Dogs and Cats of Jamaica

The last time I visited Jamaica, I encountered lots of dogs and cats.

Reading all the buzz about the new Bob Marley Documentary has had me thinking about Jamaica all week.  I think lots of people probably are, and they are probably thinking of what first comes to mind when Jamaica is mentioned: the beaches, the sun, the reggae, the … herbal refreshments.  All of those things are wonderful, but I want to focus on something different altogether: the dogs and cats of Jamaica.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am in love with Jamaica. My father is Jamaican, so I have a certain cultural connection to it — but more than that,  it’s probably my favorite place in the world.  If I could live there safely, I would.  Before my latest trip last March, I hadn’t been for about six years, and it killed me.  Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay always has me crying like an idiot: in happiness when I land, and in sadness when I leave.

On all my previous trips to Jamaica, I have always stayed in either Montego Bay or Ocho Rios – big, bustling cities, by Jamaican standards.  When I visited last March, however, I was on a mission to be pampered, and so I stayed in Negril at the Rock House Resort.  Negril is very different from Montego Bay – it’s much more rural, wild, and isolated.  As a result, people have more animals and pets.

Usually, third world countries seem synonymous with starving animals.  Jamaica is notorious for their “maga dogs,” made popular by the Peter Tosh song, which are basically mongrel street dogs.  It’s not uncommon, especially in cities, to see dogs that are so thin that their spines stick out, scurrying around looking for scraps of garbage to eat.  At night, you can even hear them howling and whimpering out of hunger.  It’s atrocious, and it’s one of the only things that I don’t like about Jamaica. Similarly, many Jamaicans really do not like cats.  I think they suspect that cats are tied to witchcraft, which is a touchy subject in Jamaica. Cats also tend to walk on counters and furniture, and I think this bothers Jamaican neat-freaks.

During this trip, however, I was pleased to meet some of the most balanced, healthy, and happy dogs that I have ever seen.  Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer,” talks about the dogs that he grew up with on his grandfather’s farm in Ixpalino, Mexico.  These dogs were not pedigree, they were not purebred, and they were not pampered.  They lived together in a natural pack, with his grandfather as the pack leader, and had jobs — from watching over the children to guarding the farm to keeping the workers company.

Pet dogs in Jamaica operate the same way, and while they are not indulged in the same way as dogs are here in the States, you can tell that they are still fulfilled, because they are allowed to simply be dogs.  They know that they rely on humans for food, shelter, and protection, so they very rarely break the pack leader/follower bond. None of them ever use leashes, yet they are completely street smart: they understand to stay away from traffic, and to walk behind you, not in front of you.  In the dog world, this is a sign of respect, as members of a wolf pack would never  think of passing the pack leader when migrating together as a group.

Here are pictures of the dogs and cats I met during my last trip to Jamaica:

What I assume is one of the owner’s cats at the Rock House Hotel in Negril.  This guy explored all the villas very in the morning, and was so happy that we offered him creamer from our room service breakfast.  His fur is all bleached from the bright sunlight.

Another pet at the Rock House Hotel in Negril.  This dog loved visiting the guests in the dining room, and greeting newly arrived guests at the reception desk.

A mother dog nursing her puppies.  This dog belonged to a group of people that we met walking around Negril.  Apparently, they are part German Shepherd.  The guy who told me this seemed very proud of that, as any purebred dog in Jamaica is extremely rare.

Their homemade dog house.  Total Jamaican masterpiece.

The nursing mother’s dog food: chicken, rice, and vegetables. This could rival the pricy fresh pet meals in the States.

Dogs on the street in Negril:

The puppy that followed me home from the bakery.  He was one of a pretty large litter, and I was so tempted to take him home!

And last but not least, the grocery store kitten!  She could be related to my Desdemonia.

The next time you’re in Jamaica, look out for four-legged friends — there are more around than you might think! 

Categories: Travel

Tags: , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. that’s quite the dog house!

  2. I am Jamaican living in Jamaica and i must say, we have a large amount of stray animals in the streets, we barely neuter our pets. Purebred animals are also very rare so a mixed breed dog or cat is highly prized here any day and we have many creative ways to make dog houses, and food. 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting! It’s funny, when we met the dogs with the extremely creative housing, the owner told us that they were part German Shepherd. I had to laugh because I know how rare a purebred dog is in Jamaica, but I think he wanted to impress us. To me, it makes no difference, I love them all! Fortunately, animal welfare services are doing great work in Jamaica with injured strays and abandoned pets!

  3. Honestly, I think before taking care of the animals, people should take care of themselves. Jamaica isn’t all beaches, reggae, ganja and rum. You as a half-Jamaican should know that. Jamaica is also poverty, crime and ghetto. I like animals and would never hurt one – but who cares about them if the people struggle every day to find some food to stay alive. The Jamaica described above is written from a totally tourist point of view, even only the most popular places amongst tourist are described. If you knew the real Jamaica, you would probably not post such an article because to most Jamaicans it’s like being slapped in the face.
    And btw. Jamaica is a save place to live. It all depends on what you communicate to others, how you interact with the people, how you behave and if you show off or stay humble…

    • I never said it was all beaches, reggae, ganja and rum, so I’m not quite sure why you said that. I think that taking care of animals and improving the lives of people in Jamaica is a synonymous goal. If you gain awareness about caring for those who can’t help themselves, then it will translate into how people care for each other.

      Jamaican can definitely be a safe place to live, but that’s mostly the case if you live in an area where you know the people around you. Even then, I’ve heard of people’s dogs being killed, batteries being stolen out of cars, and worse. Now things like that happen in other places, so it’s not something that’s unique to Jamaica, but it’s still a fact. You yourself just admitted that there is poverty, crime, and ghettos – and there has been for a very long time. That type of environment can be unsafe. If you don’t share my opinion, that’s okay. And if I offended you by this post, then I apologize, but it’s still my opinion and I stand by it. Thanks for reading.

  4. this is bullshit.. jamaican dogs eat WAY BETTER than american dogs. most jamaican animals eat COOKED FOOD and REAL MEAT. oh please. they do not like animals n the house. I’ve seen only a house cat in my 10+ visits to jamaica. america has a way of judging people when they are different. they live differently and instead of killing stray dog they leave them to live wild lives, LIKE GOD INTENDED. and the ones who do have owners live great and eat better than MOST american animals. try understanding the differences before you do some traveler post judging a country.

    • Rajah, what post did you reply to? Did you not read what I wrote about encountering some of the most balanced dogs that I’ve ever seen in Jamaica and their fresh food?

    • Dogs and cats are domesticated animals. So they depend on us for food, shelter, etc. They are not wild anymore and not meant to fend for themselves. You are clearly not the most intelligent person to be commenting on this article.

  5. I just returned from a visit to Jamaica and sad to say I saw more skinny almost dead dogs than I care to mention. I was so disturbed by one little dog at a grocery store near the airport in Kingston that I went in a bought a whole bag of dog food 2 bottles of water and the containers to pour this stuff in to feed this animal. He had been so mistreated that when I bent down to call him he got up and walked away. Jamaica please do better by your strays!

    • I completely agree. I’m so happy that there are now places like the Animal House and Montego Bay Animal Shelter. I think that more people are becoming aware of most dogs’ living conditions in Jamaica and making changes.

  6. Montego Bay Animal Haven run by Tammy Brown is trying to control the pet population by holding free spay and neuter clinics in Mo Bay & Negril. Amazing women who care deeply about animals. I’m heading there April 25th to meet with Tammy and pick our dog to bring back home with us. She has sent many to their forever homes in the USA and Canada. She has about 150 dogs and puppies at her home now but always has room for 1 more . She has 2 VET doctors that voluteer who operate on dogs that have been hit by cars or abused. Jamaican dogs are hard working and very loyal. Its not the same life as dogs in Canada. They are pampered more here and usually kept inside. That being said I don’t think there is a stronger breed than the Jamaican brown dog!!! ♥♥♥.

  7. My 90 year old mom has a new caretaker who is from Jamaica. She seems to like my mom’s 10 pound poodle mix and will pet her but refused to walk her for my mom because that “goes against her Jamaican culture”. Could you help me understand what that means? Is it the leash? Picking up dog poop? May be a deal breaker for my mom employing her. Thanks

  8. It’s because they live in the wild in Jamaica as state above. Dogs in jamaica aren’t usually allowed inside the house so she is probably confused on why you walk her because jamaicans leave their dogs out and they do there buisness far away from home or receive a slap with the broom.

  9. Vegan Cinephile

    Is there an e.mail I can contact you on please? Thank you

  10. Can I get a dog from Tammy. I was planning on going to Jamaica in August I can’t take my poodle so I would like to have one in Jamauca.

  11. V.C.
    Enjoyed your article, the cat with green eyes and green collar happened to be mine, RockHouse neighbor, spayed and well fed. Italians love cats. The puss got lost, not that you packed her and took her home with you? I am serious, true story, missed my pet. Any help appreciated. I believe someone decided to clean the yard and poisoned the place, it happens often when animals are too many here..shame

  12. I have checked your website and i have found some duplicate content, that’s why you don’t rank high in google, but there is a tool that can help you to create 100% unique articles, search for; Boorfe’s tips unlimited content

  13. Hi there, can anyone identify the different breeds the typical Jamaican mutt might be? (Particularly in images 8, 10, and 11; thank you!

Speak your mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: