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Thai Villagers Turn to Cartoon Cat as Extreme Heat Wave Leaves Much of Region Helpless

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Desperate times call for desperate measures, and across Asia, communities are responding to an extreme and deadly heat wave, which has battered the region since last month and has left few options for residents and governments to cope, in creative and even superstitious ways.

One city in the Philippines has rolled out free mobile showers, while in Vietnam, municipal authorities reportedly looked into the possibility of enlisting the help of a man who claimed he could pray for precipitation. In Thailand, a village in the central province of Nakhon Sawan resorted earlier this week to a rain-calling ritual that involved parading a Japanese manga cat.

According to Thai media, some 200 residents of the province’s Phayuha Khiri district conducted a traditional hae nang maew, or “female cat parade.” The ceremony has agricultural roots dating back hundreds of years ago in which farmers would hold a procession with a nang maew (female cat), carried in either a basket or cage, across the village as planting season approaches. Because of cats’ aversion to water, traditionally the captive cat is splashed with water with the belief that its cries will augur rainfall.

While in the past, real cats have been used, amid increasing concerns about animal abuse, Hello Kitty dolls and other lifeless alternatives have been subbed in instead in recent years.

The Thai villagers this week used plushies of Doraemon—a cartoon blue, male, robotic cat of Japanese origin popularized by its eponymous manga and anime. It’s not the first time Doraemon has played the central part in the rain-calling ritual. Doraemon, which first appeared in 1969, has become a beloved icon in the Southeast Asian country and has often been spotted over the years in Buddhist shrines and temples.

But Doraemon’s powers in this regard are likely limited, as Thailand’s dry weather conditions aren’t expected to let up until at least mid-May, as the rainy season’s start is delayed. Meanwhile, as climate change continues to push global temperatures upward, meteorological experts warn that the country’s sweltering summer heat that once would ease around June may now and in the future last through October.

Read More: How to Monitor and Stay Safe in Extreme Heat, Using the CDC’s New HeatRisk Tool

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