I am closing the gate of Lima 18, the small and intimate hotel I am staying at in Miraflores, carefully and set out for a short morning run.
The hotel is very conveninently situated next to the ruins of the pre-Incan pyramid of Pucilana, which is surounded not only by a high fence but also by one of the few dedicated cycling lanes in Peru’s capital. I never encounter a single cyclist but at 7 AM the only people I can see are other runners and a steady strean of dog walkers with a nice selection of different dog breeds.
There are no Huskies or Jämthunds in sight and also larger guard dogs don’t seem to feature here. Very similar to European cities mainly smaller breeds dominate the scenery, including – of course – a fair amount of French Bulldogs. I spot a few Labradors and Golden Doodles and – as expected – some Peruvian Viringos or Hairless Dogs of different sizes.
All dogs that I meet are in a well kept condition and it is not difficult to find dogs that are fifteen years or even older. This – at least to some degree – speaks in favour of the veterinary care my Peruvian colleagues are providing ……
Outing myself as a vet I find it easy to start a conversation with the owners and what strikes me is that everyone is more than happy to have their picture taken together with their pets. I wonder how this would have worked in a park in the South East of England…..
Following my morning rounds around the semi-akropolis of Lima (if the site would have been just a bit more elevated….) and an obligatory cup of coffee (served in Lima as a double espresso together with hot water to make it an Americano to your own liking), I am taking the time to visit another very special pet-related place in Miraflores – the Kennedy Park or also commonly referred to as the “Cat Park”.
Surounded by some of Lima’s busiest roads and next to well frequented bars and restaurants, this park is the open air home to well over a hundred cats who live here in an apparently very peaceful co-existance with their fellow felines and their human cohabitants. Cats are seen as a vital part of the calming and enjoyable atmosphere of this island of grass and trees in an urban jungle.
Park benches are shared between sleeping cats and newspaper reading pensioners, public monuments are supplemented by miniture mountain lions and market stalls are conveniently used by feline residents as a perch to find out what else is going on in this busy place.
All the cats in the park look well nourished and at several sites dry cat food is provided. Some cats show signs of recent neutering or of other veterinary procedures which is made possible by the work of a well organised group of friends of the cat park, who are not only providing the feline residents with all the care they need, but who also raise funds to keep this remarkable place going.
At night the park gates are closed (to humans) to give the cats some rest and a mobile cat caravan is offering some shelter from the lights and from the noise of the city.
This open air cat hotel is a striking example for the importance of the human-animal bond and for the social and mental benefits it provides. As pet ownership in flats is often not tolerated by landlords and building societies or as someone’s lifestyle is just not allowing the responsible ownership of a pet, then public spaces where pets and humans can interact on a mutual and voluntary basis might in fact be a good solution for an urban society of the future. Lima’s cat park is setting at least an interesting example .
Returning to the title of this chapter and to my previous question :
Yes, it appears that the life of dogs and of cats can be pretty good in this South American capital city, but the situation described in the upmarket surroundings of Miraflores should not distract from the huge problem of not cared for street dogs and ferral cats in Peru and in all of Latin America. This – as in many parts of Europe – is an ongoing matter of concern for my colleagues here and without the necessary public support and funding it continues to be a huge animal welfare issue.