India’s first pet yoga initiative called- PAWGA, is an interesting and a highly relevant concept that came into being in the year 2020, and is gaining immense traction lately. It is a great way in which India is dealing with its heavy population of stray dogs which is around 35 million as of 2023. In addition to human welfare, in the sense that people are offered the opportunity to practice yoga amidst dogs- that are known to be therapeutic animals; PAWGA serves to be a foster-care center for these stray animals and encourages people to adopt them as well.
On the other hand, although Singapore has very few stray dogs, it has about 50 thousand stray cats. What is more problematic is that the cases of stray cat abuse in Singapore has recently risen to a ‘disproportionately high number’ in 2023.
Does the idea of replicability of PAWGA-concept behold a potential in Singapore?
“When Sad, I Pet a Cat!”
Nya Sharma, a 19 year old animal-lover, who was born in India and raised in Singapore, calls herself- “A witness of the overflowing love for animals that Indians and Singaporeans possess”. Nya currently resides in Singapore and is a full-time student pursuing a Bachelors of Sociology and International Trade from the University at Buffalo, Singapore Institute of Management.
In an interview, Nya recounted her recent trip to Amritsar, India in January this year and expressed the eloquent exchanges between her and the stray dogs on the street that leads to the Golden Temple. Nya has been a frequent visitor of her home country ever since the COVID-19 restrictions were uplifted. Although she almost always caresses the stray dogs that she encounters on the streets of India, this time, in addition to that, she was able to observe their treatment by people as she spent quite a significant amount of time shopping on the ever-busy street.
“There were at least twenty five to thirty of them that seemed native to that street. I am saying that because I heard the shopkeepers address them by names. That coexistence, those relationships just warmed me up!”— Nya exclaimed, describing her observation of the stray dogs. “However, I know that these dogs have to snuggle in the nooks and corners of the roads nearby every night after the shops shut down. It is extremely sad that they are loved during the day and are forgotten at nights. Plus, January is a peak winter month for Punjab. I feel like crying imagining their plight during these biting cold nights.”, she added with a frown that replaced her smile.
When asked about her thoughts with respect to PAWGA, Nya said, “Such initiatives give me so much relief. There is a sense of calm knowing there are so many passionate people actively indulging in the welfare of beings that cannot speak for themselves. And in the case of PAWGA, it is fascinating to see that a spiritually healing activity like Yoga is taking place in the presence of dogs. I do Yoga at least thrice a week and I can say for sure that if I were to practice the same in the presence of dogs, it would multiply Yoga’s healing effect on me by manifolds. So PAWGA is an excellent effort altogether.”.
She thinks that India and Singapore may be divided by geography but are united by their love for animals. Therefore, she has immense faith in the possibility of success of an initiative like PAWGA in Singapore. She shared in the interview that she eagerly looks forward to her evening runs along the Meragi Road near her house in Simei, getting interrupted by stray cats that rub their fluffy bodies against her legs. “When sad, I pet a cat! They’re always oozing love. Nothing can make me happier. To be able to do Yoga in their presence would be like heaven on earth for me!”, Nya said.
Singapore’s Feral Cats Suffering, Project LUNI Explains Why
Project LUNI is a registered non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Singapore that has been relentlessly working towards providing homes for stray cats and caring for them since the year 2016. Amanda Hastings– one of the most active volunteers of Project LUNI, who is also a proud foster-parent of two previously stray cats and a stray dog— shared in an interview the reasons why stray cats in Singapore are suffering and how their efforts serve to ameliorate their suffering.
She stated that female cats are highly prone to uterine and ovarian cancers. In addition, when their bodies are ready to mate, they experience tremendous pain. The cats make noise when they experience this pain but this noise is generally misunderstood by the residents of communities as ‘cats fighting’. Hastings said that for this reason, it is crucial to get the stray cats sterilised. She also said, “Not all community cats make good pets. They may tolerate humans as they know they may be able to get food from them, however, their life is meant to be outdoors. If they are taken home, they may be miserable and may end up being depressed.”. The community residents are oblivious to many problems like these.
When asked about what Project LUNI does to help to mitigate the problem of backyard breeders- breeders that are not licensed, Amanda expressed, “There is very little we can do about it. However, if we are notified about such activities, we do pass them onto the relevant authorities. But as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, we have no legal power to shut down any backyard breeders.”.
Project LUNI and Vyasa Yoga Singapore Say “YES!”
Following the discussion about the reasons that underlie the emanation and multiplication of the stray cat population in Singapore, Amanda was introduced to PAWGA. She was asked what she thinks about the concept in the context of Singapore, as a means to safeguard the existing population of stray cats, to which she responded, “I think certainly this is something that would work. It is just about an organisation taking the initiative upon itself. We have thought about having a fundraising event wherein we could have a Yoga teacher carry a Pet Yoga class out with one of our partner organisations. But if an organisation whose underlying principles were Yoga-based, took that upon themselves, it would be a really good way of introducing people to cats.”
Hastings thinks that a Yoga institute doubling up as a foster home for stray cats would make more sense than a non-profit organisation like Project LUNI, as the Yoga events would be carried out more frequently in that case. This would ensure a healthy development and culmination of love for stray cats within people. Keeping this in mind, Vyasa Yoga Singapore– one of the oldest and most renowned Yoga studios in Singapore was approached for an interview. Just like Amanda Hastings, The Managing Director and Senior Yoga Consultant at Vyasa Yoga Singapore- Manoj Thakur, was impressed with the idea of PAWGA. However, reconsidering the connection between Yoga and animals, he said, “The traditional principle that Yoga runs on, is inner reflection. Many Yogic exercises also involve closing eyes for the process of self-reflection to intensify. So having animals around may serve to hinder the mindfulness practice. But it is a good activity to initiate and establish a social and emotional connection between humans and animals.”.
When informed about Hastings’ thoughts about a Yoga institute, potentially taking the PAWGA concept upon itself, Thakur expressed his confidence in the idea and also talked about how Vyasa Yoga Singapore does have some community Yoga events that involve horses. On behalf of Vyasa Yoga Singapore, Manoj said that they are open to any idea that helps them contribute to the society’s well being in any way. He also requested to be connected with Project LUNI so that they can consider and plan mirroring PAWGA in Singapore.
Two Needs – One Deed
There are two needs- animals’ need for humans and humans’ need for animals. Both of the aforementioned needs can be sufficed with just one deed- the unison of Project LUNI and Vyasa Yoga Singapore. The construction of something like PAWGA in Singapore has been long-due. Project LUNI and Vyasa Yoga Singapore have finally reflected on this possibility and may soon embark on a journey that will lead them to epitomise a blooming cat-human relationship in Singapore.