One of the first things I noticed when arriving in Thailand 12 yrs ago was the sheer number of stray cats and dogs running around.
Just this past month we’ve had four dogs and four cats coming to the house sporadically to eat whatever we put out for the one sick cat, and the the one sick dog we feed whenever they show up. The dog has started to gain weight and is looking quite a bit better. Last week the cat disappeared, never to return.
I might know what happened to the sick cat. It was emaciated and full of bugs. When we tried to touch it, it was very defensive. I just decided to feed it and give it a safe place to stay on the porch in a box, but to let it die as it would naturally. It’s a sort of Buddhist concept I’ve come to after some years.
So, what happened to it?
It was the second day that I hadn’t seen it. It was very near death, probably would have died within two or three days. Our neighbor next door, a retired police chief, was outside – I smelled the harsh cigarette smoke. I was looking for my raincoat around the porch, and I heard a couple noises and the old man grunting something under his breath. Now, it could have been anything, and I have no proof of what happened, but it sounded like maybe he was kicking the cat real hard. I think probably he killed it, and tossed it over the back wall. He has about fifteen bird cages around his house, and the cats from the entire neighborhood are always coming by to stare at them through the cages.
We have a problem with a big dog that comes up our soi every now and then, terrorizing the other dogs on the street who are behind fences. The dogs go absolutely insane for a while as this huge dog goes up to each fence and aggravates the dogs – whipping them up into a frenzy, before he trots over to the next gate – making sure to hit every single home that has dogs.
My neighbor was outside once as I threw a bamboo stick at this dog, and he told me – better to kill it. He made a motion like he’d shoot it if he could. I wouldn’t want him to kill it – but it’d be nice to be able to call the police or animal control and have them do something about the dog. He comes at all hours of the night, causing havoc.
So, the fact that my neighbor would kill that dog that made me think. Surely he’d kick a sickly cat to death because he hated cats looking at his birds all the time.
Makes sense, right?
What is the State of Cats and Dogs in Thailand?
They’re all over and they are not really cared for. Very few people fix their dogs or cats, so there are fresh litters year round. There are more roadkill cats and dogs than you can count. If a cat or dog has a litter, sometimes the owner will stick the puppies or kittens in a big rice bag, drive it far away from their own home, and drop it off in the street. On a number of occasions I’ve seen puppies climbing out of rice bags onto the highway where they were being run over one-by-one.
Others are less cruel, and just take the puppies to the nearest Buddhist temple where they drop them off to whatever end. What happens is there are dozens of dogs at the temple then, all of them territorial and fighting each other for any scraps visitors or residents of the temple give them.
Strays are everywhere. I was looking for snakes one time on a mountain road just on the outside of town, when a pack of around 40-50 dogs started after me! They were about 50 feet away, but I picked up a big stick and started swinging it crazily. That helped, they advanced slower than they were initially. Then I found rocks and hurled them as far as I could at them, this worked like magic – one by one they broke off the chase, and turned around to find something better to do. If that hadn’t of worked, I would have been climbing a tree and spending a couple hours up there!
I’ve stopped to take a look at stray puppies a few times. They are invariably absolutely COVERED with fleas – hundreds on each pup. I usually buy some ice cold water and bathe them down in that, the fleas sort of freeze up and they wash away. It’s a very temporary solution, but each of us that encounters strays in this country have to come to a decision for themselves – what all can and will you do for each and every one of them?
What Do I Do?
If we see a sick dog or cat, we’ll offer it food, water, milk, anything we have to see if we can get it to start coming to our home. We provide a fairly safe place for it, big dogs can’t get through our gate, but smaller dogs and cats can at will.
If we see healthy cats coming to eat the food on our porch, we’ll yell and clap hands to get them away. We’re not a zoo, and there are plenty of cats and dogs which are well fed and will take any sort of food in a dish they can find.
If we see a really sick cat or dog, we might take it to the vet. This cat that started coming here was within days of death already, and too defensive to get close to. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. In a way, it’s sad to make a decision like that, right? I just decided, that cat won’t get the health care it needs at the vet down the street.
On the other hand, vet care costs money, and we sure as hell can’t pay to take care of and fix every cat and dog we see running around with a problem.
Stray Cat Surprise
Couple weeks ago we had what I guess is, a stroke of good luck. My wife was outside on the porch and she heard meowing coming from under the car. When she checked, there was this tiny Siamese cat kitten under there.
We pulled it out and looked for an adult cat or person combing the neighborhood looking for their kitten. Didn’t find what I hoped to find. My wife and daughter were already naming the cat. I don’t even believe in keeping any animals – and yet, I didn’t have much of a choice. We now have a tiny kitten that literally owns the house and does what it wants – all day, all night.
If you come to Thailand to stay for any length of time, and you’re an animal lover, you’ll need to come to a decision about which cats and dogs you help, and which you don’t. Unless you start a foundation for Soi dog and cat rescue, there’s not much you can really do. The problem is overwhelming.
If you live in Thailand now, what do you do about stray cats and dogs? Anything?