What would you do when you’d see a stray cat or dog on your holiday in Bali? Most people ignore or chase them away. Everybody knows that you shouldn’t touch stray animals. They carry all kinds of worms, viruses (rabies!), fleas and other diseases that may seriously hurt or even kill you.
You shouldn’t feed them either. They’ll connect humans to food, which makes them vulnerable and dependent. Bali is already drowning in stray cats and dogs. So you’ll only make things worse if you start helping them to survive.
Plenty of reasons not to be saving stray animals in Bali.
And then I had a stray cat living in my room
Despite the reasons why you shouldn’t save a stray, lots of bules (foreigners) and locals keep rescuing puppies and kittens from the streets. They can’t say no to those cute and desperate Puss in Boots or puppy eyes. I mean, what person with a functioning heart can?
So, a few months ago I was having lunch outside my guesthouse in Canggu when a cat showed up out of nowhere. Malnourished, unable to meow and most likely pregnant, she tried to steal some love from me – and my lunch.
She clearly needed help. I lured her into my room with some food and called the local vet. The cat turned out to be 10 years old, sick, and pregnant.
I was a bit worried now. Although I do love cats, I didn’t have room for 6 more. Also, my landlady wasn’t too happy with my rescue operation. Apparently, she’s a dog lover, not a cat lover.
I thought I could just help the cat get healthy again and then put her out on the street. She was used to the street life anyway. Unfortunately, I forgot how quickly animals become domesticated.
Villa Kitty Foundation: saving stray animals in Bali
Online, I found a couple of animal rescue centers, including Villa Kitty in Ubud. I told the story to Elizabeth, the owner, who responded very quickly, compassionately and comprehensively. Unfortunately, she couldn’t accept any more pregnant cats, as they already reached their capacity some 174 cats ago.
A staff member at Villa Kitty advised me to give the cat an abortion if it wasn’t too late. When I saw how many cats were sheltered in Villa Kitty and how little space they have (especially the kittens), I took her up on her advice.
Luckily, there was still time, so the cat got an abortion. She also had to be sterilized, she had several diseases (including a hernia) and she needed vaccinations against rabies, panleukemia, chlamydia, and 2 other unpronounceable viruses. This cost me about 170 dollars.
The cat stayed with me for about 2 months, until she didn’t want to come out of her corner anymore. Apparently, she got traumatized in the time I was in Holland over Christmas. The woman who was supposed to take care of her totally neglected her. She hadn’t even cleaned the litter box.
It didn’t help either that the one human being she trusted (me) disappeared on her for 3 weeks.
Luckily, I knew another pet-sitter, so I asked Jean to help me. Jean turned out to be the best cat-sitter ever. If you’re looking for someone in Bali to look after your fluff ball for a bit, I highly recommend this super sweet girl from Kalimantan.
Villa Kitty eventually accepted the cat as she was in need of professional care and no longer pregnant. She is doing much better now and I visit whenever I can.
When you shouldn’t rescue an animal
Although stray cats and dogs are everywhere in Bali, it’s not always smart to ‘save’ an animal. Not only for the reasons already mentioned but also because it sometimes doesn’t need saving.
Do you see a kitten or puppy on the street that looks lost? It may be that it’s just waiting for its mother to come back from her hunting trip. If the mother smells your hands all over her baby, she might even reject it.
Some tourists think that they are doing a good thing by taking the animal to their guesthouse or hotel. They wrongly assume that the owner or staff will know what to do and will take care of it.
But when you do, do it right
What you can do, however, is monitor the animal where you saw it. If you are 100% sure that it’s motherless, you can get help from one of the animal rescue groups below.
When you do want to save an animal, catch it in a towel and bring it to a rescue center. Don’t just send a map and a picture of the animal (I did this too), because it will be gone before anyone gets there. Just recently, Elizabeth shared her (understandable) frustration on Instagram about people sending maps:
If you are at the location it is much smarter and faster to pick up the kitten and bring directly to us or find a gojek [local taxi] or take the kitten to your nearest Sunset Vet where we have their support with rescued kittens and cats.
8 Animal Rescue Groups in Bali
Have you taken a stray animal from the street that needs help? Do you want to take care of a puppy or kitten for a while or help out in another way? Here are 8 animal rescue groups in Bali that you can contact or donate money to.
1. Villa Kitty Foundation
This is one of the few cat shelters in Bali. Villa Kitty is run by the Australian Elizabeth Henzell and a big team of Indonesian volunteers, vets and animal caretakers. They are full to the brim, but they offer advice, free sterilization and medical check-ups.
Want to help?
Feel like cuddling a cat? Villa Kitty really appreciates it when people visit to give some love to the cats and kittens. Check their website for opening hours or make a donation. They can use all the help they can get! You can also foster a kitten when you are in Bali, even on your holiday.
2. Friends of Bali Dogs and Cats
Jean is one of the ‘friends’ and official founder of this Indonesian community of solo rescuers and pet sitters. They do an amazing job saving stray animals in Bali. Sometimes they receive donations from other friends but they cover most costs themselves. They take care of the rescued animals until they are healthy again and then offer them for adoption. Jean and her friends also work as pet-sitters.
- Instagram: Friends of Bali Dogs and Cats
3. The Bali Dog
This group of Indonesian animal protectors not only rescues dogs in need but they also rescue cats, turtles, birds, and squirrels. The healthy animals are up for adoption.
- Instagram: The Bali Dog
4. Bali Dog Association
This group of Indonesian volunteers helps dogs in Bali who have been abused and live on the street. When the dogs are completely healthy again, they are offered for adoption.
- Instagram: Bali Dog Association
5. Mission Pawsible
Mission Pawsible is not an animal shelter, but the owner takes care of the animals she rescues and offers them for adoption. Mission Pawsible also shares their donations, food, and medicine with other animal caretakers in Bali.
- Website: missionpawsible.org
- Instagram: Mission Pawsible
BARC is an Australian organization in Ubud that rescues street dogs, cats and monkeys. They give them vaccinations, sterilizations, and medical treatments. They also teach Balinese children and adults through campaigns and other educational programs.
7. Bali Pet Crusaders
This Australian charity organization works together with the Indonesian organization Yayasan Seya Bhuana. BPC sterilizes and castrates mainly stray cats and dogs. They already treated more than 7000 animals. Many Balinese families don’t have the money to have their pet neutered, so BPC helps them with subsidies or free treatments.
- Website: balipetcrusaders.org
- Instagram: Bali Pet Crusaders
BAWA is an American organization that focuses primarily on rescuing street dogs and cats in Bali, but they also rescue monkeys, horses and dolphins on other Indonesian islands. They run educational campaigns against animal cruelty and the dog meat trade. BAWA appreciates fostering and volunteer work, even if you only have a week or two.
Facebook Groups for saving stray animals in Bali
There are a couple of Facebook groups where people offer their animals for adoption. I tried to get someone to adopt my cat and I did get some response. This included a person who was almost definitely working in the cat and dog meat trade, which is a huge industry in Asia.
By the way, when you see a sign at a Balinese food stall with “RW sate” (rintek wuuk, which literally means ’soft fur’), you are most likely NOT being served chicken.
- Bali Adopt and Rehome Pets
- Bali Cats, Dogs and Animal Lovers
- Foster Dogs and Cats in Bali
- Dog Lovers and Cat Lovers (Bali)
Be smart at home as well: ”Adopt, don’t shop”
You’ve probably heard this slogan before? “Adopt, don’t shop” is a campaign that promotes the benefits of adopting pets from shelters, rather than buying them from pet stores. Which are:
- You save 2 lives if you adopt a dog or cat from the animal shelter (the animal that goes home with you and the animal that can take its place in the shelter).
- Adoption is cheaper (sometimes free).
- The animal shelter usually knows the behavior and character of the animal, which makes it easier to find a match.
- Plus, the animal has all its vaccinations and is already socialized.
You can even foster a cat or dog on your holiday. Whether it’s for a day, a week or a month, you’d be doing the animal shelter and the animals a huge favor. Some animal shelters cover food and medicines for foster care.
When your holiday is over, you give it back or you take it home. Just make sure you read up on Bali’s export policies and your home country’s import policies regarding animals.
What is your view on saving cats, dogs or other animals on a holiday? Any tips or advice? Share and leave a comment below.