Coming from a country where dogs and cats are loved fairly equally, if by a different segment of the population, the concern given to animals here is very striking. Dogs are clearly king as far as pet animals are concerned, probably because they are large and can help protect a house. So mostly golden haired dogs of one type or other, whether local or farang (Western), laze about on the street or try to escape their master’s gates so that they may roam among the village, plumb and beloved.
Life is not the same for the cats of this area. The cats are small and skinny, scrawny even, with a piercing cry like a baby’s, a habit of climbing along the top of walls and roofs, scrounging for food but finding no permanent shelter. It seems like just about every cat here is a feral alleycat, though it seems a bit odd to think of alleycats in a village. What is it that makes the one animal loved and the other animal unloved by a large population of people? A decision like that must be made on the thought that the protective abilities and affectionate nature of dogs are more important than the mousing abilities of cats, for it must be said that the cats here do not appear of an affectionate nature, but rather slink away from human contact, as if they are aware they are unwanted and thieving scavengers and do not need to be told.
Even the chickens here are relatively loved, somewhat open-range types, that are plumper and larger than the cats that can be seen. Now, I must say that I definitely love chickens as far as animals go—for food—and I presume that is the reason they are cared for here in the village as well. They are the only food animal I have yet to see in large amounts, though I would not be surprised if in back pastures there were water buffalo. I have not seen any sheep or goats, though, and the Thai diet at large (though not among the Thais I am around) suggests that there are pigs as well being taken care of somewhere within the villages of this country, but I have not seen them yet either. Having come from a fairly agricultural family, farming is a subject that is at least of some personal interest, despite my own disinclination as a young person for ‘buffalo work’ when I was growing up.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to ponder just how animals are loved or unloved in large part based to their usefulness to others. I do not see here much sentimental love for animals such as one finds in a large quantity in the West, but rather people love their animals or care for them for utilitarian means, based on what the animals can provide. Those animals who can be grown and kept to sell at a profit, or who can protect one’s property from thieves will be cared for, and those animals who cannot will themselves become scavengers and thieves of opportunity, living among the shadows in a world that cares little for them. Such is the fate of the Siamese village cat.