By ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: Many pet owners find it impossible to distance themselves from their “fur babies” in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as advised by the Health Ministry, but they are diligently keeping their pets clean and vaccinated.
Esther Koh picked up stray cats, Lulu more than a year ago and Lucy a few months after that, and has been devoted to taking care of them.
When she found out that Nadia, the four-year-old female Malayan Tiger had tested positive for Covid-19 in the United States, she now fears for the fate of Lulu and Lucy.
“I was shocked to learn about Nadia, the Malayan Tiger. No doubt, my two dear cats were the first that came to mind.
“If it were to happen to them, I just couldn’t imagine having to see them in pain or eventually having to let them go… They are most precious to me,” she said when speaking to Borneo Today on Tuesday.
Besides ensuring her own personal hygiene, she also makes sure that both of her spayed cats stay clean.
The 31-year-old PADI dive instructor bathes her cats regularly and give them a liquid supplement to help strengthen their immune system so that the pets don’t fall ill easily.
“After reading about the first known case of a human infecting an animal with Covid-19, I now put my focus on their surrounding cleanliness, such as making sure to rinse and clean their plates at all times after feeding them.
“Since my cats have been trained to do their business in the toilet and not in a litter sandbox, I make sure to scrub the toilet floors with detergent every hour,” she added.
Esther said she would never cage her “fur babies” or do anything that keeps them out of her reach, thus she is committed to practising good hygiene before and after coming into contact with them.
“Lulu and Lucy are happy indoor cats as they are free to roam around my house and go wherever they like, including my bed,” she added.
As an animal lover, she expressed her worry for the stray cats and dogs that are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
“Maybe this is a lot to ask, but perhaps the government or any relevant authorities can run tests on strays or the animals in shelters, or provide them with an immune system booster.
“But I believe the health authorities, including the Veterinary Services Department, are doing the best they can for our country. Let’s just hope that things get better sooner than we think,” she said.
Theodora Uzaraga has three Chihuahuas and is of the opinion that while it is possible for animals to contract the virus, it would not affect them as bad as it does on humans.
Nonetheless, she said the matter must be taken very seriously and that she goes to great lengths to safeguard her dogs Bianco, Bubbles, and Mochi.
“I know pet owners are asked to minimise contact with their pets but putting them in cages, especially for a very long time, is a big no-no,” she said, adding that she has heard people suggesting pets be kept in cages to minimise contact.
“Animals will become stressed and unhealthy, not to mention aggressive, if they are put in cages or somewhere far from their owners to be isolated.
“I believe that as long as pet owners practise personal hygiene and ensure their pets are always clean, it will keep them safe,” she added.
She also proposed pet owners to let their pets run free somewhere around the backyard as to keep them happy which she believes plays an important role in keeping them healthy.
“If it is a toy dog, make sure to have them cleaned regularly when they are in the house,” the 25-year-old advised.
Theodora who works as a sales representative also mentioned that spending time with pets can help her destress.
“I believe animals, when shown affection, will feel stress-free, which also keeps them happy. That is why I personally don’t think keeping distance from them would help so much,” she noted.
Just like Esther, Theodora also shares her concern about stray animals that are at risk of the virus.
“It worries me that if any of the strays are infected, they will be left to die or not even cared for.
“As an animal lover, I believe that stray dogs should be taken care properly and the veterinary authorities must do something to identify whether this virus can be recovered using solutions that have been tested on humans,” she said.
It comes as no surprise to Noor Zafira Shafie that animals reportedly have the potential of getting infected with the coronavirus.
She said pet owners must obtain up-to-date and useful information to safeguard their pets, besides practising good hygiene as advised by the government.
She believes that her cat Kubo is at its best health and can fight off Covid-19 since she has always ensured her four-year-old cat gets vaccinated and has regular medical check-ups.
“I also bathe my cat every two weeks and regularly clip its nails and clean its ears. Cats’ nails and ears are sensitive and because Kubo is an indoor cat, its hygiene is my priority,” she said.
“To keep me and Kubo safe, home cleanliness is very important. Therefore, I sweep and mop the floor on a daily basis.
“The sand in my cat’s litter box is changed every week,” she added.
Noor Zafira also called on animal lovers to help strays fight off the virus by getting them vaccinated, if they can afford it.
“Give them food or provide them with shelter. I believe that every life, be it animals or humans, is precious.
“The government can also work with animal lovers to provide vaccination and sterilisation. When the number of strays become out of control, they are at risk of diseases that may be transmitted to humans,” she said.