Blowing Up the Malthusians
Yesterday Sunday, March 13 our pet family expanded when our pregnant dog Daisy gave birth to seven puppies under our bed. I have no idea what to do with these guys, so if there's anyone out there in Phuket who is looking to adopt a puppy, spread the word. I'm assuming they are a bit too young now (as I Google how old do puppies have to be to leave mom). Okay in six to eight weeks I guess they'll be old enough. I've never had a pregnant dog so this is a new experience for me.
The Covid shutdowns in Thailand have allowed a natural expiriment of sorts to take place here. Animal rescue charities that at one point came into local neighborhoods and spayed dogs and cats for free got shut down with everything else. We wanted to get Daisy fixed in October when she was 5 months old. Soi Dog Maikhao was closed for non emergency things at the time. By around New Year's Day some boy dogs were taking an interest in Daisy, much to the consternation of Cooper, our male fixed dog. So here we are.
I tend to take a light touch regarding pets and basic veterinary services. I’ve long avoided adopting animals from animal shelters, for example, because I think they are overvaccinated and that among friends who do adopt, I notice a significantly shorter lifespan in their pets. Is it the microchips or all of the shots? Who can say. I notice cats and dogs prior to 10 years of age developing feline leukemia and strange tumors and having to be put down. I’m generally okay with rabies shots, for example, though why small exitable Chihuahuas get the same dose as Pitbulls remains a mystery to me. I'm okay with spaying too, though I’m willing to give a pet a free spot the first time.
I've basically become my own animal charity at this point. It started when our neighbor died in December of 2020. Her husband had died just four months beforehand. The family, believing the house to be haunted, vacated everything. They left a mama cat with three tiny kittens out front and never bothered taking her three or four chickens either. My daughter had just adopted a kitten, so the timing was bad. Once I began feeding the kittens, some semi-feral cats in the area began showing up at mealtime too. Then a dog followed us home. Then a neighbor handed my daughter a puppy. Then a friend gave us a Moscovey duck for some reason.
One might assume that with this huge unaltered brood the animal population in our area would explode exponentially. Nothing of the sort has happened. Feisty, the female kitten we adopted right before we got gifted a mama cat with three babies, is about 18 months old. She appears to be infertile as I have never once seen her go into heat. A semi feral calico my daughter named Random Kitty looked to be about six months old when she began coming to the feeding plate in December of 2020. The cat would therefore be about two years old now.
I've seen Random Kitty pregnant once in that time. In December of 2021 I noticed that she had milk and proceeded to look for her kittens. I found them inside the abandoned neighbor's house after a rainstorm. There were three about two week old kittens, all emaciated. Random was not nursing her babies well. I tried to give them a dropper of regular cow's milk and then put them back. Random Kitty proceeded to move her kittens into hiding again. By the time I found them under a satellite dish five days later, one had already succumbed to milk insufficiency. I tried to dropper feed the remaining two but one was too sick and died the next day. The other hung on for a few more days before dying at about three weeks old. If I'd had access to feeding tubes and kitten formula from the start I could have probably saved them. It was not meant to be.
Mama has been the best mother cat, but even her reproduction rate is far below apocalyptic warnings from animal shelters. She had the three young kittens in December of 2020. We gifted two of them to a friend and kept Sprout, the boy. In August of 2021 Mama had a second litter, also of three kittens. One developed a respiratory infection and died at about five weeks old. We gifted one to another friend and kept the last one, a male cat named Aqua. Mama had one other litter born around Christmas day. This time sadly two of the three were mauled by a roaming tomcat, leaving Titan as the sole survivor.
So among three unaltered young adult female cats in the past 15 months, we've had a whopping three kittens born that survived. The exponential growth model is starting to look like it came out of Neil Ferguson's London Imperial College.
Our chicken population has likewise grown slowly, though we are up to about 20 now. A respiratory illness I believe it was Marek's disease killed off a fair number of chicks late in the rainy season, though the adults mostly survived. We inexplicably had three brood hens in a row that only had one surviving chick. This coincided with the rollout of 5G in our area. The last two have hatched normal numbers (5 and 6 chicks, respectively) so perhaps it was coincidental. Or perhaps the organism adapts.
It appears to be puppy season though. Instead of worrying about apocalyptic predictions of doom, I'm going to refer to the far more accurate Bible. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (my birthday huh): For everything there is a season. A time for activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to reap and a time to sow.