How climate change could change the future of pets

Hangai Lilla

2024. June 23 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

When in September 1939 they announced World War II, air raids and lack of resources meant that mass hysteria was not long in coming. As the dark hours of the Holocaust of British favourites were fast approaching. In the first week, an estimated 400-750 thousand pets were sent to the eternal hunting grounds by their owners, fearing that they would be unable to care for them or would suffer serious injuries during the war. But a similar incident happened in 1870, during the siege of Paris, during the Franco-Prussian War. Within a few weeks, Germany occupied III. Emperor Napoleon's country and then completely cut off Paris from all supply lines. Food was rapidly dwindling, forcing citizens to eat everything from rats to exotic creatures from the zoo to pets. There were also some who killed their own pets so that others would not slaughter them for food. Gloomy times, right? Why are we bringing this up now, when the title suggests that climate change is the subject of the next few lines? You will understand the connection!


Well, if you think about it, very similar forces are currently exploiting the planet. And we are facing global warming as a result. As a result of this process, we are systematically degrading the quality of our food. Later on, we can expect to see serious problems with the quantity, not only in developing countries, but also in developed countries. Perhaps we will no longer experience this. But sooner or later, areas will become deserted, forcing more people to leave their homes or, if they cannot cope with extreme heat. And this will undeniably mean miserable conditions for most of the Terrans. So, the question is a valid one: what will happen to our beloved pets? In the following, we outline a possible dystopia of climate change impacts from the perspective of small animal ownership.

At the bottom of the family totem pole

There are estimated to be more than 1.4 billion dogs and cats on the planet, most of them without owners. “People like to say that their pets are family, but the truth is, the dog or cat is on the lowest rung of the family totem pole. When times get tough, people abandon their pets long before they give up their children. When times get tough, people abandon their pets long before give up their children. Consequently, if life gets tougher for people, it will get even tougher for their pets.” Explains Dr. Clive D. L. Wynne, professor of psychology at Arizona State University and director of the Canine Science Colaboratory to salon.com.

And this is likely to be the case even if people are not forced to take their pets’ lives or abandon them. For example, consider thatthe followings. We often breed and buy pets that are poorly suited to a particular environment or region because of their external qualities. We are talking about dogs with a pressed nose or long fur in warm climates, or bald or very short-haired quadrupeds in cooler climates. This situation will only get worse as the weather becomes more uncertain.

Wadi Rum, Valley of the Moon, Jordan

Keeping pets could become unaffordable

People will also have to struggle to provide adequate food and medical care for their animals in the future due to changing circumstances. There are also questions about the chances that those who cannot do so will be able to place their animals in a shelter. The overcrowded and overstretched shelters are only set to get busier. These can combine to make more people realise that companion animal ownership is unaffordable for them.

But this does not necessarily mean that dogs and cats as we know them today will ever disappear. But it is almost certain that many of them will have to undergo drastic changes to survive. In this article we discussed what would happen to dogs if humans disappeared from the Earth. There, we highlighted that species with external traits that hinder their survival may disappear, while those with external traits that are useless for survival will also be lost. This may also be true in times of climate change. It is also assumed that these animals will rely on us much more for their livelihoods. We are thinking here in particular of food waste and shade structures.

Climate change could change how we take care of our pets

And then there are the diseases. “Because animals, such as dogs, are hosts to several zoonotic agents, any changes in the home ranges of viruses or parasites due to the changing climate will also have health outcomes for not only those animals — but perhaps also for people, For example, rabies infection as well as dog bites has been shown to be linked to warmer weather. It remains to be empirically shown, however, that these expected outcomes will actually happen. For now, we can only speculate.” Dr. Alexandra Protopopova, an adjunct professor of animal welfare at the University of British Columbia, told salon.com.

Strays may be a clue to how dogs will evolve

Experts point out that dogs and cats that are self-sustaining, i.e. have no owner, are able to change and evolve based on the climate of their region. Like all animals, they are natural creatures that change as a result of natural selection. This may provide some insight into what we can expect from dogs and cats as climate change worsens.

“I have seen street dogs in Moscow, Russia and in Nassau, The Bahamas. These are very different creatures. The street dogs of Moscow are big woolly beasts. Those native to the Bahamas are much smaller, with thinner fur. The couple of times I have seen unowned dogs here in Phoenix, Arizona, they were tiny little almost hairless dogs rather like Chihuahuas. Each of these forms of dog is adapted to the climate in which it lives – since it has to be able to survive outdoors.” explained Dr Clive D. L. Wynne.

Monument Valley, Arizona

Cats, on the other hand, are likely to react differently. First of all the fact that their ancestors came from the desert is a very important bonus. Therefore the warming environment is less unfamiliar to them. It is also very important to note that in their case we cannot talk about taming, they decided to stay at our side. And over the years we have gradually been taught how to look after them. For example, meowing has been developed to make it easier for them to communicate with us. Add to that the fact that domestic cats have remained basically the same since the earliest known civilisations. You probably don’t need any more convincing that they will be affected very differently by climate change.

Click here if you want to learn more about dogs’ history.

climate change global warming History

Related articles

More articles

Are cats your favourite too?
Visit our Love my catz page too!