May Sitt Paing
[gallery type="slideshow" ids="106104,106105,106106,106107,106108,106109,106110,106111,106112,106113,106114,106115,106116,106117,106118"] THANLYIN TOWNSHIP, Rangoon Division — Just 20 miles from the commercial capital Rangoon lies a safe haven for stray and sick cats, in Thanlyin Township’s Kunchangon village. The shelter has taken in more than 200 cats, many abandoned by their owners at pagodas in and around Rangoon, said Aye Aye Maw, who runs the shelter. “I feel very sorry for them [the cats]. I have pity for them. That’s why I’ve saved them. People tend to abandon them if they get sick or something happens to them,” Aye Aye Maw said. “Some cats are bitten by dogs. But there are also cruel people who sell cats to liquor shops as appetizer [to go along with their liquor]. This motivated me to talk with a sister in Japan about this and set up the shelter.” The shelter was established last October, at first welcoming some 50 abandoned cats from Sule, Kyaik Waing and other pagodas across Rangoon. Over the next four months, the shelter has managed to save 150 more cats. “Before I started running this shelter, I would feed cats and dogs wandering around pagodas. There would sometimes be arguments with people who don’t love animals. But I feel sad at the sight of cats in trouble. Because it wasn’t convenient for me to bring them home, I decided to open this shelter,” Aye Aye Maw explained. “Some people have called me to come and get stray cats, others have brought them to our shelter.” Apart from more than 230 cats, the shelter is also home to four stray dogs. “I also feel sorry for dogs. So I keep them. Some puppies need to be fed with a particular milk powder like ‘Dumex’ because they might suffer stomach problems if they’re fed generic milk.” Aye Aye Maw lives in Rangoon, arriving at the shelter in Thanlyin by 7 am each morning to feed the cats. “We humans feel hungry as soon as we get up, don’t we? So cats will feel hungry, too. I feed them three times a day. But they’re lucky, because once their feed runs out, donors always come,” Aye Aye Maw said, laughing. She feeds them again at noon and 5 pm, before she heads home for the day. She has hired a watchman to take care of the cats at night and every Tuesday, doctors from volunteer medical groups give the cats a check-up. Aye Aye Maw keeps the sick cats in separate cages, and she treats the injured ones herself. Previously in Burma, a compassionate soul would struggle to find a shelter for stray dogs and cats in need. In recent years, however, the number of shelters, as well as volunteer groups and doctors to support them, has been on the rise in Rangoon and elsewhere in the country. This trend could continue, or reverse, but Aye Aye Maw vows that regardless, she’s in it for the long haul. “I’ll save and take care of these animals till my last breath. That’s my goal,” Aye Aye Maw said.

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