Due to the state of veterinary care, I wouldn’t really recommend having pets in Bishkek. To be fair, Peter was found on the street at 6-8 weeks of age, and Mика was picked out of a crate that could only be described as having a carpet of kittens, many of whom already had some kind of eye or ear infection. (On a side note, I later researched a bit and found out that I had bought a Siberian forest cat – a Russian breed still rare in the US – for $10. Siberian cats are basically playful, affectionate kittens for life – and may grow up to look like this (and yet still not shed!):
But I have digressed.
After we bought little cat from the cesspool of kittens, we took both cats to the vet clinic at the university – which happens to be the best clinic in Kyrgyzstan. Which means it’s still housed in a fabricated building that has suspiciously striking similarity to a shipping container. Both cats were quite fine, and so we took them home.
Three weeks pass and we notice that Peter has stopped eating, stopped drinking, and is just lying around with a glazed look in his face all the time. After a few days, E called his friend at the clinic, who suggested that it might just be the heat, as poor Peter has a really thick coat, and advised we watch and wait a few days.
A week passed, and Peter still wasn’t eating, so we finally brought him to the vet on Wednesday. And I watched them mess up on the blood sample, squirting some blood back under his skin, take a “single use” needle out of Peter, stick it into a jar of medicine, and then stick it back in Peter, fumble through pockets to find a knife to rip gauze, and end up messily ripping it with their bare hands, and drop stitches on a dog they were operating on next door. The vets and local student-vets did at least use new gloves, but there was no soap at the sink or sanitizing of surfaces.
It turned out that Peter had a urinary tract infection. Peter, who had been perfectly healthy and left the house but once in two years (the last time E tried to bring him to the vet he flipped and hid under the sofa or behind the bureau for two days). So in all likelihood – he got the infection during the cats’ checkup at the clinic.
Kyrgyzstan did once have decent medical facilities, for people as well as pets. But that was in soviet times, and since then facilities have been left to decay. There are some new dental offices in Bishkek, but there really isn’t a modern hospital in the whole country. There’s still plenty of medicine available (mostly Russian brands) relying on the supply chains of the past, but getting seriously sick or injured in the country could be a bit of a nightmare. Most people who can afford it ship off to Russia or Turkey for treatment.
On another note, it’s rumored that two Turkish hospitals will be built in Bishkek in the upcoming years. It is interesting – a lot of European and American aid pours into the country to work on projects, while the Turkish presence is mostly motivated by market, making money off of providing goods and services not yet available in the country. This is softened a bit by the Turkish government-funded free university and high schools (the university even offers a living stipend to all students). But most Turkish-backed ventures in Bishkek are economically-motivated – developing shopping malls and housing complexes, importing consumer goods, opening restaurants – or providing higher-quality medical services. Turkish goods here are usually a bit more expensive than they are in Turkey, say 20-50%, at least. But this does provide one major service to the Kyrgyz economy – creating competition, and keeping down prices that could spiral if there was just one or two local companies offering modern goods. Unfortunately, the Turkish vet clinic still has a way to go…