(Warning: If you are bothered by bad things happening to animals, don’t read this post.  I’ve written it to get things off my chest and maybe to get some advice).

I was walking to the office this morning, and I saw a dog viciously attacking (and perhaps eating) a cat.  What’s worse, though, is the people who were just standing there and watching.  One of the hardest things for many foreigners in Georgia is seeing the street animals here.  Many people are poor, but they are usually more visibly “OK” than the animals.  There are lots of street dogs and cats, and the idea of helping them is still fairly new (and to be fair, there are lots of other worthy causes in need of funds).  (Props to Dog Organization of Georgia, who I’ve helped sew some blankets for, who are at the forefront of helping animals in Georgia).  Even domestic animals inhabit a different space in Georgian culture than in American–for the most part, pets work for their keep: controlling pests and deterring invaders, not just being cute and companionable. In the scene I witnessed this morning, the animals weren’t exactly feral–the onlookers seemed to be the dog’s keepers (it listened to their commands, at least), and the cat was at least looked after by someone in the neighborhood–another recent morning I saw it with a bandage made of tape on its tail.  When I realized what I was seeing, I screamed (I couldn’t very well jump off the ~10 foot wall to save the kitty, and my wariness of dogs stopped me from intervening physically.  In my shock, I couldn’t remember a single useful word of Georgian).  Hearing me scream, the dog’s keepers said to it “OK. Stop. That’s enough” but I fear it was too late for the poor kitty.  This is made worse by the fact that I’m a cat person–there are some dogs I absolutely love, but I’ve rarely met a cat I didn’t like.  Many dogs scare me (and this one wasn’t doing anything for their reputation).  I know rationally that it’s the circle of life and the street animals have to kill in order to eat  (and many who have people are only provided with bread), and that dogs and cats are “natural enemies” but this situation was too much for me. I had a cup of tea when I arrived at the office, and pulled it together because I had to teach (and that’s what you do when you teach), but I’m still quite disturbed by what I saw.

So, what can I do?  It’s probably too late for this kitty, but there are many others in the city.  Much as I would love to become the crazy cat lady of Tbilisi, my housing and financial situation don’t allow me to do that.  There are spay and neuter programs and a very small number of animal shelters, but they can’t begin to meet the demand.  Vet services are expensive, and finding people to adopt pets from the street is difficult.  Screaming at dogs helps in the short term (sometimes), but is hardly a sustainable solution.

As a reward for reading this sad post, I leave you with a cute kitty picture.  These are my old host family’s kittens.  To the best of my knowledge, they are happy and healthy in the courtyard back in Kakheti.