About a long time ago, there was hardly any need for differentiating between the lives of street animals and pet animals. People rarely used to own pets. In fact, human species were themselves not very well organized to be able to carry a pet. Gradually, people found themselves insufficient to entertain each other. They sought their interest in cuddling and playing with the most selfless creatures created by god. The top-ranked in the so-called list of “most animal adoption by humans” were dogs followed by cats. These adopted animals enjoy the benefit of getting healthy food and living a decent life. They get to play and cuddle with their masters. They go for frequent walks and get a whole new human family to live their lives with.
The picture is much less rosy than it seems to be. The fortunate of these animals is, however, limited. The fortunate being the ones who are living as pet members of the human population. The left ones, or the major part to be more appropriate, live their life being hated by most of the people and being called as street animals. India is home to millions of street dogs and cats. Evidently, you may have witnessed a fair amount of street animals walking on the pavements and avenues in search of food or without any specific purpose. Not to mention, these street animals are found in almost every corner and inch of India. Statistically, according to world health organization (WHO), more than 35 million dogs in India come under the category of “stray animals”. Surprisingly, the pet dogs we talked about earlier, contribute to less than 15 million of the total dog population in India. The picture is very much similar for cats.
Most people pass by stray dogs ambling on nearly every roadside. There are hardly people who stop by and spend few minutes of their day observing the lives of them. Looking closely at their lives, you will realize that these stray animals just have the sole purpose to live and that is: to live. They collect food, run around and sit aimlessly to nothing but to spend the life that they have been gifted. Some dogs are seen to be moving around in bunch while some are alone. They have made a new family or parted away with one.
Needless to say, most of the street dog couples mate on roads. Most of the offspring are mal-nutritioned which is very common and sounds not astounding at all. The reason being the simplest of all, the lack of food. There are days when these stray animals have to spend days without even eating anything. The thought of getting proper full of nutrition food for their babies seems quite impossible.
Finding food is the biggest struggle in the life of a stray animal. More than half of a day is spent in roaming and wandering in the neighborhoods and streets to find a bit of anything these creatures can consider eating. The biggest source of food is what is thrown out as ‘garbage’ by people. You may have seen dogs and cats pounding over heaps of garbage and dustbins to find anything that can fill up their families’ empty stomachs. It is very usual to find a dog spattering the waste in a dustbin, picking and eating the discarded items. For the most part, they hunt for food and vegetable parts and their peels. Dogs use their sense of smell to judge whether an object can be consumed by them or not. As a result, they several times misjudge some sorts of plastic waste to be similar to a food remain and end up gobbling it.
Many household members frequently complain of dogs and cats sneaking into their houses in search of food. They accuse these stray animals of ruining their fences, swallowing the fresh flowers in their garden and scattering dirt all over the place. On the contrary, many family members are seen showing some affection towards them. They realize the hardship of these stray dogs and are able to look into the sense of starvation lingering in their eyes. They bring some food, vegetables, biscuits, toasts and leftover chapattis and offer them to the animals to eat. Such a day might be reckoned as a ‘lucky day’ in the lives of a stray animal when they are offered food instead of making efforts to hunt it. Less often, since both dogs and cats are carnivore creatures, they get another ‘lucky day’ and get some scrap of bones and flesh of dead animals, insects, and rats to feed on.
Another element that is placed at great importance in the ‘not so amiable’ lives of stray dogs is the territory living. Most of the groups of dogs have their own territory and live their whole life in the same territory. You may have sometimes noticed a group of stray dogs barking and aggressively acting on the other group or individual dogs. This is because the dogs do not let the other territory dogs to enter theirs. When the members of a territory migrate or die, it is replaced by another group of dogs.
Finding a suitable shelter becomes arduous when they are at odds with the weather. While summers are quite easier to spend outdoors, winters bring with it a new obstacle in their lives. Unlike pets, homeless dogs have a very thin layer of body hair as they are barely taken care of making them vulnerable to the chilly and sharp winter winds. They are impelled to find a shadowy and warm shelter such as beneath trees, cars and using rejected clothes to cover themselves.
Feral cats do not possess such attributes of living in groups and territories. Instead, they tend to live alone in known areas and spend most of the time staying away from the human population. They rest on the branches, gardens, empty buildings and rooftops. Stray cats are scared of humans and do not desire any kind of contact with them. They stay at abandoned places to be safe from predators and attackers. Cats have a body adaptable to freezing winters as well as boiling summers.
Many people are scared of stray animals. They think that these animals are wild and untrained and attack humans for they do not have a well-versed behavior. Cynophobia is the fear of a stray dog bite or attack. The same thing goes for the animals as well. Dogs also sense a fear towards humans. They have the fear of attacking, killing and torturing by people. This is why they attack humans in the thought of self-defense.
Seeing a stray animal die is a wretched feeling. The average lifespan of a dog is around 10-15 years. The pets have a higher life expectancy than the street dogs. Most of the stray animals die much earlier than their natural lifespan. They do not die of old age but because of infection, disease, starvation and devouring poisonous food. Shockingly, many people deliberately give poisonous food or shoot the stray dogs and cats to fetch some bucks.
The lives of stray animals are full of hardships. They face hurdles in different forms at every step. India has been growing in every aspect be it infrastructure, education, industry, health or business. So is growing the population of street animals. Although the distress of strays is increasing day by day, it cannot be denied that the adoptions of homeless and helpless street dogs and cats are also mushrooming.
The sufferings of stray animals are not limited. They are mercilessly slaughtered, transported, tortured and left starving leading to their death. These miseries are discussed in detail in the coming blogs.