My cat Nala and my dog Elfi aged 5 / 6 months in September 2020; Credit: Jazmin Campbell

This International Cat Day (8 August) seemed like a good opportunity to share my own pet story and to encourage fellow animal lovers to adopt rather than shop.

I had always loved animals (particularly cats) and longed for a pet growing up, but my typically permissive parents, who already had their hands full with four children, had understandably rejected such requests – they knew they would have ended up taking care of the animal. We did get a cat later, but that was mainly due to the fact that my siblings and I took in a stray who had shown up on our doorstep and would not leave – my family have had him for ten years now!

However, it was not until I moved to Luxembourg that I got my very own pet(s). Ever since moving in together, my partner and I had been considering the possibility of adopting a dog or a cat one day. But we knew it was a lot of responsibility to take on and I enjoyed travelling a lot. We tabled the idea… until COVID-19 hit and Luxembourg, like most of the world, went into lockdown. With both of us now working from home (I had been teleworking since long before the pandemic and I still do) and travel not an option (at least temporarily), it seemed like the perfect time to adopt a dog AND a cat (who can really choose?); we both had time to cover their basic training (mainly for the dog) and bond with them, and they kept us company during what could have been (and what was for many) a rather isolating period. Of course, we knew that our responsibility to these living creatures we had sought out would continue long after lockdown and the pandemic – a pet is a life-long commitment. But the timing was just right for us. Even today, I continue to work from home and when we both go abroad, we either bring the dog with us or leave both of them with friends or family.

Whilst I certainly do not regret getting our Maine Coon and Golden Retriever in summer 2020, I do somewhat regret that we got them from breeders rather than an animal shelter. We justified our decision at the time by saying that we wanted a kitten and a puppy who would grow up together from a young age and of breeds that are known to get along well with their canine / feline counterparts. Of course, shelters have many kittens and puppies too and cats and dogs of all breeds can (learn to) get along or at least tolerate one another, depending on their individual personalities and experiences. The least we could do was to spay both our pets to ensure we did not contribute further to the overpopulation of stray and / or unwanted cats and dogs.

In future, however, I plan on sticking to my initial motto of "adopt, don't shop", not least because of just how overwhelmed the animal shelters are right now, even here in Luxembourg. Unfortunately, it seems that many people, like my partner and me, decided to get pets during the pandemic but not everyone kept their animals. The return to the office (thus a lack of time), resumption of international travel and (perhaps unforeseen) pet expenses are some of the reasons for people giving up their pets following the COVID-19 pandemic. I am in no position to judge these individuals, but it does break my heart that Luxembourg's animal shelters and welfare organisations are now completely overwhelmed, with a huge number of unwanted and abandoned cats and dogs waiting for their forever homes.

In fact, Luxembourg's animal shelters and related organisations recently launched a petition calling for a national action plan amid decreasing adoptions and an increasing number of unneutered cats and new-born kittens. The shelters argued that Luxembourg's animal protection law of June 2018 remained ineffective in some areas. Moreover, despite the Grand Ducal Regulation of December 2018 which stipulates that all cats must be microchipped and every cat with outdoor access must be neutered or spayed, this is still not the case for many outdoor cats. Speaking to in spring this year, Sasha Andre, President of the Association pour la Protection des Animaux – Schifflange (APAS) and the author of the aforementioned petition, noted that Luxembourg's animal shelters had "seldom had as many young mother cats as this year".

Without wanting to villainise those who wish to get a cat or dog of a particular breed (from a responsible registered breeder) and without trying to sound like a hypocrite, I truly hope that anyone in Luxembourg looking for a new furry friend will at least first consider adopting one or two of the many cats and dogs currently occupying our animal shelters, thus offering them a second chance and making room for other animals in need at the same time.

Some of Luxembourg's main animal shelters and organisations include: Asile National pour Animaux (Déierenasyl Gaasperech); Association pour la Protection des Animaux – Schifflange (APAS; Schëfflenger Déiereschutzveräin); Asile pour Animaux Régional – DudelangeSociété Eschoise pour la Protection des Animaux (SEPA; Escher Déierenasil); Association Luxembourgeoise pour la Protection des Animaux Asbl (ALPA); Een Herz vir Streuner Asbl; Amiavy Asbl; Mini-Miez Asbl; Déieren an Nout Asbl; Privaten Déiereschutz Asbl.