By Laura Rainbow
In a rare piece of good news for Qatar’s thousands of stray cats and dogs, a surge in pet foster families has been reported by one of the country’s animal welfare organisations.
When COVID-19 sunk its teeth into Qatar in March, many residents were put on unpaid leave or made redundant, some forced to return to their home countries. With that exodus came a spike in abandoned pets.
The country’s already-busy animal welfare groups were soon overwhelmed with reports of stray cats and dogs in distress. Many pets had simply been shown the door and left to fend for themselves.
But a glimmer of hope began to emerge as scores of new foster carers reached out to groups like PAWS Rescue, volunteering their homes — and hearts — to animals in need.
Explains Alison Caldwell, co-founder of PAWS: “On top of the additional animals in need, social distancing rules meant we had to try to run our shelter with no volunteers and no fundraising events. And with many flights disrupted, we had no flight buddies to accompany animals abroad for permanent rehoming.
“Then suddenly, in late March, we started getting a lot of calls from people — especially teachers — whose spring holiday plans had been cancelled, and who now had time on their hands to foster an animal. They would tell their friends, and it sort of snowballed.
“Now, I reckon we’ve got more than double the animals in foster homes than usual. It’s been absolutely amazing to see the community pulling together and realising they can do something to help in this crisis.”
So what does fostering involve?
Fosterers take in a stray cat or dog promising to safeguard its health and happiness until a permanent home can be found. They must provide food, love and socialisation — the basic skill of living in a house with people. That gives the animal a better chance of becoming an adoptable pet and finding a forever home.
Adds Alison: “The feedback we’ve had from our new foster families has been totally heart-warming.
“If you’re locked down, lonely and isolated, a pet is suddenly a huge comfort. It’s something to curl up on the sofa with — something to give you motivation and purpose.”
Have you fostered or re-homed a pet under lockdown? Share your photos and stories with us, [email protected]