It can be assumed that many of the Parisians who killed their dogs and cats had, at least at some point, really loved them.
We cannot, of course, know for certain – no historian can penetrate the human soul – but the memory of the domestic animals led to the slaughter remains. It is one of the most powerful images we have of the siege of Paris in 1870, which took place during the Franco-Prussian War. Within a few weeks Germany had Emperor Napoleon III. captured and Paris completely disconnected from all utility lines. The food ran out quickly, forcing the citizens of the newly proclaimed republic to consume everything from rats and other common street creatures to exotic zoo animals like elephants. Inevitably, domestic dogs and cats also fell victim as people struggled to survive. Needless to say, when observers later recalled the horrors of that siege, there was almost always mention of the consumption of animals that one would not ordinarily eat.
Flashing forward a century and a half, the same exploitative capitalist system rejected by the Parisian radicals of the time is literally destroying the planet through climate change. In cruel irony, this will almost certainly lead to food shortages not unlike those in Paris during the siege. However, instead of a military power deliberately cutting the livelihood of a population, global warming will cause deterioration in the supply chains that feed the majority of the world’s population. At the same time, there will be radical climate changes that will force millions of people to leave their homes (and thus become climate refugees) and millions more to adapt to inhospitable conditions such as extreme heat or floods. This will undoubtedly mean misery for humanity on a scale that exceeds anything that the residents of Paris experienced around 1870.
It will also mean misery for the world’s dogs and cats – most of which are strays that do not belong to anyone. It is estimated that there are over 1.4 billion dogs and cats on earth, most of them without owners. As the climate crisis ravages the earth, its people and lives will change in ways we can already foresee.
“People like to say that their pets are family, but the truth is that the dog or cat is on the lowest tier of the family totem pole,” Dr. Clive DL Wynne, a psychology professor at Arizona State University and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory, shared Salon via email. “In difficult times, people leave their pets long before they give up their children. When life gets tougher for people, it gets tougher for their pets.”
This is the case even if the pets are not eaten or left on the side of the road. For one thing, people often buy pets without considering their adaptability to the environment of a particular region. An Alaskan Malamute, for example, is likely to be unhappy if its owner lives in Phoenix, as its thick fur is adapted to colder climates. That is the situation with dog breeds right now, and the problem of a breed mismatching a climate will only get worse when the climate itself becomes unreliable. As Wynne put it, “A warming climate will certainly change the types of dogs that humans should keep as pets – but unfortunately, when they do get dogs, people don’t pay much attention to the local climate.”
Dr. Alexandra Protopopova, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia who studies animal welfare, tells Salon that the way people care for pets is likely to evolve.
“As heat waves increase, people can reduce the amount of exercise that dogs can exercise outdoors (which would be correct to limit heat stroke!),” Noted Protopopova. People can also struggle to afford adequate food and medical care for their animals, and refugees may find that dogs and cats are not welcome in animal shelters. As evictions increase, shelters are likely to bear a greater burden, and individuals can choose to only own pets when the need is particularly great; otherwise, more and more people might conclude that it is simply unaffordable.
Just because there will be fewer pets doesn’t mean dogs and cats as we know them will go away. However, even the free-range dogs and cats, whose resources depend on humans, will experience drastic changes in life. As there are fewer people who either feed them directly or provide them with indirect food such as food waste, the famine will increase. Changing climates can also cause wild animals to change their territorial boundaries as they look for ways to feed, or change their reproductive behavior like cats by extending the kitten season during long summers.
And then there are the diseases.
“Since animals like dogs host several zoonotic pathogens, any change in the distribution areas of viruses or parasites due to the changing climate will also have health consequences not only for these animals – but perhaps also for humans,” warned Protopopova. “For example, rabies infections, as well as dog bites, have been shown to be linked to warmer weather. However, empirical evidence must be provided that these expected results will actually materialize. At this point, we can only speculate.”
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Experts are currently discussing how many possessed dogs and cats there are in the world today. According to Wynne, there are up to 1 billion dogs on the planet’s surface (“maybe a bit high”), with about 300 million coexisting with humans and at least half a billion more unpowered. Protopopova reiterated that there are approximately 1 billion dogs worldwide, adding that there are over 480 million cats.
“The purebred dogs we know in the US and Canada only make up about 20% of the world’s dogs,” explained Protopopova. “Most dogs live as free agents in human cities [or] Settlements and use resources that are made available by people. “
These free-roaming dogs have already demonstrated the ability to evolve based on the climate of their area. Like all animals, they are natural creatures whose larger species change through natural selection.
This perhaps offers some insight into what overall we can expect from dogs and cats as climate change worsens.
“I’ve seen street dogs in Moscow, Russia, and Nassau, Bahamas. They are very different creatures,” Wynne wrote to Salon. “The street dogs of Moscow are big, woolly beasts. Those born in the Bahamas are much smaller, with thinner fur. The couple of times I’ve seen strange dogs here in Phoenix, Arizona, have been tiny, almost hairless dogs, similar to Chihuahuas. Each of these forms of dog are adapted to the climate in which they live – because they must be able to survive outside. “He predicted that smaller and less furry dogs might ultimately be preferred to larger, shaggier dogs, prone to overheating and more resources consume.
Cats, on the other hand, may have an easier transition due to their unique character. Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, told Salon, “We have never tamed house cats. You must remember that house coats came to us and taught us to shelter and feed them.” that domestic cats have remained essentially the same species since the earliest known civilizations because of this resilience. They have flexible relationships with people that are more useful and conscious than dogs’, and as such, they can have an advantage that becomes more apparent as climate change increases.
This brings us back to the Siege of Paris in 1870, when pets were abandoned and partially eaten because they taxed their owners’ resources. It’s unclear whether food will become so scarce that humans will have to resort to their own animals, but it is very likely that humanity’s current relationship with dogs and cats will have to change radically. It will generally be more difficult to have pets; That’s another thing people take for granted right now, but some may have to give up due to climate change.