirits, but hospitals are reporting that the pet visits can have dramatic effects on patient’s health, recovery and emotional well-being.”

In Canada, there’s an organization called Zachary’s Paws, which was started by Donna Jenkins in honor of her 25-year-old nephew.

“While Zachary was in the hospital for many weeks and very sick after having a stem cell transplant,  he begged to see his dog, Chase,” Jenkins told Bored Panda. “We sneaked Chase into ICU to see him and the effect it had on Zachary was remarkable. When Zachary realized he was not going to survive his cancer, he made me promise to start the organization.

But as PetMD notes, there are good reasons why most hospitals don’t allow pets, including problems pets can pose to patients with compromised immune systems and allergies. Hospitals that do allow pet visits have strict standards, and the animals must be thoroughly cleaned by staff before they’re allowed in.

Alas, even as more hospitals allow pet visitation or therapy animals, many exclude cats, and a 2015 report by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America says cats “should be excluded.” The report claims cats can’t be trained as well as dogs, the risk of bites and scratches is higher, and more patients may be allergic to cats.

Chinese Government to Citizens: ‘Deal With’ Your Pets, Or We Will

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a government with no respect for any kind of life — human or animal — would threaten the mass extermination of cats and dogs.

It’s par for the course in China, where authorities in dozens of cities and provinces are urging people to “deal with” their pets in the wake of the Coronavirus threat — or the government will, media reports say.

The warnings have been issued in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus, as well as Shanxi, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei and Shanghai, according to the Humane Society International.

Yet there’s no evidence the virus has been transmitted by domesticated pets like cats and dogs, and no evidence those animals can catch it from humans, experts say.

In Wuhan, residents have been told to keep their pets indoors, and warned that any cats or dogs spotted outdoors will be “killed and buried on the spot,” the UK’s Metro reported.

But experts say it’s the government’s fault that the virus jumped from wild animals to humans in the first place. China has refused to shut down so-called “wet markets,” where live animals are sold next to the carcasses of recently-slaughtered animals, despite the fact that SARS and other viruses originated from those markets.

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A Chinese wet market. Credit: Nikkei

Officials believe the Coronavirus originated at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, one of many “wet markets” described as “filthy, crowded places where animals are displayed alive in small cages” and “are often slaughtered on site.”

China has been “mired in long-held beliefs about the benefits of eating exotic and often endangered animals for good health,” the Humane Society said in a statement, referring to traditional Chinese “medicine” and other folk practices that use animal parts in ineffective and dangerous tonics and elixirs.

In addition to creating the circumstances for viruses to jump from wild animals to humans, the illegal wildlife trade has pushed animals like tigers and pangolins to the brink of extinction.

“Chinese society is boiling with anger at wildlife policy failures,” said the Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, Peter Li. “Social media is full of posts condemning the refusal to shut down the wildlife markets. This is the worst Chinese New Year in China’s recent history.”