Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

Coronavirus: Animal lovers are breaking into Wuhan homes to save pets

'Save the pets left behind in Wuhan' has been trending on Weibo

Animals have been left behind in Wuhan, China, after owners have been quarantined due to the country's coronavirus outbreak. AFP
Animals have been left behind in Wuhan, China, after owners have been quarantined due to the country's coronavirus outbreak. AFP

China's unprecedented quarantining of coronavirus-hit Wuhan has separated millions from their families, and many from their pets, prompting worried owners and kind strangers to take to social media to ensure left-behind animals are looked after.

The virus that has killed more than 360 in China emerged during the Lunar New Year when hundreds of millions were travelling across the country, and the subsequent lockdown on Wuhan and central Hubei province has left many stranded.

The hashtag "save the pets left behind in Wuhan" became the third-most searched term on the Twitter-like Weibo platform yesterday, receiving millions of views from those unable to return to the city, where the virus is believed to have originated, and others willing to help.

"Please help me feed my cat," one user posted on January 30.

On Monday, he used the hashtag to post the happy news he had found a "young man" who had agreed to go and feed his cat Maomao.

Sina Weibo
Wuhan residents have stepped up to feed stranded pets. Sina Weibo

"In the video chat, after the man opened the door Maomao meowed so miserably, no one has been home for more than a dozen days ..." he said.

More than 2,000 people also joined a group created by the Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association on Chinese chat app QQ to look for "kind-hearted people" willing to feed pets left behind in Wuhan by owners unable to enter the city.

One member on Monday asked if anyone would be willing to feed a pet snake. "I'm worried to death," the user, who posted anonymously, said. "I didn't let him hibernate this winter because he's a baby snake."

That post had no takers as of late Monday.

"If any cats and dogs are stranded and you can let me in, I can help you feed them on livestream," wrote Katherine Cui in eastern Zhejiang province, where the city of Wenzhou was placed under a similar lockdown to Wuhan on Sunday.

"I have many pets at home, and plenty of cat food, dog food and kitty litter, I know too well how important fur babies are."

Courtesy WHO 
The World Health Organisation has said on its Weibo account there is "no evidence that dogs, cats and other pets can catch coronavirus. Courtesy WHO

The drive to save pets comes after multiple Chinese media reports said apartment complexes had banned pets to stop the spread of the virus.

While coronavirus is believed to have crossed over from animals to humans at a Wuhan market known for selling live wildlife, the World Health Organisation has said on its Weibo account there is "no evidence that dogs, cats and other pets can catch the coronavirus".

China is home to a growing population of pet owners, with pet-related spending in China reaching 170.8 billion yuan (Dh89.7bn) in 2018, according to a report by Pet Fair Asia and pet website Goumin.com.

Updated: February 4, 2020 01:31 PM

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