One of my first days learning about animal rescue in Bangkok, Apple took me to a woman who we call Granny. Granny is an elderly woman who lives in poverty. She works 12 hours a day as a dishwasher at a food cart for the equivalent of $10 USD a day. This comes out to be about 83 cents an hour. She lives in a small apartment in Bangkok and has an intense love for Thai street cats. Over the years this love has grown out of control and she has become a hoarder.
The first time we entered her apartment I was in shock. The smell was intolerable and almost all of the cats were in cages stacked to the ceiling. She has 30-40 of them. She showed us where she slept on a pile of newspaper in between the cages in a space the size of a small table.
How did it get to this point? She took cats that were in danger of being poisoned, stranded in floods, and any danger that was brought to her attention she felt the need to remove the cats and bring them to her apartment. She has had the inability to walk away from threats to the cats around the area.
Granny thinks she is helping the cats, but as most of us know this is not the best way to do it. Apple helps Granny manage by bringing her cat food and litter and sterilizing the cats to prevent them from growing in numbers, but what really needs to happen is they need to go to homes and get out of their cages. Apple has rehomed 13 so far to Thai families. She has gone great lengths even taking one on a 12 hour trip in a taxi to it’s new home to escape a life of living in a cage any longer.
When I was in Granny’s apartment, Apple pointed out 4 beautiful Siamese cats to me. These cats were in horrific pain due to dental issues. They were drooling everywhere and couldn’t even close their mouths. One had a hernia the size of a golf ball and another had a polyp in it’s mouth. Apple said that they desperately needed medical treatment to at least be free of pain and no one would adopt them due to their medical state.
I talked to the board of Demi’s Animal Rescue about these cats and the help they needed and the board voted to get them help so they no longer had to suffer. From there it was on. All four cats had dentals, were vaccinated, microchipped, examined, the hernia was removed, and they were returned to Granny’s house full of meows that they weren’t able to do before!
We took them back for their booster shots and unfortunately their health went down hill. Three of the four cats were showing signs of severe flu symptoms. This is where Apple and I had to re evaluate. In Granny’s tiny and dirty apartment we knew they wouldn’t get better even with the medication. So where do we go from here after coming such a long way? Well we needed to recruit more help. We made a call to an amazing German animal rescuer named Adrian. He had a spare room in his house and is very experienced with medicating and helping save lives. He lived in a town called Pattaya about 2 hours south of Bangkok. He agreed to treat the cats for us, and we ran to the pet store to get everything he would need.
Even though it was later in the day we jumped in a taxi to take all 4 Siamese cats to him down south, straight from the vet. We got them set up, clipped their nails, and Adrian fed us from his delicious Thai restaurant.
We finally got home that night around 1am, after all was said and done. We felt good that they were in good hands and that they were going to get better in a clean and healthy environment. We could not be more thankful for everyone that come together to save these lives. They now get out into the room to run around and stretch their legs. They get fresh air and food that is free of cockroaches.
The next step for these cats is to fly them to Demi’s Animal Rescue. We are in the middle of scheduling flights for the cats and they will be up for adoption at Demi’s Animal Rescue in the coming months. We also are actively looking for flight volunteers flying from Bangkok to the US. If you’re interested or know of anyone please get in contact with us, as we are trying to get down Granny’s cat numbers and improving both Granny’s and the cats lives.
I want to point out a very important lesson that can be learned here…
If this happened in a western country and someone involved in animal welfare saw Granny’s house, what would happen? We all know what would happen, she would be reported immediately and all of the cats would be removed and taken to a shelter where many if not all would most likely be euthanized.
I think it’s healthy to question this method. The cats should not be living like this, I think we can all agree… but is that the best way to solve the issue?
I really admire Apple’s approach. She works with these people. They are not necessarily the enemy, but simply just want to help and don’t know how or may not have the resources. Granny loves her cats, she really does, I have seen it. She is willing to let us re home them even though with each one she is brought to tears at seeing them go.
There is no reason we cannot see situations like this as an opportunity to HELP instead of a chance to DESTROY. These people often want what is best for the animal, so next time you see an animal in need consider this. Can you try offering to work along side them first?
I believe that there are many people out there willing to accept help and it will, in the long run, be better for the animals if that is the case.