By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: The entrance to the Friday Market closed by the Municipality. - Photos by Fouad Al-Shaikh

KUWAIT: Many animals in Kuwait are at risk of starvation or death after the government closed the Friday Market due to the coronavirus outbreak. The closure of the market by the Municipality last week as a precautionary measure was a blow to pet owners in Kuwait. Many animal lovers in Kuwait were affected by the decision, as shops that sell wholesale animal food were also included in the closure decision.

Manar Sahili, who has five cats, told Kuwait Times that the decision has badly hit her finances. "I have to now buy food and cat litter at retail prices, which is expensive. I can't find bags of cat litter larger than 10 liters in the market," she said. Sahili affirmed that the closure was the right thing to do, but said pet markets shouldn't be included because they are like supermarkets and co-ops. "Animals need food too," she argued.

It seems this decision hasn't only affected house pets, only also stray cats and dogs. Alia Al-Qassem, who has a daily routine of feeding stray cats on the streets, was frustrated by the decision, saying the closure made her to be less helpful towards these poor animals around Kuwait. "Instead of buying cat or dog food at a reasonable price, I pay a lot of money for a small amount of food, which means fewer animals to help. They are living creatures and the government must reconsider the decision," she said.

"I am seeing many animals on the streets now. People are abandoning their pets because they are afraid of the coronavirus, although the World Health Organization has said pets cannot transmit COVID-19 to people and there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit the virus," Qassem said.

She urged people to wash their hands after handling animals, their food or waste, and practice good hygiene and clean up after their pets properly. Qassem also called on people to help helpless street animals, because as the coronavirus spreads, stray cats and dogs cannot find anyone to feed them.

Meanwhile, many animal activists are hoping the government will consider the situation of the animals trapped inside the Friday Market. Workers are still allowed to enter the place for an hour daily to feed, water and clean after the animals.