Todd & Walter

Whilst walking to our usual place for dinner one night we heard distressed little meows coming from the side of the road. One kitten fumbled out onto the road into oncoming traffic, obviously unaware of what he was doing. Luckily, the van missed him by a few inches. We rushed over, moving them as far as we could away from the road, but not too far, just I case the mother had gone for a wander. Sure that their mother would be back to lull their hungry meows, we continued onto dinner and then back to our accommodation for the night. 

Again, the next morning we continued on our usual route to our breakfast spot. We didn't see the kittens on our way to breakfast. On the way back though, we heard tiny little meows coming from the gutter next to the road. Curled up in the rubbish, laying next to a thorn bush were the two little kittens. We looked around for their mother, fumbling around trying to keep hem from jumping onto the road again. Fascinated what all the fuss was about locals came over, informing us that the kittens had no mother. Language barriers hindered any attempt to get any more information to if they were dumped or abandoned. The temperature was already high 20s at 9am, and if we left them in the gutter they would have succumbed to rising heat, especially considering we didn't know when they were last fed.
Deciding that no sane person would leave two living creatures to die, we took them back to our hotel in the cool and deliberated what we would do with them. 

"We'll just take them to the vet. They'll be able to stay there". We jumped into a tuk tuk and we were driven to a local vet, we were greeted with disappointment. Vets in Sri Lanka don't house animals, they simply treat them and send them back home. That's ok. We'll take them to the shelter that will be in town. We asked where the shelter was located. Surely there has to be an animal shelter. There are no shelters in this part of the country. No shelters? That's impossible. There has to be shelters. 
We went back and researched. The only shelter we could find was down south. Way down south. Approximately .....kms down south of where we were. 
We scrolled through through their website. Animal SOS Sri Lanka is a UK base charity that aims to "offer a safe haven for destitute and vulnerable street animals". Already inundated with strays, their shelter was already overflowing, but the Vet was right; there are no shelters on this side of the country.
What could we do? 
"We can take the train and bus to the shelter". You cannot take animals on the bus or train. 
Taking a private car was out of the question as it was just far too expensive and we are on a backpacking budget. 
That left us with one option. Look after them ourselves. 
We researched all we could on looking after abandoned kittens. Judging by their physical development they were between 2-3 weeks old and still needed to be fed every few hours and still needed help with learning to go to the bathroom. So, quickly enough we turned into cat parents. 

Every few hours we would return from the beach to feed them and teach them to go to the bathroom. We watched them as they played with each other. We played with them. We cleaned them. 

In countries like Sri Lanka, strays are kind of just there. Animal welfare is simply not a top priority here. The streets are laced with stray dogs and cats. Some are injured, some have mutilated limbs that they drag across the ground, skin conditions, parts of flesh missing, infections and are they are widely malnourished. They become somewhat background noise. Some, like the kittens, were abandoned. We were informed that quite often people's dogs or cats will end up impregnated, due to the owner not spaying them, and they don't want to have the burden of a litter of puppies or kittens, that they take them and abandon them on the streets a couple of kilometres away - essentially leaving them to die. Or, the litter will be taken to the ocean and thrown into the water to drown.
It's one of the most confronting things about travelling Asia. Back home in Australia, if you see an animal in pain or fear, you help it. You take it to the vet, the shelter or return it to its owner. Everyone is affected by the suffering of an animal back home. Last year my dogs escaped from my backyard and I posted on Facebook in an effort for their return. The post was shared hundreds of times by people in the community. I received messages, phone calls, texts all from strangers wishing me luck in finding them and checking in. They were returned and safe, and it was all with the effort of the community. But here, you ignore it. Everyone is aware of these animals in pain and fear, but it is ignored.
  Sri Lanka doesn't have strategies or resources implemented to help out of animal friends and it is heartbreaking to see. All these animals have a right to a happy and healthy life, but many die on the streets because there are no facilities. 

Our time in Sri Lanka was quickly coming to an end, we were spending our days feeding the kittens and worrying about what we were supposed to do with them. We were frustrated that facilities were not available for them. When we were feeding the kittens one afternoon, the daughter of the owner of the hotel we were staying in came to say hello and fell in love with the kittens, and so very luckily offered to give them a home. So, we named them Todd and Walter. We plan to Skype with them every couple of Sunday's to see how they are going and watch them grow. Todd and Walter are very lucky. They are lucky that someone noticed their suffering, and that people cared. 

SOS Sri Lanka are doing a wonderful job down south. They're already overflowing with animals, and to keep their programs going they need money to end the suffering. SOS offer great programs and are making a huge difference with the animals they are able to rescue. They administer rabies shots, desex animals, flea and mange treatments, vaccinations, and they educate. They even offer hydrotherapy for the many disabled dogs that they house. 
But being inundated with animals, money is desperately needed. 

The work they are doing cannot continue without the contributions of compassionate people. You can help out by directly donating to the organisation, or if you're ever in Sri Lanka you can donate your time. 

Check out their Facebook page: Animal SOS Sri Lanka to find out more about what they do! 





Budget travel advice from the lousiest beatniks that wander on this land.