Their love is unconditional | Sunday Observer

Their love is unconditional

9 July, 2022

The smallest feline is a masterpiece, said one of the most fascinating characters in the history of Western art, Leonardo da Vinci centuries ago!

According to Austrian zoologist and Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz, there is no faith which has never yet been broken, except that of a truly faithful dog.

But French poet, journalist, and novelist Anatole France’s words pretty much sum up everything that needs to be said ; Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened!!!

Be it a cat, dog, calf, hen, horse, tortoise, rabbit, a bird who visits your garden or even a tiny guinea pig, a pet is a pet, a bundle of love, warmth and joy! Never call a caged bird, a kennelled dog or an innocent soul kept in captivity simply for your pleasure, a pet. Call them prisoners instead - prisoners who serve a sentence for your sins, not theirs.

If you are never happier than when looking into your pet’s love-filled eyes or walking with her in the garden or watching her peacefully while she takes a nap on the edge of your bed, you are my audience!!!. And today’s Spectrum cover is dedicated to you!!

Precious moments

Pet lovers relish every moment spent with their pets and the countless comments made by them bear testimony to their great love for their feline friends. When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit the globe barely two years ago, causing a global health and economic crisis unprecedented in scale and impact, all of us across the globe were left with no option, but to remain confined to our homes. Global statistics revealed a rapid increase in domestic abuse cases and depression rates among the youth as well as the elderly since social isolation and quarantine measures came into force.

During the dark and bleak days when the entire world was grappling with surging Covid-19 cases and deaths with no vaccine at hand to combat the deadly virus, people under lockdown started trying their hand at new things to manage stress, anxiety and boredom. Some thought of spending quality time on reading while others turned to gardening or indoor exercises.

And the rest? They never felt bored, they never felt miserable, they never felt depressed. And they have always been the happiest.

And the reason? Their own feline friends, or even their neighbour’ s ones and the birds or squirrels that visit their garden!

Research has repeatedly proved that the companionship offered by pets is a great way to reduce stress, boredom and anxiety.

According to a study conducted by the University of York and the University of Lincoln [during the lockdown period (March 23 - June 1, 2020) “having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness. Around 90 percent of the 6,000 participants who were from the UK had at least one pet. The strength of the human-animal bond did not differ significantly between species with the most common pets being cats and dogs followed by small mammals and fish. “


The benefits of pet therapy for Alzheimer’s patients have also been widely discussed.

Just two weeks ago a new American Heart Association (AHA) survey of 1,000 pet owners found 95 percent relying on their animal companions for stress relief.

“About 7 in 10 said they’d rather spend time with their pet than watch television, and nearly half (47 percent) said their pets helped them be more active. Many pet owners have found emotional support from their pets, and science backs up the physical and mental health benefits to pet companionship,” said Dr. Glenn Levine, chief of cardiology at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and lead author of the AHA’s scientific statement on pet ownership and heart disease risk,” states the report.

Better care of pets

As per this study about 69 percent of pet owners have said “ they take better care of their pets than themselves. About 70 percent of those who are employed have said they would be happier and more productive if their pet could join them on the job, either on-site or while working remotely. Owners under 40 were more likely to say they’d find value in working with their pets.”

Talking to the Sunday Observer, Director of Animal Assistance Programs, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA Asia), Ashley Fruno said studies show that sharing your home and life with an animal companion can improve your health, and anyone who’s considered it carefully and is ready to make the lifelong commitment to caring for an animal, it’s really important for them to adopt from a shelter or rescue groups, where right now, across the country, there are hundreds of animals sitting and waiting for their forever home.

“The massive pet overpopulation problem and animals languishing on the streets is not going to change until we stop these animals from producing litter after litter, and stop breeders from intentionally bringing more animals into a world where there aren’t enough homes for those who are already here. But the good news is that overpopulation and homelessness of dogs and cats is 100 percent preventable through spaying and neutering and adopting animals from shelters and rescue groups," she added.

Local views

Attorney-at-law, animal welfare advocate and member, government-appointed Animal Welfare Steering Committee, Lalani Perera shared with us about her days spent with her bunch of pets.

“We have three dogs and eleven cats rescued over the years when they were tiny. They are adults now and have been with our family for several years. We do not have any organisation that is all our personal efforts where my daughter and son-in-law devote a lot of time. To share a few names, we have Tommy, Caramel and Shaggy who is my granddaughter’s favorite. Names which have been selected with much care for personal reasons,” she said.

“According to research, having pets and petting animals is a great “ stress - buster”; lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease, the companionship one gets from a pet is recognised as a major contribution to addressing loneliness and mental problems. I find that after a long hard day’s work being with a pet definitely helps me immensely to relax. Their love is unconditional, “ she added.

Most people prefer pedigree animals because they are considered “status-symbols”. But the way they are bred for sale in so-called pet shops is appalling and cruel- exposed to the burning sun and pelting rain; sometimes without food or water on holidays. If the demand for pedigree animals reduces this cruelty will naturally reduce.

It is always better to care for a homeless stray animal (We call them community animals) and give it a loving family- there are so many stray dogs and cats around us, especially today, when people are abandoning their pets due to the uncertain situation and lack of resources.

“Another significant development is the Animal Welfare Bill. This bill is now before Parliament awaiting debate. This is a bill which a group of us has through a court case been able to bring to the attention of the government, with support from several other animal welfare groups,” she added.

The Animal Welfare bill has a special chapter on pet shops, Perera said. “ It regulates the manner in which pet shops should be kept, so there is no cruelty or exploitation of the animals who are displayed for sale. “

Obedient household help

Well-known journalist and award-winning novelist Aditha Dissanayake also shared her pet story with the Sunday Observer.

“I have seven cats. Mama pussy, (Podi’s mother, Sudu and Bobby’s grandma and Pulun’s Great Grandma), Podi, Sudu, Natty (Sudu’s wife), Bobby (we are seeking a suitable bride for him :) Pulun (Sudu and Natty’s daughter) and Ginger (Mama’s cousin).”

“Every morning when I come downstairs, the first ‘person’ I see is Podi Manike curled up into a ball on the sofa. When she hears me she opens one eye and closes it again as if to say I’m nuts to wake up so early. But when I go into the kitchen she follows me and I talk to her about my day, by this time mama, who sleeps with my parents, also comes to the kitchen. They wait under the cupboard where we keep the cat food bottle until my father wakes up and gives some.

During the day, Podi often walks on my keyboard trying to get my attention, Bobby sits on my lap and reads what I type. Sudu when he gets to sit on my lap while I’m working simply falls asleep without bothering to read my work on the screen. Pulun who is the youngest, won’t let me work and tries to play with my fingers as I type. Altogether getting any work done with them is not easy but I would not have it any other way. They are my staff and one of my goals in life is to increase my staff to ten,” she added.

Dissanayake agrees that pets are super stress busters.” I talk with my cats all the time, our conversations go like this Bobby, today I have to talk about you and the others for an article. I wonder what I should say. Do you think I should tell them about your night job? How you go to work at night and come home at six and sleep the whole day? And Bobby would go grrrr grrrr grrr inside his throat to say ‘sure, you can tell them that’ then he will cover his face with one hand and fall asleep,” she said.

“ Not only pets, I think the other animals around us are good companies too. The squirrels, the woodpeckers, the monitor! Just watching them for a while cheers you up. Also cats are good at bursting your ego. Come home with a success story to share with them and they will only be interested in reminding you they are waiting for dinner.

They are good at preventing us from being too proud of our achievements because after all, no matter how many literary awards we win we are their obedient household help. It works the other way around too.

When we are disappointed or feel we are losers cats still treat us in the same way they have always treated us. And that’s comforting: to know that they don’t mind if we failed an exam or don’t have a high-paying job,” she added.

Otara’s pets

“Bandit, Rozzy, Kiri, Beyroo, Pidu and Lola are at home and Rani, Dobbie and lassie are at the Embark office,” said Well known entrepreneur and Embark Founder, Otara Gunawardene.

“They are very much a part of our family life at home,” she said.

Pets are great stress relievers, she said. “Yes this is a known fact and research proves it as well. Dogs especially are commonly used to help people recover from illnesses, depressions and even support the elderly as companions.”


Why should we love pets? Any message for those who still have second thoughts about having a pet at home? The Sunday Observer asked her.

“I think it is very important to have a pet – It definitely creates a more compassionate society and greater empathy and compassion within people. It’s important for children to have a connection with animals.

However, please stay away from birds and other exotic animals as they should be living free in their home in the wild. It is also important not to cage your pet and they should live free with the family.

In Sri Lanka unfortunately, many people keep their dogs in cages. Animals should live free and not be held captive. I must also add that when you have a pet they are for life. There are far too many people who suddenly decide they have no time or they have other commitments and want to give their dog or cat away. It is a terrible thing to do as they are the same as a family member. In the same way you would never give a child away, your pet is also for life. They never get over losing their family,” she added.

Go for stray dogs

“I had pedigree dogs during my teenage years and have never looked back since I started adopting our own dogs over thirty years ago. They are truly amazing dogs and they are also best suited for our climate. You can also offer one a better life by adopting instead of buying a dog. The biggest issue with Pedigree dogs now is that it has become a fad and a status symbol unfortunately at the great cost of an extremely cruel breeding industry that exists.

Keeping dogs in cages as breeding machines, taking puppies away from mothers early, terrible conditions in pet shops, and lack of proper care are some of the situations faced by dogs used for breeding. Always choose to adopt because every time you buy if you don’t see how the parents are taken care of, it is likely they are a part of this cruel cycle of breeding for profit,” she said

With Embark, Gunawardene has managed to find homes for over 60,000 Sri Lankan street dogs in the last 14 years.