Demand for pets, number of strays spike due to COVID-19

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‘People resort to compensation when deprived’

KUWAIT CITY, June 13: At a time when the COVID- 19 pandemic changed the usual lifestyle and imposed compulsory or optional isolation to prevent its spread, the situation generated a new trend of acquiring pets such that the demand for pets in the market has doubled, reports Al-Qabas daily. Various psychologists have described this trend as a “kind of psychological compensation” due to the repercussions of the COVID- 19 pandemic. They indicated that the curfew and the long hours spent at home led a large segment of Kuwaiti society to resort to buying pets in order to spend their time caring for them and for entertainment.

One of the scenes in a pet shop in Kuwait

The daily toured the pet stores in several areas, and discovered that the sales of cats, dogs and birds in the various outlets of the pet market increased by up to 200 percent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pet shop owners affirmed that the volume of sales has increased significantly compared to what it was during the previous years, because of the partial and total curfew imposed in the country, the frequent closures, and the lack of places to go for entertainment, all of which doubled the demand for pets. They highlighted that the increase in the percentage of sales of pets and their breeding is one of the reasons for opening the door to importing dogs and cats from abroad, especially pampered species such as Shirazi cats that are much desired and available at various prices to meet the customers’ desires. An increase was noted in the licenses of commercial activities for incubating these types of animals or training them and providing them with special services.

According to the accounts of sellers in pet stores, most popular sales were for small dogs that are between 3 to 5 months old. In second place are cats, followed by birds. Many Kuwaiti families acquire pampered cats, and girls are more attached to them. One of the owners of pet shops said, “Due to the high volume of demand for purchase and the lack of supply, prices of pets have increased. The prices of some types of dogs and cats reached KD 1,000, while the unknown or unpopular types of pets are less expensive”. From a psychological perspective, the psychological consultant Zahra Al- Mousawi explained that the high rate of demand for the acquisition of dogs or cats is a new phenomena in Kuwaiti society. It is considered as compensation for human feelings, such as embracing people or being unable to meet with family and friends. Many individuals felt lonely in light of the repeated closures and the total and partial curfews.

People resort to compensation when deprived. There are studies all over the world that have shown the seriousness of the curfews and their negative effects on mental health. She indicated that the purchase of pets for children by parents is aimed for entertainment and pleasure, given that all entertainment facilities have been closed, in addition to schools. Al-Mousawi stressed that the closure of entertainment centers for children and restaurants, and the lack of travel contributed to the desire to have pets at home. She explained that the total and partial curfews in the country extended for nearly a year. They contributed to an increase in the number of depression- related cases, and also caused the spread of various types of obsessive compulsive disorder and cases of panic disorder and anxiety. These symptoms increased during the total curfew in addition to the effect of rumors in increasing tension and impacting the psychological state negatively.

On the other hand, the phenomenon of dumping pets on the street has increased, as confirmed by Noura Al- Haddad, an animal rights activist and founder of “Nadia’s Shelter in Kuwait” for the care of stray pets. She said, “Many people dump animals on the streets in different areas to get rid of them for several reasons. We are trying to educate the public and doing what we can to save the animals left on the streets, especially dogs, by taking care of their health and providing the necessary vaccinations and care they need. It is important for individuals to understand that an animal has the right to live in peace without being left on the street and being abandoned or poisoned to die. Most of the stray cats and dogs we find have been abandoned by their owners who lack experience in raising them. Some people sell stray animals in the market in light of the non-implementation of local laws and regulations regarding the possession of animals

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