My daughter recently requested if she may purchase a particular video game if we have extra cash in the coming weeks. She showed me the advertisement for the video game when I asked her what kind of game it was. It was a game wherein the player assumed the position of a stray cat and attempted to live the perilous and challenging existence of a stray cat in the streets of a bustling city with a largely indifferent human population.
I must admit that I thought the game was excellent for young people, including my daughter. By playing it, the player would gain knowledge of the situation of stray animals, and it is likely that this knowledge will encourage them to help stray cats and inspire in them the much-needed empathy for such creatures. It will also hopefully establish moral ideals in the minds and hearts of young people.
What are ‘strays’ and why are there ‘strays’?
Animals such as cats and dogs need people to meet their basic requirements such as food, water, housing, veterinary treatment, and love. However, many animals throughout the Philippines as well as in other countries are without a guardian to look after them or even a cozy place to curl up at night. Such animals are called “strays.”
Because there aren’t enough good homes, many strays suffer and die on the streets or must be put down. Animal homelessness is a complicated problem, but there is a straightforward solution: adopt animals instead of purchasing them from breeders or pet stores, and always have your companion animals spayed or neutered to stop unwanted animals from being born.
Many strays are animals often abandoned by the people they depend on to care for them. When left to fend for themselves, cats and dogs frequently suffer and die on the streets after being hit by cars, being mauled by other animals, due to excessive heat or extremely cold temperatures, hunger, infectious diseases, and other perils. Numerous stray animals are poisoned, shot, cut up, tortured, set on fire, or in killed in other cruel ways.
Why are there so many homeless animals?
For one, there are just not enough good homes for all the homeless dogs and cats. For another, breeders and the pet trade are major causes of this problem.
Many of the dogs and cats bred by breeders will either become homeless themselves or fill homes that could have gone to animals languishing in shelters.
Puppies and kittens acquired from breeders or pet stores are frequently separated from their mothers at just a few weeks old, thus they are traumatized, not socialized, and develop health problems. Many people who bought the puppy or kitten may experience physical and mental health concerns themselves as a result.
Another reason animals become strays is because they got lost. They got out when the gate was left open or they were not adequately housebroken. They also do not have identification so that humans who may have found do not have a way of contacting the owner.
Animal homelessness is partly the fault of pet owners who fail to spay or neuter their animal companions. Some people might believe that allowing a cat or dog to have “only one litter” is not a huge concern, but if the offspring from that litter go on to have their own kittens or pups, and so on, then that “one litter” can soon lead to hundreds or even thousands of animals. (11 Facts About Animal Homelessness, Do Something.org)
The ‘stray situation’ in third world countries
There are a lot of stray dogs and cats in poor nations. Due to poor waste management and a rising human population, more exposed garbage is now available to homeless animals as food.
Public health issues may arise where there is a large stray dog and cat population, if sanitary measures are not put in place. People who live in locations where there are a lot of stray animals run the danger of contracting diseases including rabies, leptospirosis, cat scratch fever, and others.. To prevent dog attacks and bites and to avoid the spread of harmful diseases, it is crucial to reduce the number of stray animals. (Deb Jarrett, Stray Animals: The Why and the How, Dharamsala Animal Rescue, 26 June 2018)
These can be prevented by vaccinating dogs and acts against diseases and keeping homes and spaces of humans clean, and spaying or neutering dogs and cats to control animal population.
We also frequently overlook the effects of pet overpopulation on wild animal populations. A non-native species’ invasion can have a severe effect on fragile ecosystems by causing pollution and the spread of disease. Because stray animals are typically not immunized, rabies and other deadly diseases can spread to other animal populations. Internal parasites can spread through an afflicted animal’s feces as well, endangering local species when the feces pollute food and water sources. (Arianna Pittman, How Stray Cats and Dogs are Harming Native Wildlife and What You Can Do About It, 2016)
How can we help solve the problem of ‘strays’?
In order to reduce the population, several municipal organizations either slaughter or relocate large numbers of strays. These methods might have been effective in the past, but they are harsh and unsuitable for a developing nation for a variety of reasons.
First, stray animals can quickly replace the animals that were killed by breeding. Second, the new population must also be immunized in order to prevent the spread of additional diseases and the risk of rabies. Third, the exposed trash that the stray animals eat is still a plentiful supply of food and will keep the population alive (something that governments should really do something about).
Mass sterilization and vaccination, followed by returning the animals to their natural territory or adoption, are the most practical and successful ways to reduce the number of stray animals.
Keep your pets properly housed. Do not let them roam around freely beyond your residence. Doing this will spare you a lot of painful abuses or deaths (due to accidents or intentional maltreatment from ill-minded people) for your animals as well as for yourselves as their owners.
Also, shopping at pet stores that do not buy puppies from puppy mills is one strategy to counteract puppy mills. Boycott pet stores who sell puppies from puppy mills.
However, adoption is always the best course of action.
By having our animal friends spayed or neutered and always adopting animals rather than purchasing them from pet stores or breeders, each of us can contribute to the realization of the day when every animal can have a loving, permanent home. And urge everyone you know to follow suit! Before bringing a new animal into the family, it’s crucial to think about our ability to commit to caring for it for its entire life.
Try to see life through the eyes of a stray and, perhaps, by doing so, you will have a better understanding of what responsible pet ownership should be.
About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 14 years now because she is wife to a desaparacido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.