Karma and the treatment of cats and dogs (Philippines)

Desiree Carlos, an author and an animal advocate living and working in the Philippines, has written an interesting and useful article for the Manila Standard website. It’s about karma, dogs and cats. In the Philippines there appears to be quite a high number of stray cats and dogs. And Desiree was taught by her grandmother to avoid them if they are on the street and she is driving a vehicle. And she was taught not to throw boiling water over them 😒. Clearly, some people in the Philippines do throw hot or boiling water at stray cats and dogs to get rid of them.

Manila community cat
Manila community cat. Photo: Manila City Scanner 003.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There is obviously a section of Philippine citizens who abuse stray cats and dogs which is entirely to be expected as the same thing happens in the West too. Although, it is bad behaviour because it is the citizens of the Philippines who put those animals there in the first place through careless cat and dog ownership. To abuse them compounds their failings.

It is believed that if you deliberately drive your tricycle or other vehicle into a cat or dog on the street you will receive bad karma. However, if you do it inadvertently, you won’t receive bad karma.

The basic karma rule with respect to dogs and cats on the street is to avoid them and stop and wait for the animal to pass. In this way you avoid a misfortune later under the principles of karma.

Desiree Carlos was taught that you reap what you sow which is another version of karma. And you are rewarded when you do good and you receive bad consequences when you do bad.

Most people know about these ideas and understand that if you do a bad thing, there could be bad consequences and conversely if you do a good thing there might be good consequences. It doesn’t always apply of course because this is not hard science.

Specific good deeds or generally good behavior

However, I think an important point to make is that you don’t necessarily receive good consequences directly from an individual good deed.

Community cats of Manila instinctively occupy Covid social distancing circles as it reassures them - it is the box principle.
Community cats of Manila instinctively occupy Covid social distancing circles as it reassures them – it is the box principle: cats like to be in boxes for security and they get the same benefit from a ‘virtual box’ namely a circle or square marked out on the ground or floor. Photo in the public domain.

What happens is this. If you are the sort of person who always stops to let a cat or dog pass on the street and if you are the sort of person who does good deeds most of the time, you are also the sort of person who gets involved with the better aspects of life. You will tend to have good friends; people who are positive who help you as you help them.

You are the sort of person who generates a network of people who help each other. And in doing good deeds you attract nice people to you. This improves your life. This is karma in action in a general sense and not from a specific, single good deed.

As I understand karma, and as Desiree Carlos describes it, karma acts on a good person doing good deeds throughout their life because they have a positive attitude towards life. A positive attitude towards life is far more likely to attract good things in one’s life.

However, there is no guarantee that a person doing good deeds will attract good karma. There will be bad moments and there will be bad and distressing events in the life of a person who is doing good deeds. But this is not bad karma. This is just bad luck or the natural course of life which includes unhappy and bad events.

Karma works over a long period but can also work on an individual basis

I think the key point is that karma normally works over a long period in a general sense rather than on a specific basis. However, it may work on a specific basis. For example, if you are living in the Philippines, in Manila, the capital, and a cat wanders across the road while you are in a tricycle or a jeepney and you stop and let the cat pass, you have done a good deed for another sentient being. That makes you feel good. It imbues you with a clear conscience and a feeling that you have contributed to animal welfare.

That feeling makes you feel happier. Your clear conscience makes you feel happier. If you feel happier you have a better life. That is positive karma on an individual event basis.

Conversely, if you run over the cat deliberately because you hate cats and you are in a bad mood, it will make you feel even worse. It will help to keep you in that bad mood and in an unhappy state of mind. It is probably fair to say that, in general, people who deliberately run over cats in Manila, Philippines, are going to be people who are unhappy and fed up. They might be angry and they want to harm or attack something because they feel attacked themselves by life’s vicissitudes. They might be in mental turmoil.

Virtuous cycle

The argument is that they are constantly attracting bad karma. It is a negative cycle whereas good karma is a positive cycle of events. What I mean is if you do good and avoid that cat you feel better and if you feel better you want to do more positive things. This is a virtuous cycle. And the opposite happens as described. I believe that this is how good and bad karma works.


People who believe in rebirth and a second life, such as Buddhists, also believe that karma works in that second life. If you do good in your life you will have a good rebirth and a good second life. This does not, it seems to me, apply to the Philippines because Christianity is by far the most predominant religion at about 92% of the citizens and Buddhism as a minority religion with about 45,000 Buddhists in the Philippines. In which case, if a Filipino believes in good and bad karma, they believe that it will take effect in their current life either immediately or generally going forward.

I have focused on the Philippines and cats and dogs but of course karma applies anywhere under all circumstances.

P.S. Desiree Carlos writes excellent English which is impressive as it is her second language as I understand it.

There are some more articles on karma in relation to animals below – please scroll down.

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