Breaking news from Wuhan Pet Life Online tells the story of a hero and his team in the corona-infected Chinese city who is literally breaking into homes to help the pets struggling to survive inside their homes due to the mandatory quarantine.
“Old Cat,” as he’s known to his friends, Lao Mao (AKA Shuai Lihua) along with his six-strong animal rescue squad have saved more than 2,000 household pets (almost all cats) from starvation after their owners were put into hospital for treatment or not able to return to the city to reach them due to quarantine.
Old Cat, 43, runs the online pet community Wuhan Pet Life. He’s a vet who’s doing all he can to help what he estimates are 20,000 pets who were left without care in the city of 11 million when the quarantine was imposed on January 23. Business Insider says there could be 50,000. Pet owners didn’t have the opportunity to make plans to help their animals. Many were in other areas when the city was locked down.
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According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald,
In the past few days my line was always busy. Each day I received hundreds of requests and had to visit 20 to 30 households. When I went there to fill food and water for the cat, it stuck very close to me. It drank water for more than 10 seconds when usually cats just drink for two to three seconds.
Ninety-nine percent of the pets saved by the team were cats, 0.5 percent were dogs and the remainder were rabbits and hamsters. They’ve dealt with climbing rusty pipes and even breaking out windows to gain access to a home. Others have delivered keys or given access codes to their locks to gain entry.
In the beginning when the calls first started coming in, Lao Mao would take the pets to his home but soon ran out of space. Now food and water are being left for one month and a member of the team is periodically checking on the pets.
Yang Ying, 50, is an officer in Wuhan’s urban management team. She has four cats of her own and is contributing to the rescue efforts by checking in every few days on two cat households. She considers those cats ‘temporarily adopted felines of perfect strangers’.
While she’s scared, Yang realizes the cats would starve if she didn’t check on them. One home is 20 minutes away on foot and the other an hour and she doesn’t want to risk using the city’s bike system due to infection risks. Owners have entrusted their keys to her and she’s being responsible and repaying that trust, she said.
When I arrived at first it was a mess. Things were all over the place and bowls for water were turned over. They were hiding when I entered so I could not see them. Honestly, it is tiring. Of course I’m afraid. But if I dare to leave my house for work, I can leave my house for this as well. I see them as my own kittens, and treat this as a serious task.
We should all be grateful of their desire to help these animals. Time is spent with the cats so they’re not alone any more than necessary. In Yang’s case, she cleans the litter boxes with each visit. Should the coronavirus continue to spread, I hope animal advocates can band together to help care for any pets caught up in the quarantine nightmare (and outcome) their owners may face.
Some of the homes Wuhan Pet Life has entered contained cats who had already died, either from starvation or from difficult labor in having kittens. Thanks to their efforts, many lives have been saved. I only hope they have a backup plan in case the owner can never return.