A quick aside before I carry on - As I started writing this, a friend told me that the local vet has seen a surge of people abandoning their pets as they think they can catch the virus from their cats and dogs. I want to stress this is not the case! You can read the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) article about that here. This blog post is not about people dumping their pets because of the coronavirus but more about the parallels I have noticed with the spread of this virus and how a stray cat population can grow out of control in a similar way.
I have heard several times about how a single female cat and her mate can be responsible for the birth of hundreds of thousands of kittens in their lifetime via their un-neutered offspring.
I don't know about you but I always found this a bit hard to get my head around. How can that be possible? So many cats and dogs as a result of one breeding pair? Someone must have made a mistake with that! Even though the evidence is all around us, it still seems unfathomable.
I saw this animation on Facebook yesterday, showing how COVID 19 will continue to spread if unchecked. It shows how Social Distancing can help help to break the chain, slow down the progression of the infection and help to protect the more vulnerable members of society.
The penny then dropped! This is the same model for how so many kittens or puppies can be born when the animals are not neutered! With animals having relatively large litters, it is easy to see how the numbers can keep growing.
Now, cats and dogs aren't great at Social Distancing. We can't explain to them that they aren't doing themselves any favours by hanging out with their mates and making babies. We can't tell the street cats and dogs to stay home and keep 2 metres away from their friends. They can't help themselves, it is their biology, their instincts, they must procreate!
So, what can we do?
Let's look at the animation again but imagine it is stray animal population growth rather than virus spread. TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) works in the same way, each time stopping a new litter from being born. See how it can break the pattern and reduce the numbers?
TNR can feel like an uphill struggle, that we can't fix them all so why bother fixing one? Social Distancing may feel like that to some people too but this brilliant little animation shows that every little helps, in both situations!
People are saying now that there will be a human baby boom in around 9 months time, too many people shut up in their houses with little else to do. This will also be the case for the animals of Qatar. There is a sharp increase in the number of cats and dogs being dumped on the streets (I can't stress this enough, there is no evidence your pets can give you this coronavirus!!) and many of those dumped pets will not be spayed or neutered. Add this to the existing cat and dog population on the streets and we will have another epidemic, this time of stray cats and dogs.
Many vets in Qatar are still open and taking appointments, so it is still possible to get animals spayed. Please look after yourselves and follow the guidelines from the governments, practice Social Distancing and good personal hygiene (keep washing those hands!) but don't stop trying to help the animals on the street. It is still possible to get animals spayed and neutered. Appointments may be harder to come by and there are practices in place to protect the customers and the staff in the vets but don't let this stop you from doing TNR.
You can contact us on our Facebook page here if you need advice or information about which vets are currently open and available to TNR animals. For all things TNR related, you can also visit our TNR Qatar website.
If we all work together and do our bit we can help slow down the stray animal population growth!
Dumping a beloved family pet is something that I would never consider, it just doesn't bear thinking about. Yet, it is something that happens very frequently the world over. I have never really questioned why someone would do this other than they have changed their mind about having a pet or they are moving on and don't want or can't afford to take their pet with them. Our latest rescue may have given us another answer in the fact that she wasn't spayed.
In December last year, I heard the now familiar call from my husband... "Babe, can you come and help? Bring a cat box!". Another waif or stray on the doorstep, in need of our help. Imagine my surprise when I see this beautiful Persian girl, sweet as anything! She was purring, happy to be picked up and gladly trotted into the cat carrier so she could be taken to the vet for a microchip check.
We were sorry to learn that she had no chip so finding her owner would be that much harder. We tucked her away in a spare bathroom, separated from all of our cats, with the necessities to keep her safe and comfortable until her family could be found. The Facebook posts and knocking on doors commenced to try and find her owner.
The next day, my husband had noticed something strange about her. Whenever we entered the room, she did not react at all, she stayed fast asleep. After a quick Google search and a little test we came to learn that she was completely deaf. This didn't stop her from coming to us for lots of fuss and cuddles. She immediately recognised the cat brush, flopping over, belly exposed, ready for her beautification. There was no way this girl was a street cat, she has definitely been cared for by humans at some point.
We got her vaccinated at the local vet so that we could let her out of the bathroom to have free roam of the house while we continued to look for her owners. We put a contingency plan in place and arranged for a potential home for her over in the States. It was decided she would stay with us until we could get her ready to fly. She got on well with our hoard of rescue cats, although we were concerned they would take advantage of her deafness and bully her relentlessly.
A week or so passed, then we started to hear the most horrendous howling. We immediately think that some of the cats are fighting, a common occurrence in our multi-cat household, but a quick sweep of the house shows no sign of a fray. Cloud, as we now call her, trots into the living room and flops on the rug in front of the TV as if butter wouldn't melt. 20 minutes later, the noise starts again but this time the source is right in front of our eyes. Sweet, darling Cloud is howling as if in the most tremendous pain. She starts pacing around, this guttural yowling echoing around the whole house. When Jareth, one of our male cats, approaches she adopts a tell-tale position. Head down, bum up and the noise she is making changes to something a bit more alluring. We realised then that she was in heat and she wanted some action! All of our cats are already neutered bar one. Thankfully, he is very young and was showing zero interest in Cloud's antics.
We have experienced cats in heat previously as our kittens had "come of age". As soon as we knew they had been in heat the vet visit was booked for them to be spayed so neither they, nor us, would have to endure this heartbreaking racket that they cannot help but make. Cloud had not yet been booked in for a spay and we read online that it is best to wait until after their heat to carry out the spay operation. This is due to an increase in blood flow to their reproductive organs, making the procedure more complicated. She is off to the vet today, as I write this, for her spay to finally be done.
Now, I am not sure if all female cats are quite as loud as this genteel girl when in heat, or if the fact that she is deaf and can't hear herself made it that much worse. What I did realise was that if someone did not know what was causing an otherwise healthy cat to make this awful noise, or how to make it stop, this may drive them to dump their pet on the street. Most people know they shouldn't shout at their pets, that it does little other than cause additional stress but again for those who don't know, shouting at a pet to try and make them shut-up may seem like a reasonable approach. Not very effective with a deaf cat! Getting rid of her may have seemed like the only option. Given that we had no success in finding her owner, we finally agreed that she had been dumped on the street.
I will be very happy when her operation is completed tomorrow and she can go back to her foster mum until all the preparations are complete for her to fly to Texas. I know she will go on to have a happy and secure life in a loving home, without her hormones and instincts kicking in every few weeks taking over her every thought and action. It is very distressing for all involved, a spay is really one of the greatest gifts you can give a pet.
So, help me out here. Talk to the people around you about their pets, ask them if they are spayed or neutered. Don't judge or force the issue but educate them, gently does it. Answer any questions they may have and never make anyone feel stupid for what they do not know. If you don't have the answers, direct them to the TNR website or Facebook page for more information on the benefits of neutering their pets and how to go about it. Finally, if you have pets and they are not spayed or neutered, I recommend making an appointment with your vet to get it done. You won't regret it!
TNR - 115 cats spayed and neutered during January, February & March
Compound Spay and Neuter Project
Qatar University Cats
Such cases make you despair of humankind, we know not everyone likes cats but please, don't hurt them.
The education program is launched.This is something we have wanted to officially set up for a while but the volunteers who were comfortable presenting weren't available during school hours; the rest of us were happier talking to cats! We were so grateful when Claire offered to help and since then we now have a team of 3 people all raring to go. This is probably actually one of our most important achievements, "It is the children of today who will become the rescuers of tomorrow" - let's hope so.
To find out more about the program please click here: Education
Adoption Gallery was set up
Kittens, Kittens, Kittens
At TNRQ our priority is obviously trying to prevent kittens being born on the streets and suffering, however, that situation is nowhere near under control in Qatar, so tiny souls cross our paths all the time whilst we are out trapping and looking after colonies. Best case scenario mum is with them and taking care of them but sadly that isn't always the case and they so easily get sick with their lower immunity. But then on top of the normal rescues, a volunteer had 4 newly born kittens left on her doorstep, she works full time so how was she supposed to manage kittens who needed feeding every few hours! Luckily a solution was found but there are only so many foster homes to go around and there are never enough to meet demand, never mind someone willing to bottle feed 4 kittens.