Reconstructing animal-human bonding

By Amatullah Abu Hasan

The idea of animals and humans co-exist harmoniously in society might sound absurd to some but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Animal and humans eked out a living in different dimensions, and sooner than we imagine, we are in contact living in one compact space complementing each other. This integration is necessary to address the diversity between animal and human nature.

Let’s take cats for example; they came from being wildcats and now we welcome adorable furballs at our doorstep as part of the family. Their innate nature initially was drawn to rodents in farms (Grimm, 2014) so they were wild and far from sociable with humans and soon they turned into friendly furballs. Despite the integration, we still find the same in size and shape and they both share quite the same appearance with none to very little distinctions.

As our lives continue to intertwined with animals, many animal enthusiasts struggle to come out with clear power relation that covers the weight of the responsibilities on each one of us and animal welfare. It is not unusual to hear about cases of animal cruelty in our society and when there is one, the public will cause an uproar fighting for justice for the animals. Then, people start pointing fingers at, who are not doing the job but we should go back to the genuine question, are we as a whole society doing our parts and duties to the animals? Surely, it would come out with both answers, yes and no.

Therefore, we can see that the relationship between animals and humans is crippled and impaired. Humans love animals but at the same time we somehow neglect and put up harsh treatments to them. This brief article calls out to reconstruct our animal-human relationship that enables animals and humans to share one place to call home.
The reality of living with animals: Post-COVID-19

Amidst this pandemic, stray animals are exposed to extreme hunger and cold as people start to abide by the quarantine at their homes. As if they were the forgotten, they suffered quite the same fate as us humans. Prior to a pandemic, it is normal to see shop owners leaving out kibbles and water for them or they scavenged the trash for a decent meal for the day. Their conditions got worse as some starved themselves that their bones start jutting out and not to mention, mothers of pups and kittens struggle to keep themselves satiated and on the other hand to feed the babies too.

Animal welfare advocates in Malaysia witnessed an increase in the number of abandoned animals on the street following the imposition of MCO nationwide. Voice for Paws observed a 60 per cent increase in the animal rescue mission, which is a significant expansion of workload for all the animal sanctuaries out there. Indeed, this economic recession is taking a toll on everyone in consequences of people losing their jobs and financial insufficiency more or less to even support themselves. This is a heart-wrenching scenario for all animal enthusiasts.  

Apart from being financially unstable, looking on the bright side, it is the best time to get one pet for yourself while you are in the work from home (WFH) mode. They will definitely accompany you during your meetings and presentations, making your current workload bearable with this new norm around. Surely, when the situation calls for owners to come back to work physically, a few adjustments needed to be arranged to fill in the time of your pets while you are at work.

The art of living together

The overpopulation of strays in Malaysia is nothing new as we are well informed. For those who hold sentiments against strays, they find them dirty as they rummage through the trash and they spread diseases around. We as a community failed to consider strays that endure the same fate with homelessness, starvation and dehydration on an everyday basis. They did not choose to live their lives this way on the street.

The hidden issue that is hidden in strays is that we have a dysfunctional relationship with animals. People with some kind of attitude do think they are less significant, meanwhile their fate was due to irresponsible owners who dumped pets when hard time hits them. Not many are aware of this which results in strays with fatal a part of animal nature.

Be aware of our surroundings that involves strays: nurse and care for the sick and old aged strays. For animals with disabilities or special needs, it is suggestable to rehome them to ensure their health does not deteriorate on the street. Don’t think that you live in your own bubble.

We all carry the same weight of moral duty to behave and act kindly towards stray animals. The problem will continue to prevail if we fail to execute our duties of providing basic needs for the animals and when the time comes, they will be handed down to the authorities that will only choose to euthanise them as a means of resolving the problem. Do your part as a civilised individual and continue to do the good deed as life pays you back virtuously later.

If humans are to believe that the solutions are still within their reach and all hands-on deck to come up with a set of ethical guidelines that aim to support and maintain the welfare of the strays, will it change or improve the situation? They are not supposed to be at the bottom of our social hierarchy just because they are hostile to humans.
Striking a balance: to feed or not feed

Feeding stray cats has always been a debate, where one party argues that it is only humane to feed hungry homeless cats, while the other party bans the feeding of stray cats in the fear of overpopulation and dependence. Looking into the first argument, it is only logical to carry the social duty of feeding strays as we do consider them as part of this diverse community. On the other hand, the ban of feeding strays in fear of overpopulation might not seem a powerful argument that can carry a lot of weight. Looking from another perspective is that; if they are not being fed, strays will start to scavenge the bins which worsen the situation.

So how to strike a balance between the two? My answer would be, of course, to feed the strays as they lived among humans, thus we come together as a community. We have ruined their ecosystems and animal instincts as we continued to domesticate feral felines. By all means, we owe back to them to compensate for the after-effect of domestication.

To all animal enthusiasts out there, continue to share the kindness and love to all strays out there and instead of fighting for them, find solutions for them that will elevate their welfare. We are always welcome for better solutions or suggestions in the future as we continue to strive for the best animal welfare.

As well as that, it is important to address a few concerns of the community, such as overpopulation and dependence. A proven successful method to curb the overpopulation of strays is to initiate RNR (Rescue- Neuter- Release) programme. Strays are released back to their original location and managed by the feeder at a specific location daily.  

Re-home them if possible. It is worthy to mention that re-homing is tedious and not as easy as it sounds, I believe that not all strays can fit in and adapt well in a cosy home but for sure they do not deserve to be neglected and mistreated. There are some feral cats that are extremely feisty and hostile that they reject human affection but one thing is for sure they never strike back at humans that feed them well.

At the end of the day, we must all understand that stray’s problem comes from irresponsible owners. Until they learn to become responsible and accountable for their own actions, the issue remains unsolved. Those kind souls feeding the stray are actually their last resort for survival rather than just serving decent meals daily. An important reminder to everyone and me that animals can never fake love and are always sincere when giving. ***

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