Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. As we enter a new year, and a new decade, let's hope that the year is a good one for our animal counterparts.

May you all have a wonderful New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Disappearing sea lions

Some of you might remember that I posted about the sea lions on Pier 39 in San Francisco a few months ago. It seems that they've suddenly disappeared - global warming, migration or something else?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have a peaceful and restful holiday!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lawsuit against killing someone's pet

I thought this lawsuit brought against someone whose pet dog was shot has interesting implications. Can you imagine if a similar lawsuit was brought to court in Singapore? It would also have implications for peoples' pets that were trapped in AVA traps. Bear in mind that I doubt it would cancel out a person's right to keep animals off their own property, but that would be a separate right altogether.

For example, say you have a child, and your child runs into your neighbour's garden. Does your neighbour have a right to grab your child and hit them? What this couple is asking for is that an animal be viewed as more akin to a child than to a piece of property.

I have always wondered about baiting the AVA traps. Arguably, one is enticing the cat onto the property - but for the food, the cat might not have walked on.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rats sniffing out landmines

Another fantastic example of using an animal considered a 'pest' to do something very useful and which can save lives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Babies born in dirtier conditions are healthier

Here's another interesting article about how dirt may actually be good for babies. For all the parents who are worried their children are being exposed to 'dirty' animals, they may actually be doing their children a big disservice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dogs smarter than cats?

What do you think of this article? I think that the fact that cats refuse to be tested might show that THEY are actually smarter :) Seriously though, I think it's comparing apples and oranges. Dogs tend to want to please - and therefore may be more willing to take a test. However I had a dog that always wanted to see what the 'reward' was before he did anything - and cats that are very eager to please. I guess at the end of the day, every animal is different!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Declawing cats on the rise

This is sad news - one wonders why there is an increase of people declawing their cats. I did speak with a few vets about trying to get the Singapore Veterinary Authority to ask all vets to voluntarily refrain from carrying out the surgery a few years ago. I was told that it was unlikely all vets would agree but that the procedure was relatively rare.

Friday, December 11, 2009


This is a really interesting article on hoarding - and apparently they've now made a tv show about it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What do cats do all day?

This was interesting - and I wonder why it is that most of the time when we look at cats, they're sleeping then? It would be interesting if it was done with even more cats.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trees disallowed

Aminah - let me have your address by email and I'll send you the book :)

In other news, despite the fact that it seems some residents took it upon themselves to beautify their community by planting trees, these trees will be torn down because they were not authorised. The article doesn't mention anything about the trees causing a problem - just that they were not planted in the proper place and with the authority of the Resident's committee. So much for community bonding.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pet shops to be certified

Thanks to yskat for this article on how people running pet shops will soon have to undergo a compulsory training programme. While this is a good step in terms of hopefully at least impressing about pet shop owners what they should do, and how the animals should be treated while under their care, the real issue is that most pet shop owners who sell animals are in it obviously to make a profit. If they're too fussy about whom they sell the animals to, they'd go broke. In addition, why sell animals when there are so many animals that need to be adopted? I don't really see this making any real impact unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Kill

Thanks to Aminah for sending this video. It's very sad - and also upsetting, so you should skip it if you don't think it's for you.

It brought to mind the larger issue for me of shelters and No-Kill. Obviously, the situation is different in different parts of the world, but then I saw this on the No Kill Advocacy website - apparently, shelter. Apparently shelter directors in Australia, New Zealand and the US are now in a 'competition' to see who can first reach No-Kill status (Scroll down on this page to "The Race is On"). It leads me to wonder why in Singapore, a country we pride as being First in everything, that the authorities are not supportive of a No-Kill ethos, which is more humane and effective.

Interestingly as well, the No Kill Advocacy Centre is offering Redemption free to No-Kill shelters and rescue groups. I've bought a few copies to give out to people, all of whom found it a really insightful read. Winograd has just come out with another book - Irreconcilable Differences.

Even though this book is also supposed to be about American shelters, I suspect it will be much like Redemption, with lessons that I think are applicable to everyone.

I'm going to order a copy for myself - and because I thought Redemption was such a fantastic read, I'm going to order an extra copy of Irreconcilable Differences for one of you. If you'd like a chance to get your hands on a copy, please post a comment by 30th November midnight Singapore time, letting me know why you'd like to have it. The most creative/insightful/interesting comment 'wins' :) Don't add your email or mailing address on the blog - I'll ask you for it later if I'm mailing you the book. By the way, I'm not being sponsored in any way - and I haven't read Irreconcilable Differences yet either so don't ask me if it's good yet!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cats for rat patrol

Thanks to Chinky for sending this article. I like that it explained that rats tend to stay away more because of the smell, not always because cats are actively catching and killing them. I've found that when we moved into a rental home, that was certainly true.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Some of you may have read of the case of Oreo who was thrown off a building last year. He was then sent to the ASPCA - and the ASPCA said they found that he was unpredictable and aggressive. Oreo was then killed on Friday. I can understand that he might not have been able to be adopted out - but it's strange that when there were other supposedly reputable shelters with experience with traumatised/aggressive dogs, that Oreo wasn't given to them for adoption. Here's a good opinion piece by Nathan Winograd.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Contact Information on collars

Today, a little bulldog ran into my garden. It had a collar on, and didn't look distressed, but it also looked lost. I've never seen the dog before, and no one seemed to know where it came from. No one came running after it either. The dog was running full speed around and checking everything out. I tried to lure it indoors.

The dog had a collar on - and I could see that the collar had a tag on it too. Unfortunately, the side which would have had the phone number on it was facing away from me - so I couldn't see a number to call. The dog was also friendly enough but skittish - every time I made an attempt to look at his tag, he would leap away. By the time I went in to get some food to tempt it with, the dog had taken off and couldn't be found.

This then is the problem with tags. If your dog or cat is shy, chances of someone being able to read the tag is really a coin toss. If the side with the number on it is facing outwards (AND the animal stays still long enough), then your contact information can be read. However, there's also a good chance that it ISN'T facing the right way - and in that case, the tag does no good at all.

One solution around it is to put your contact details on the collar itself. Here's an example of one of the collars sold. The other way of doing this is just to get a permanent marker and write your number in large letters on whatever collar you're using. As long as it's a plain collar, this works just as well. Either way, people can easily see your contact details and call if they see your cat or dog lost.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ST (4-11-09)

This still doesn't explain why, if shooting is used as a last resort, that there are regular shooting sessions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Animal Grief

A great article on animal grief. If animals can feel emotion, then they also have a level of intelligence, despite what some people argue. Some of these videos are really sad - the one with Koko and her kitten, especially.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Watch this video - and then tell me crows are dumb. I love that Joshua Klein tried to think of a way to make a 'pest' animal do something useful so that people would stop trying to get rid of them.

If anyone is going to try and make a crowbox, let me know. We're thinking of trying one!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Birds shot at Changi Airport

Thanks to Chinky for sending me these two letters - Don't Gun them down and Heavy-handed about the sea eagles that are being shot by the gun club at Changi Airport. An earlier article about Changi Airport mentions that birds that arrive are scared off, or shot down.

I missed the original article and was horrified to read that the sea eagles (and presumably some other birds) are shot as a measure of 'last resort'. One wonders what qualifies as last resort. As Mr Owyong mentioned in his letter, if this is a 'last resort', then why is the gun club called in regularly?

Other airports have used computer modelling, mats that prevent worms from nesting on their grass so that the birds aren't attracted there (which I mentioned in an earlier blog post), working with biologists, and just about a dozen other different methods. Making the area inhospitable is probably the best first step to keeping the birds out.

I also fail to see how random shooting of the birds actually helps to improve safety. Shouldn't there be a better method in place than to get people in to shoot them once in a while? Also, it seems that there are better, more technologically advanced methods of keeping the birds out - why not employ these rather than low-tech point and shoot, which does nothing except kill birds? The gun club has mentioned that they cannot shoot some of the birds because they fly too high and fast for them - and tempted as I am to say good for the birds (which I will), it also clearly shows the limitations of the method being employed.

If Changi really wants to be a number one airport, then I certainly hope they come up with a better method of preventing bird strikes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Banning circus animals

Banning the use of live animals in circuses is good news - but the fact that these animals in Bolivia have nowhere to go after, isn't. You know the old adage - be careful what you ask for, you might get it. It's a tough question - where do these animals go? On the other hand, it does mean no more animals will be put into circuses again. Is it better to have short term suffering and spare many more animals the harm of being put in a circus later on?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Killed Rabbits used to generate electricity

Any way you cut it, using killed bunny rabbits to generate electricity doesn't make the act of killing the rabbits any better. One wonders why a more humane solution isn't pursued.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Giving up colony caregiving

I was speaking with a caregiver a few days ago and she was telling me that people are telling her that they can't look after the cats anymore because of the economic downturn.

I can understand that there are people cash strapped in this crisis, and I do sympathise with them, but in this case, she doesn't believe that it's necessarily the case in her situation. She believes they are just 'offloading' the cats into her care. She has already been paying for the sterilisation of their cats and for other medical treatments as they had said they couldn't afford it. They are now telling her however that they want to give up feeding too. From what I understand, at least one of them told her that it was the fault of the cats that they lost their job though she's not sure how this came about.

If it comes between feeding your family, and feeding your cats, no one can blame you if you choose to feed your family. However, sometimes the situation is one where people for various reasons decide they don't want to do it anymore - and sometimes it's because there's someone else in the area whom they think they can palm it off to.

In this particular case, the caregiver started sterilising the cats as she saw the feeders there weren't doing so. She has often had to retrieve cats caught and sent to the AVA (only to be told that the feeders don't want the cats back), and that if there's a problem with the town council, she should deal with it. The fact that this caregiver is not a resident there and cannot for example see the MP, is something the feeders choose to overlook. When she explained it to them, one of them told her that she should do what she could because he wasn't going to do anything.

It's irresponsible to start caring for a colony and then palming the work off to someone else for no good reason. There may be very valid reasons for it obviously - relocation, ill health, etc - which anyone can sympathise with. Just because there's someone else there who IS responsible and is a good caregiver however, does not mean that he or she wants more cats to care for and therefore wants to take over your colony too. If it's a chore for you to go down and take care of your own cats, then why should someone else take over? Don't start feeding - or even more importantly, caregiving, which involves TNRM - unless you can see yourself seeing it through for the next several years.

Monday, October 19, 2009

World Animal Day photos

These are some amazing photos in honour of World Animal Day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Deepavali!

Happy Deepavali to everyone!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Animal and God's Kingdom seminar

Animal and God's Kingdom seminar, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I realise that many of you have probably already seen this but I thought it might be of interest to those who hadn't. I also realise that the registration date just went by but you might still be able to register. It seems like a very interesting conference and would be useful to speaking with some Christians who think that treating animals humanely is not in God's plan . Hopefully every major religion will hold one!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Non-surgical sterilisation updates

There is a fascinating article in Science magazine this week with updates on the progress of finding a non-surgical method to sterilise dogs and cats. Among the interesting things, the article talks about is how there are many more people now doing research in this area because of the grant. It is extremely expensive to run trials like this - one researcher ended up having to pay out of her own pocket to house the cats for a year - and so this injects a much needed infusion of cash. What's also great to hear is that scientists whose research interests have not necessarily been in this area are now also looking into the area. The more the merrier! Link via Found Animals.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cat in the MRT

More on the cat in the MRT station. It does seem that the SPCA has gotten similar calls in the past - so hopefully it was a lapse in this case, and that there really is a system in place.

Now it appears that someone claims that it was their community cat - though I haven't seen the caregiver's name mentioned in any report till today. There are no other details - like for example, why there doesn't seem to be any mention of the caregiver being in the station looking for the cat when the writer of the letter was there - so perhaps there may be other circumstances we are not aware of. Otherwise, it is surprising because I wonder why the caregiver waited to come forward.

Again, please remember, time is of the essence if you lose a cat. Look for it right away. The longer you wait, the more likely it is you're not going to find your cat again.

Speak up - and in a timely fashion

There was some confusion about which rail operative was involved, and it seems that it was not SMRT identified, as the letter writer originally stated, but SBS Transit. Full disclosure : I have a relative who works for SBS Transit - but my opinion on the subject remains the same.

It's good to hear from this letter that SBS transit acknowledged that they made a mistake in the handling of this case, and that they will be meeting with the SPCA to work out a proper way of handling this situation. Apparently they mentioned having rescued some dogs from the station in the past. Even if there was already a protocol in place as the letter stated, it is certainly good to have a refresher, and to remind the staff (who clearly didn't know about it). It's also heartening to hear that they haven't found a dead cat on the tracks. I spoke to someone who told me that there are apparently a lot of ventilation holes in the tunnels - hopefully the cat was able to escape out of one of them.

On another thought, this brought into mind the story that I first read via calsifer's blog the other day.

I'm so sorry to hear about this case, and about the cat that wasn't saved but it does also bring to mind several issues. The writer in the MRT case wrote in and demanded accountability - and she did get it.

On the other hand, the aunties in the case mentioned above, didn't, for whatever reason. I can understand they might be frightened or scared but that doesn't help them or the cats. Neither does bringing the case up long after it happened.

The point is this - if a situation like this happens, someone has to ask for accountability, and it has to be the person whom it happened to. Imagine if the writer at the MRT station had told a friend about it, and asked that friend to write in, months or years after the fact. All of us responded especially to the situation because it had happened to the writer herself - and she was able to give specific details of what happened, and when. It also added an urgency to the case because obviously it mattered so much to her, that she wrote in right away, when the details were still fresh in her mind. It also adds credibility because she came forward herself and identified herself.

On the other hand, this case in AVA, sad as it is, made me wonder - why didn't the people involve come forward? Also, why didn't they do so sooner?

If the women were frightened for their own (and their cats') sakes, then their cat was already killed - honestly, what could be worse? The worst thing had already happened.

If the issue was that they felt that it didn't matter anymore - and it obviously does still matter to these aunties because they are still scarred by the event - then it could very well matter to the next cats which are caught. If the AVA staffer is still there, then it could well happen to the next person whose cats are caught. At the very least, what seems to be from the (admittedly second or third hand) account, a seemingly arbitrary decision could have been queried.

Right now, it's hard to see what can be done. It's like the many times we hear of people complain of animal abuse - but that they can't 'do anything' and so they tell their friends who then try to go to the police. Obviously this can't be done because the police need an actual eyewitness - and it's clear to see why. Any news passed down second or third hand will get distorted - ever played 'broken telephone'?

If someone's home is broken into, I doubt most people would not file a report, or go to the police. Then why the difference with cats? I can understand that this might be the case with the general public - but I'm sure to most of us, a cat's life is more important than any property. We have to put aside this fear or reluctance to speak up. We have already seen that there are many caregivers and people concerned about cats who are willing to back witnesses up and give them support in terms of letters and phone calls. There is a community that will support caregivers - and we've seen that time and again.

At the end of the day, if we don't speak up for the cats, then who will?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

'You are being shagged by a rare parrot' - Last Chance To See - BBC Two

This is a funny video from a series about an important message - conservation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cat on MRT tracks

*Updated post as it seems that the wrong transport operator was identified in the initial letter*

There seems to be a lot of discussion on the cat that was at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station.

First of all, the writer should be commended for what she did. Noticing how frightened the cat was and clearly being familiar with cats, I am sure she would have realised it would have been near impossible to catch the cat without the proper equipment, so she tried to get help for the cat. In addition, as she undoubtedly considered, if the cat was scared, it might well have made a dash for the tracks.

What has upset everyone, is the subsequent behaviour of the staff at the station. What this episode DOES show is that the staff involved did not know how to handle a cat. This isn't unexpected - many people don't have a clue what to do when faced with a cat. Some of the people involved may have actually believed that putting the cat into a plastic bag was a good idea, and that it was the best way of removing the cat safely. They may (and this is based obviously on conjecture) have actually thought this was the better way of handling the situation as waiting for pest control would take too long.

Unfortunately, they chose not to listen to the writer, who advised them against this, and instead pursued the cat. She felt it was obvious that it would distress the cat further.

Most of us would realised this - but what is obvious to us, isn't obvious to many people. Some people have had no interaction with cats - to them, removing the cat might be as simple as scooping the cat up and putting it in a plastic bag.

Then again, I know of feeders who have carried their cats places without carriers, or in flimsy boxes which aren't even covered properly. I've seen cats carried in pillow cases, over the shoulders and untethered in any way. I know of a cat at a vet that disappeared because the owner did not contain it properly (I believe there wasn't even a carrier). Even at Spay day, we had people come in with cats in carriers that clearly would not contain the cat. Somehow people think that a cat will just stay put if you just plonk them in some kind of restraint. Or maybe they believe that if they give the cat a dirty look, the cat will just stay put. Surprise! That doesn't work. If even people who care for cats don't know better, than perhaps ignorance by the general public can be better understood.

Of course what I fail to understand from reading the writer's account is why the security door that led to the tracks was opened subsequently by a staff member. Perhaps we'll hear from the staff member involved at some point.

Why did the staff member not attempt to stop the train? It's possible the train could not have been halted at the point if it was already approaching the station (think of your car brakes and how much stopping distance you need after you depress them).

There is also this to consider : the staff member may not have felt empowered to do this - or to face the consequences especially when the management may not already be very cat-friendly to begin with. I remember at least one case where I wrote in to offer our help to one of the transport operators because we were told that the unsterilised cats were usually rounded up and sent to the AVA if there were complaints or if they were found to be a 'problem'.

So what needs to be done? Clearly what this episode shows is that there should be some manner of procedure or protocol devised so that staff members DO know what do in future. This would ensure that we don't have to cross our fingers and hope that if this happens again, the staff member knows something about cats.

It also clearly isn't just an animal welfare issue. Birds striking into plane engines have been the cause of many engine failures. Airports take safety measures to try and keep birds away from the airport strips to try and minimise this from happening.

A cat that runs onto a track could conceivably cause damage to the train - and to the passengers onboard, not to speak of the cat being crushed or badly injured. Surely there must be protocol for what happens if a person should run onto the track - and similarly there should be steps in place for what happens if a cat should run on. If there are staff trained to spot people eating and drinking on the train, there can be staff members in place to help in a situation such as this.

It might well have happened that even if all the right steps were followed, the cat might still have dashed onto the tracks but it does limit the chances of that happening.

As for the writer's comments about her disappointment that no one came forward to offer to help, one only has to look at the recent furor over no one helping a woman who had been apparently manhandled by her male companion. We've often heard the justification that it's 'only a cat', but it seems that this isn't true. Many Singaporeans, it seems, just do not like getting involved.

We need to stop being afraid of looking foolish, or being told off, and just do what's right. This may very well mean not 'minding our own business' - because at the end of the day, the community we live in IS our business.

World Animal Day news

Pet Smart Adoption Center, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

A number of animal related stories in the papers in view of World Animal day. According to this article in mypaper, the number of cats taken to the SPCA has dropped by half in the last 5 years. This is great news. It also mentions CWS' Spay Days, though they were actually started four years ago, not three as the newspaper stated.

There is also apparently a new foundation being set up by Pet Lovers Centre to encourage adoption. Perhaps the foundation might consider setting up adoption centres in the pet shops? Here's a photo of a similar initiative that Petsmart charities has in the US. Every Petsmart has an adoption centre run by welfare groups in the area - and as you can see, quite a large number of animals has been adopted through them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

World Animal Day

World Animal Day, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Happy World Animal Day everyone. As we reach another World Animal Day, it reminds me of how much animals enrich our lives and bring us so much joy. I hope that everyone will learn to at least tolerate, if not love, the animals around us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Someone I know just had a community cat of hers caught and sent to the AVA. Fortunately, she was able to retrieve the cat in time before it was killed, but it turns out that a neighbour trapped the cat while she was away. She was upset and aggrieved, that a neighbour would do so before speaking with her as the neighbour knew the cat was a cat she cared for.

It is extremely upsetting to lose your cat in such an upsetting fashion, and it is true that some neighbours are very trigger happy. They would rather trap your cat (knowing it is under your care), rather than wait to speak with you.

However it is a good idea to try and get on good terms with your neighbours BEFORE there is any friction. You don't want your first contact with your neighbours to be one where there is already some unhappiness over a cat, for example.

If you first move into a neighbourhood, or there is a new neighbour who moves in, do take the initiative to go over and introduce yourself. It can be as simple as just offering to give them your number or telling them to knock on your door if they need anything. I tend to like to bring over something to welcome them - baked goods (if you bake), flowers, etc. It doesn't have to be something expensive. That way your start off your first interaction on a positive note. Your neighbour is then more likely to approach you if they do have an issue in the future.

Especially if the cats are very obvious - ie lounging around and impossible to miss - you may want to also let your neighbours know, that you help to care for them. You should also let them know that if there is any issue, they should not hesitate to contact you.

Of course, it doesn't mean that the relationship will not go sour in future no matter what you do. However, it's always better to have a friendly first interaction then to meet your neighbour only when they have an issue with the cats.

A caregiver I know is so friendly and helpful to the neighbours that one of her neighbours who really doesn't like the cats at all, keeps an eye on the cats when the caregiver is on holiday. The neighbour still doesn't like the cats - but she DOES like the caregiver, and that makes all the difference.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Peacocks on Sentosa

Some of you may have read the article about peacocks on Sentosa. I remember seeing some of the signs when I was last there a few years ago, and here's a photo, a blogger took of the signs. What's especially interesting to me is that the peacocks are actually SEEN attacking the cars, but that most people seem to be okay with it, or rather that they understand what the peacocks are doing. Some people have even bought car covers, according to the story. This leads me to the question - are people on Sentosa just more accommodating to wildlife, or is it just because peacocks are rarer?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

TC report cards

Many of you have probably already read these articles on town councils and their new ranking system. As some of you have mentioned in the past, it is quite worrying.

There are a few things that are cause for concern. Firstly, cleanliness is assessed in terms of how many average complaints there are per block. Again, it doesn't seem from the report that this takes into account whether the complaint is from the same person or from various people. So technically, you could have a block where 99% of the block is happy with the level of cleanliness, but the block could get a bad grade because one person complains repeatedly. This leads to what a few of you have mentioned in the past - the possible knee jerk reaction in response to complaints about cats.

Of course TCs are going to want to be extra responsive - and if there is a complaint, are they more likely to work with residents or trap and remove cats? As we all know, removing cats doesn't help because most of these cats are not community cats, but someone's household cat let out to wander. Again because the root cause of the problem isn't solved - the problem will reoccur when the same irresponsible residents just gets another cat and lets it out to wander.

At the same time, will TCs feel they need to solve the problem even 'quicker' lest they get another complaint from the same resident about the same issue? Will they exert more pressure on caregivers? The only hope I have is that TCs start to realise after getting repeat complaints from the same resident that it's driving their complaint numbers up and that they may be more willing to come to a more permanent solution by consulting with caregivers.

Secondly, I had thought this exercise was going to be about transparency. The main concern that everyone had was when people realised that town council funds were being put in investments which were losing money. While I appreciate that financial information is available online, surely the idea is that residents should be able to access any relevant information about TCs both easily and for free. For example, when I last checked, many TCs still did not publish their bylaws online. In order to get them, you need to buy the bylaws. In addition, while in theory you are supposed to be able to buy them at the TC counter, the TCs I spoke to didn't have them.

Instead of assessing TCs on the basis of arrears collected, there must be a better system of determining transparency. Certainly if a TC has problems collecting arrears in a large number of cases, there is probably an issue there. On the other hand, what if there are residents who are unable to pay as was mentioned by Ms Grace Fu herself?

One of the issues I think we've talked about often is service standards - and again, I don't see that being addressed. This should include guidelines referring to how long it will take for a TC officer to get back to you - ie within the day? Never? It was very disappointing that this was not addressed. The GEMS programme already at work in other sectors might be a model.

Another thing that concerns me is that this seems that unfortunately again this is going to be a complaint driven report card. What if people are happy with their estates? Is there no criteria that can measure it? I am sure that people are more likely to criticise than praise in general - but there should be some room for people to praise a TC when it deserves the accolades.

Whatever is said about the TCs not being compared with each other, it is inevitable that people will do the ranking themselves as they're all being measured on the same scale. It's sort of like school rankings and the inevitable craziness that used to occur when schools were ranked. No TC will want to be at the bottom of the list and I worry what methods they will use to achieve this.

Finally, while there is talk residents and TCs deciding on the standards and how much they are willing to pay for it, I don't see how this will happen in practise. Most people will naturally want the cleanest estate for the cheapest possible price. Some residents are willing to pay more for a cleaner estate as one of the people quoted in the article mentioned. On the other hand, other residents as another person mentioned, do not want to pay more but want to be more personally involved in keeping the estate clean. I don't see how the TC report card is going to help resolve this in any way.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sterilisation for cats

Thanks to yskat for sending this in. I think we discussed the grant to fund research into sterilisation, but here's a story about the guy who is putting his money to try and find injectable contraceptives for cats. I am surprised the story called TNR 'exotic' though.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Egypt belated spots flaw in killing pigs

While our garbage collection is definitely better than the one described in this article, this reaction to H1N1 certainly sounds familiar. This serves as a good cautionary tale - animals react and respond to the environment and fill the vacuum there. Removing them causes a myriad of other unanticipated problems.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hari Raya

Selamat Hari Raya to everyone who celebrates - and may you have a wonderful year ahead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Podcast taping

I went and taped a podcast with the lovely people from Alley Cat Allies on Mediation, aka community relations today. It was a fun session and I'll let you know when it's available to hear!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dolphin killing

Considering how intelligent and gentle dolphins are, it makes it even sadder that they are hunted and killed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pier 39 with sealions

Pier 39 with sealions, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I was away in California over the past week and came upon these sea lions.

What was however even more interesting to me was the fact that these sealions started migrating to the area, and that at first they were viewed as a nuisance. People wanted them gone because they were noisy. Several people around me also commented on the smell.

What was really interesting though was that they decided to try and accommodate the sea lions instead of driving them away and now they are a huge tourist attraction. There were tons of tourists taking photos and just basically watching the sea lions.

Food for thought for people who think our community cats are pests?

Monday, September 7, 2009


This is an interesting article about declawing in the San Francisco papers. San Francisco, is known to be one of the more progressive cities in the US in terms of animal welfare, and their SPCA is world famous.

Interestingly, the SF SPCA and some of the vets do not want to ban declawing. One of the reasons given is that they do not believe city council should legislate on the matter. Another is that there is a worry that owners might give their cats up if they are not given the option of declawing.

A couple of issues - again, I'm not a huge fan of unnecessary legislation as you guys know. Often, without enforcement, how effective is it just to HAVE a law? However, a few years ago when we considered this topic, we talked to the vets in Singapore. Instead of having a strict law against it, the vets, as a body, could decide amongst themselves NOT to practice declawing. That way, if there were also very specific reasons why they might want to practice declawing in certain cases, they can still make that decision. For example, if someone comes to them and says that their cat has scratched them and the cat will be tossed out on the street otherwise.

On the other hand, some of the vets told us they thought that cats might be thrown out on the streets otherwise. First of all, even in Singapore, where declawing is not very common, we have found declawed cats abandoned. So I don't think that argument holds much water. Secondly, most people declaw cats when they first adopt/buy a cat, so it would not really affect that many people who already HAVE cats. If it stops someone from adopting a cat, then so be it. Also, as I mentioned, if it is a practice direction that the veterinary association agrees to adopt, then they CAN make exceptions where they think it is necessary.

Another point I think to consider is that declawing has been illegal in the United Kingdom and I believe much of Europe for many years as has tail docking. If it has worked there, then I think it's high time to consider doing away with the practice - whether by law, or by internal regulation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ST (2-9-09)

Here's a letter from Mr Tan Tuan Khoon that I can agree with. It's something that we've been advocating and talking to the vets about since I was with CWS (and on this blog and on the predecessor to this blog). Perhaps Mr Tan may not be not aware that not all the vets are comfortable doing early age spay-neuter or more caregivers and pet owners would be happy to do it. There have been caregivers who have worked with vets to get cats sterilised before four to six months (which is normally done here).

Mr Tan may also be unaware that there are already people reporting animals abandoned but that it is very difficult to prosecute and find proof of this. You must for example have witnessed the animal being dumped - and obviously, you'd be hard pressed to find someone actually abandon an animal where others can see it. It's mostly done somewhere remote or in the middle of the night.

Let's hope that Mr Tan has a change of heart. Since he obviously advocates sterilisation (and early age sterilisation too), then let's hope that he actively walks the talk.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What happens to cats caught?

I was talking to a caregiver and she mentioned that one of the complainants had asked for the cats to be removed not knowing that the cats would be killed. On hearing what would happen to the cats, the complainant said that he wanted to withdraw his complaint. He had thought they would be relocated.

It's really important to try and let complainants know what happens to the cats - animal control or town council isn't going to tell them in general. Many complainants may want the cats removed - but they do NOT want them killed. If a solution can be found to whatever issues they are facing, many are fine with the cats remaining where they are.

This is why it's so important to let people know that cats do not end up in what I call Cat Disneyland - they're not in a lovely shelter being cared for. They are being hauled off to be killed - and it doesn't even solve whatever problem there generally was in the first place.

If you're doing TNRM, let your neighbours and others know - and let them know the fate of the cats should they be taken away.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I'm helping out with a case right now where the caregiver is being told that her cats will be trapped. All the cats have been sterilised and she has been told tha the law does not allow them to be there.

It's completely natural to be frightened/concerned when told that something is illegal. Who wouldn't be when the options are that the cats might be killed/you could get into trouble? However the situation might not be as dire as you think. Here are a few things to consider.

First, the 'law' is often wielded by complainants, officers, etc even when the law does not actually prohibit the act complained of. How many times have we heard of people who have been told that 'feeding is illegal' to find out that it isn't? If someone comes up and tells you that you are doing something illegal, ask politely for them to show you exactly WHERE this is illegal. Is it in a statute? A bylaw? A condo 'ruling'? If it is illegal, it must be written down somewhere. If the person who is telling you the act is illegal is a government officer of some kind, then he or she should be able to furnish you with a copy of the law. Make sure you read it and find out what is specifically stated - don't take someone else's word for it.

Secondly, you've looked at the wording of the law or bylaw and it doesn't look promising. Say it tells you that 'feeding' is illegal. One important thing to do is to look at the definition of the word. All laws need to define the terms used. For example, how do you define 'feeding'? It may NOT for example include feeding a colony of cats in a managed setting. That may be specifically excluded and thus, perfectly legal.

Thirdly, say you've checked the words of the bylaw or law and it seems that feeding is not allowed or that a TNRM colony cannot remain there 'legally'. One of the problems is that some laws are extremely archaic - some of them were written at a time when many of our modern conveniences were never imagined possible. TNRM may never have been contemplated. Consider how many people now still do not know how TNRM works and it's no surprise that the law may not have caught up yet. So remember : just because the law/bylaw/ruling exists in its present form does not mean it is written in stone. Laws change all the time to keep pace with changes in lifestyle. For example, did you know until 2007, there was a specific clause in the Penal Code in Singapore that disallowed maiming or killing cattle or any animal of the value of $25? There are many other laws that I wouldn't be surprised are repealed because they just don't apply and there will be new laws that come into existence to encompass new technology. For example, laws that have to do with email/internet communications, etc.

If you feel that the law is outdated, then work to get it changed. Speak to your condo management/your representative whether it be an MP or elected representative. If it is clearly outdated, and doesn't make sense, you could well help to get something unfair corrected. Due to the nature of the situation though, most of these laws are pretty local - they're going to be restricted to your condo, your building or your community/estate, so chances are you CAN affect change locally pretty effectively.

Most importantly, try and familiarise yourself with the laws that will affect you. Most laws are now available online. You can also call the agencies involved directly - for example, the NEA to find out what the laws are in regards to for example feeding. Again, ask for the exact provision if you are told something is not allowed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Service animals

Here's an interesting article on an interesting service animal - and goes to show that animals really can make a difference in a person's happiness. It also shows that there are inflexible housing rules all over.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Construction workers and animals

I've heard more than once from some caregivers that the cats disappeared from their estate. Why? Because they believe that the cats were eaten by foreign construction workers. There was no proof - just that there were construction workers there, and the cats were gone.

This letter was a nice example to show that just because someone is from a different culture from us doesn't mean that they are necessarily animal chomping barbarians. In fact, often construction sites are where animals start breeding because they are getting fed by people there. Some unfortunately also leave the animals behind when the work is done, presumably also because it is difficult for them to take the animals with them to their new jobs. This does lead to other attendant problems obviously, but we shouldn't be quick to jump to the conclusion that everyone different from us, is out for fresh cat or (in this case) rabbit meat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Search and Rescue dogs

I know we've had a discussion on this before - why can't local dogs be trained to be search and rescue dogs instead of importing expensive, pedigree dogs? Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is running a programme that is trying this out!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Restaurateur dies

Thanks to Chinky for sending this. I never had a chance to meet Mr Bhavan but I had heard he was very compassionate to the cats. It is also relief to know the cats he has taken in will be well looked after, with his passing.

Best friends Fur-ever

Something sweet for a Friday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cat as scapegoat

I was recently sent an email from a caregiver who had gotten into an email altercation about a cat in the condo she lives in. First of all, it appears there is only ONE cat. Secondly, as with many of these cases, it seems that the cat wasn't even the issue - the issue seems to have been about the fact that she had seen the complainant's son chasing the cat the day before. According to her email, she had gone up and told the boy not to do it, because it might scare the cat.

I wasn't there obviously but the boy's father took it badly and immediately sent a complaint to the whole condominium about this ONE cat. He included some very choice insults to the caregiver, questioning her sexual orientation and her ability to have children.

The caregiver was upset, and clearly she has a right to be. It still puzzles me why the boy's father, if he was really upset didn't just speak to the complainant directly. He knew exactly whom she was. Plus if he didn't like the way she spoke to his son, then why didn't he raise it with her?

Someone in the US asked me the other day about whether people in Singapore generally tell children off if they are out of line. She said when she grew up, there was a sense of community, and people looked out for each other - and that included telling children off if they needed to be.

I don't think my grandmother would have hesitated to tell off any of the neighbour's children if they were doing something wrong. I also don't think their parents would take offence. Certainly, I remember being chastised by a neighbour once - and my mother didn't fly off the handle. Often it was for our own good. Is it just me or does there seem to be a shift now where if you told someone else's child off, you'd better be ready to be ripped to pieces? I can understand a parent being up in arms if the person is being abusive/rude/nasty to a child, but what about an honest admonishment? Or do some parents think they are the only ones entitled to discipline their children?

Of course, the sad thing now is that the cat is being made the scapegoat. The caregiver has moved him temporarily for his safety.

One other issue the caregiver brought up was suing the man in defamation. I can totally understand why she would feel that way - but honestly, the man's emails were so ludicrous, that I don't think anyone would have believed him. Sometimes, you have to be the bigger person and turn the other cheek - and that's what the caregiver is doing. All I think it's doing to the complainant is giving him an ulcer with his anger.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meeting people from all over

You know what I like about this blog? The fact that I get to 'meet' so many people from around the world. Someone wrote from Israel - a very nice lady who is having an issue with fleas on the community cats in her yard. She wants to get them TNRed and wants to clean the area up before the cats are returned. It's so nice to see people who do not want the cats killed even if they are facing issues. Also, I think it shows that they realise that killing is not the solution - and that can be better, more humane alternatives.

Fortunately, there is a welfare group in Israel and I had emailed one of the members in the past. I was able to link the two up via email. Often we bemoan how technology has robbed us of human interaction, but we sometimes forget how it also makes connections possible that would never have been possible before.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nora the Piano playing cat

This is the cutest story - and make sure to check out the videos after.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Formal Communications

So much of modern communication does not occur face to face. We're far more likely to write emails or text someone instead of talking to them in person. As a result, many of the nuances of communication that we transmit through body language are lost. A line written in jest for example, can be mistaken for an insult.

Recently, I've been getting some emails that made me realise that some people may be coming across unintentionally as being rude or overly familiar. This is not an exhaustive list of course, and I know that MY own emails (and blog posts) may sometimes come across the wrong way as well. I'm no Ms Manners, but here are some of the more common things that I have seen and thought I'd share with you.

1. If you're writing to a TC officer/city official/elected representative/condo or building manager/animal control officer/etc, keep it formal.

These people are not your personal friends, so please do not write to them as if they are. It is more appropriate to write to them as you would a business associate. You may of course eventually form a personal relationship, but if you are corresponding with them in terms of an official matter, then keep your language formal.

This means no 'text speak' - no abbreviations. Please do not type for example "i wld like 2 c u ASAP'. This just comes across as sloppy.

Also, I personally think that emoticons should be left out of official communications as much as possible. I can see one or two smiley faces but if your email reads "then the cats disappeared. :((((((" that might be a bit too much.

2. No mass mail/jokes/adoption notices

Again, please do not send a mass email about re-homing a kitten to your officer, for example. A possible exception : where you're trying to show what efforts you are taking to control the population in your area.

3. Keep communications to office hours as much as possible

Should someone you're meeting in an official capacity about the cats give you their handphone number, please do not abuse this. They have lives too - and they don't necessarily want to spend time speaking with you after office hours. If it's an emergency, then of course you may have to call after office hours. Alternatively, perhaps you have let your officer know that you are working too and can only call after you are done with work. In this case, please try and keep to reasonable hours. Phone calls regularly at eleven pm are not reasonable.

4. Stay contactable

Make sure that you are contactable and where possible, give people a variety of ways to get hold of you. For example, if you have email and a handphone, give BOTH. If you are not easily contactable, they may not bother to try again.

Also, there may be legitimate reasons you cannot be reached at certain times. For example, you might say that it is difficult/impossible for you to answer the phone/email while you are at work, but you will return their call/email as soon as you can if they leave you a message. However saying, "I'm a busy person so make sure you only call me at X am" puts people off. Everyone is busy - and a statement like that makes it seem as if you think that your time is more valuable than theirs.

5. Acknowledge emails/phone calls/actions

This is especially if you have written to ask for help or advice. If someone has taken the trouble to respond to you, then it is only polite to acknowledge that you've received it. A simple 'Thanks for your email' will often suffice.

If someone has gone to some trouble on your behalf, then a more in depth reply would be appropriate. No one enjoys the feeling of an email going into the black hole of the Internet never to be seen again :)

Obviously, there may be many occasions when YOU are on the end of an annoying email or the officer is playing hard to get. You call/email/leave messages and they never get replied to. I empathise, I really do. Unfortunately, there's little that can be done. I have always felt it would be nice that at least in the government service that there is the expectation of a reply within X number of hours. Unfortunately as well, in those cases, we see people who are rude getting the quickest service. The nasty complainant/the rude person who doesn't want the cats there. In that case, throw all this out the window :) Sadly, that just means it's a race to the bottom. I still contend that really rude emails to TCs should be ignored no matter who sends them - but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

In general though, people do respond to politeness. If you are polite, GENERALLY people are polite in return. If you are rude or even just abrasive, then it isn't a stretch to imagine people respond in kind.

Feel free to jump in with your own bugbears!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Foster Kittens


I was down at Alley Cat Allies again yesterday and saw these cuties, all of whom are up for adoption. I had to post a bunch of photos of them because they're so adorable - then again, which kitten isn't? :)

ACA obviously doesn't usually foster kittens, but these were picked up by a staff member from a colony that was being TNRed. You can go to this site to find out more. If you happen to be in the area, and would like to adopt them, the contact information is on the link I just provided.

The kittens were all hissy and frightened two weeks ago - now they're all getting socialised, and getting much friendlier. Of course, this doesn't mean obviously that everyone should run around 'rescuing' kittens as you all well know. LQtalways be sure you HAVE foster homes before taking them in and then realising you have nowhere to put them. Also be realistic about your chances of adopting them out. You don't want to end up with 10 cats at home.

I was emailing a caregiver in Singapore the other day and she was trying to rehome a mother and kittens. She caught the mother - but the kittens couldn't be caught according to her. If the kittens are too young, and you remove the mother while she is still nursing, be aware the kittens could very well die. Also, do NOT remove a nursing kitten unless you have the capability to nurse the kittens. Even then, mother's milk is always preferable.

Again, I know I say this all the time, but do remember, just because a very young, nursing kitten is sitting in the middle of the field does not mean there is no mother cat around. The mother cat may well have gone to look for food and will return. If you have ascertained over many hours that there is no mother cat, then you might consider having to remove the kitten. Also as one well-meaning person did, please do not stand over the kitten - the mother cat may well not return in that case.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

10 things your vet won't tell you

While not everything is applicable to Singapore of course, I found this article was pretty applicable on most things. Most vets aren't necessarily animal behaviourists - so many people have emailed or told me they cannot find someone who can diagnose why their cat is behaving in a certain manner. Also, many people are unaware that not every clinic has someone with the cat overnight as mentioned - it's assumed that if the cat is overnight there is someone to look after him or her, but that's not always the case.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Help one or save five?

I was speaking to someone today who is trying to help a woman who has too many cats in her flat. The HDB has been called in, and apparently there have been many complaints. The woman who contacted me, who is trying to help, mentioned that the place DOES smell. The cats, she said, are in fairly good condition, though she couldn't recall if any were over-grooming. She mentioned the woman is constantly getting dumped on and that the woman cannot turn the cats away when they need help.

You know the saying - the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Someone once said to me, everyone who does rescue work has good intentions or they wouldn't do it. It doesn't mean that the good intentions don't lead to the cats suffering however.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, finds it difficult when faced with the dilemma. What do you do when there is a small kitten that needs help? Or an injured cat? What happens if you are already stretched to capacity?

Instead of good intentions, I think it's time we have to be pragmatic. What is the best thing to do for the cats? Not the newcomer alone - but ALL the cats.

When you take in that one new kitten, bear in mind that unless you have good quarantine facilities that you immediately increase the chances of all the other cats catching disease. I know of a person with 'good intentions' who took in kittens that needed nursing and all the cats in her home catching FIP. Did most of the cats die? Yes.

I know of another woman who kept taking in kittens because of her good intentions. She felt bad they were on the street. Where did many of them end up? Buried in her garden. Yet she was convinced she was saving the cats.

Hoarders don't start out with 100 cats. They started out with arguably the best of intentions and ONE cat.

At the end of the day, it IS a numbers game. Save one, or kill five? Because no matter what the intentions are, there will come a point when there are too many cats and there will be not enough money. This means the cats are less likely to get proper medical attention, food, and attention. It also means that they are far more likely to be stressed. Disease obviously spreads faster in an enclosed environment where the cats are already stressed.

More importantly - not every cat needs to go into a home. They live perfectly well on the streets unless they have an underlying condition that prevents them from doing so. Arguably, I'd say many of them stand a better chance of living healthily on the street. They're also happier. Would you rather live in a cage or out on the street where you have freedom of movement?

For almost all of us, money is limited - and the best thing that can be done is to spend as much of it as possible on sterilisation. Again it's a numbers game. A caregiver I know got dumped on so much that she went around and sterilised all the home cats that weren't sterilised. This was of course after she had already finished all the community cats. End result - far, far less dumping. That's cheaper in the long run then taking in, housing, nursing and feeding all the new kittens that get dumped.

More importantly - it's not about feeling good, or even feeling less guilty. It's not about you feeling sorry for the cat. In fact, I would say that emotion should have very little part to play in all of this. What's most important is to consider what is the best step to take for the largest number of cats to ensure their welfare. You can't save every single cat - but you can try and help as many of them as you can and that means ensuring they live the best quality of life that they can.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Loving Singapore

This is a fantastic scan from the Singapore Community Cats blog. It's a scan from the Straits Times supplement. It was a pleasant surprise to see that community cats are one of the reasons listed for loving Singapore!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Flags, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Happy National Day everyone. Again, my wish this year for us as a nation is that we'll come to accept, and embrace our lovely community cats.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cat Stop

Cat Stop, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I went down with another mediator today back to the mediation site I went down to. Cat Stops, Cat scats and rocks were given to the people who were having trouble with the defecation issue.

One of the things I think needs to be remembered is that mediation is not a one time affair. Instead of one meeting, it's more of a continuing relationship. It's also very important to keep the lines of communication open. If the complainant does not convey what the issue is, there will be problems. On the other hand, if the caregiver cannot be gotten hold of, that will also cause issues.

Also, there is no one solution. As the mediator I went down with today said, there' s no one 'silver bullet' that will solve all the issues. Instead it's a situation that needs fine tuning. As we mentioned to the people having problems, there are other options that can always be considered.

We also said to the person that we met that there are repellents, and then there is trying to get to the root cause. It appears that the cats have been moving onto the property in greater numbers of late. However, the feeders have fed in the area for the last two years, and the cats rarely ever came onto the property in the past. As such, something must be happening that may have caused a change in the cats' behaviour. It's important to find out what that might be, and address that issue.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Crazy Cat Ladies?

This is interesting - I once spoke to someone who said the crazy cat lady number was 10. Having been to quite a few houses with cats though, I can say that some people have multiple cats are their house is very clean. You wouldn't be able to tell there were cats. I've also been to houses where there have also been one or two cats, and it stinks. The worst cases are the hoarding cases - and honestly, I don't think it's a crazy 'cat' thing. Unfortunately in those cases, I think many of the people have other issues to deal with - the cats are just one component of the issues. They can (and often do) hoard many other things too.

Tidycat is having a contest to debunk the crazy cat lady stereotype - and high time too :) Here's the website that was referenced in the article. Unfortunately it's not open to residents outside of the US but it's certainly interesting nonetheless!

Friday, July 31, 2009

What's in a name?

A caregiver called me the other day and said that someone might be contacting me about a mediation problem they were facing. She said that the person who was contacting me thought that it might be useful to speak with me because of my legal training. The interesting thing was that this wasn't a legal problem at all.

I'm grateful for my formal education but honestly, I've learnt much more during my time with CWS. The bottom line is - it doesn't matter what your educational level is or what you were trained in. One of the best mediators I know is a woman who doesn't speak much English and yet manages to almost always solve the problems.

There's no special 'trick' to being a good mediator or even a caregiver. Being a doctor, or a lawyer, or an accountant doesn't automatically make you better at it. Certainly you can go for classes and courses for mediation at least, but the most important thing is experience.

I think a lot of us are hung up on titles or degrees. It's only natural - but we're much more than our formal education. Mark Twain, who himself left school early, famously said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education".

Don't think that you are not 'qualified ' to be a caregiver, or a mediator because you don't have the right 'training'. All you need is a desire to keep learning, a calm temperament, and a bit of common sense. There are tons of resources - more so now than ever before. There is a vast array of information on the Net alone. There are other caregivers or mediators who can give advice whether online, or in person, or over the phone.

You'll be surprised how much you learn just by observation. Much of it cannot be taught - though an experienced caregiver may be able to point it out to you.

Finally, remember that everyone has their own set of skills. Some people will make excellent caregivers, others, fantastic mediators. Still others may be fantastic fosters. Find out what you enjoy and what you're good at and that's where you'll best be able to contribute, no matter what your 'training' might have been in.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alley Cat Allies

Alley Cat Allies, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I visited with the nice people from Alley Cat Allies today. However you're getting photos of the cats and dogs because admit, it - you're rather see the animals :)

Also, people can be shy - but what can a cat do when it doesn't want it's photo taken? Jazzy on the lower right hand corner demonstrates the correct etiquette when she's had enough photo taking for one day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

South-pawed kitties?

Interesting article though it was a small study group - anyone want to try it on their cats? :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Hummingbirds, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

You know the old untruth that people shouldn't feed cats because more and more cats will come into an area when there is food? The more I watch different animals, the more I see how untrue it is, not just for cats, but for other animals too.

We all know that cats enter an area because of territory, not because of food. However, this isn't just limited to cats. If anything else, it's almost as if the animals don't want others near 'their' territory and food. In this photo, the hummingbird below is watching the hummingbird above as the latter tries to move closer to the food bowl. It doesn't matter that there are several food ports. It doesn't matter that there is plenty of food for both birds (and others besides). The hummingbird just does NOT want the other bird in its territory, or near its food.

I've seen hummingbirds that will just sit there and warn others away from the feeding station. I've heard someone say that her hummingbird would rather go hungry then let anyone else close.

This is the case for squirrels, raccoons and other birds even when there is ample food. I hang a finch sock outside and the finches have their own 'spots' even though there is plenty of food. If a finch attempts to sit on another 'spot', he or she is driven away.

The only time this doesn't seem to apply so much? Mating season.

So sterilised cats don't have that issue - and they get even more territorial about their area. Food really isn't the issue.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Observatory Cats

In New Hampshire, there is an observatory that studies the weather. It is apparently extremely cold most of the year. What is interesting is that they have always had observatory cats. The last active cat, who 'retired' two years ago, just passed away at age 19. Here are some photos of how cold it can get.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The vaccuum effect and natural attrition

Today's post is about two phrases we bandy around a lot :- the 'vacuum effect' and 'natural attrition'.

Here's a definition of the vacuum effect from Alley Cat Allies. Here's a definition of attrition. Now that we have our definitions out of the way, we can talk a bit about what they really mean to us in terms of TNRM :)

Some people deny that this happens - and most of the time it's because they've never dealt with a colony being removed.

However, most people who DO work with cats, or who have had issues with the cats will have noticed that the vacuum effect is very real. This includes a condominium I know that used to spend a few thousand a year getting 'rid' of the cats or town councils that asked why there are new cats coming in when the existing ones were removed and killed. This also includes a caregiver I know who removed the cats from the area thinking it wasn't safe on the streets. When she went by the next day, there were four new cats waiting.

We see how nature abhors a vacuum every day in nature. We see it when water floods in to fill an empty space, or when air does. I'm sure one day we may even understand WHY it happens, but we can already see its effects. We may not all understand how gravity works exactly (or maybe that's just me:)), but we don't deny it exists.

Many people may not have much exposure to cats - and that's where caregivers like you guys come into play. That's also why it is so important that caregivers are accurately able to explain concepts to people who may not know much about cats.

I spoke recently with a caregiver who said that natural attrition would kill off all the cats in the area. It's natural (no pun intended) to be confused when so much literature tells us that natural attrition will kill off the cats. BUT, if you accept that the vacuum effect exists, then there is no way that natural attrition can kill off ALL the cats. Will natural attrition kill off cats? Yes, of course it will. Cats can't live forever after all. It may even, when coupled with sterilisation, bring the population down dramatically depending on the size of your colony. But to have NO cats in the area? Not if you accept the vacuum effect because logically new cats will move in when there is a vacuum.

At some point, the colony numbers after the cats have been sterilised, will drop to such a point that the territory CAN accommodate more cats - note I said, territory, NOT food. Even if you try and remove all newcomers, new cats are going to keep showing up. Some of you may remember the analogy I once gave. If you have a castle with four entrances, and you have five or six guards posted at each door, chances are you'll be able to defend the castle. If you have two guards, chances are that some intruders are going to sneak in. It's the same with the cats.

The vacuum effect does not respect your intentions, good or otherwise. The vacuum effect does not care whether you removed the cats to adopt them or relocate them. It does not care if the cats died a natural death or were killed in animal control somewhere.

Some of you may wonder why I'm splitting hairs about this, but it's very important that a person or organisation who agrees to a TNRM programme knows what to expect. Some expecting that all the cats will die out after they have lived out their natural lifespan and that there will be zero cats is going to be in for a big shock. They might well think the programme is a failure.

Some complainants may also ask why not just remove all the cats NOW. If they are all taken away, then why wait for them to be sterilised and eventually die. In other words why wait for natural attrition to kick in, when we can have UNnatural attrition?

I know some people will say that complainants may not want to hear that the cats are always going to be there. I believe that if you're honest right up front, but say that a managed, sterilised, cared for colony will create less issues than an unmanaged, growing cat population, most people will see the sense in that. Yes, the colony may always be there - but it doesn't NEED to cause any problems. Removing the cats and killing them just means the same issues come back over, and over again. It may of course take more than one conversation to get someone to agree but don't give up. There's tons of resources online and it's a good idea to take the information with you - one good resource is ACA's website.

At the end of the day, your argument has to be logically consistent to you, before you can convince someone else.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stones in garden

Stones in garden, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I attended a meeting with the feeders, the people who were facing problems, and two other mediators this evening.

One of the mediators had gone down over the weekend and set stones down in the garden to prevent the cats from defecating there. Aminah - I remember you asked your town council to do this, and they eventually did, which also stopped the defecation problem there.

The good news is that there will be a 6 month trial period and if the situation is good, the programme can continue. We mentioned that it's a good idea to keep the lines of communication open during this period - and not have an accumulation of problems till later.

The bad news - unfortunately there does seem to still be quite a lot of distrust in the room. I do hope that the different groups will be able to start anew.

This is why it's sometimes useful to have mediators come in. They're not privy to all the bad blood that may have occurred in some situations, and can hopefully bring a more objective eye to the situation. Some caregivers are wonderful at caring for the cats, but may not be the best at mediating. This is why designated mediators can really be helpful. As we have discussed before, one of the main advantages is that mediators may be able to help out as well on a more flexible schedule - ie they obviously won't be called in every day - but they'll still perform a crucial role in a TNRM programme.

What was really helpful today was that one of the mediators drafted an agreement so that both sides knew what was expected from each side. It would be also good, and I am sure they'll be adding this in, to put in what the expected results will be in 6 months - or our dreaded Singaporean KPI :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cat in trees

Cat in trees, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I helped out with a mediation last week and mediated alongside a young lady who was a pleasure to work with. I was only carrying my compact so this isn't a good shot - sorry. The most interesting part of this mediation for me? The fact that while Singapore and the US are miles apart, people aren't all that different.

Fortunately the case seems to have been resolved for now (pending a meeting tomorrow), but I think one of the issues boiled down to trust, or the lack of it. As a result, the feeder didn't always tell everything to the people whose property the cats were on, and they in turn felt that they were being kept out of the loop. The end result? Misunderstanding and more distrust.

When you care for the cats, chances are that you may well run into someone whom you may not particularly like or trust, but whom you have to work with. This may include your town council, the management of the office or building where you feed, or even neighbours or property owners where the cats live or wander onto.

Whatever your feelings are about this person, or however justified those feelings may be, you basically have no choice - you NEED to work with the person or people involved.

Bear in mind that on the other hand, they often do NOT need to work with you. They can refuse to allow the cats to remain there, or to work with you. Some may demand the cats be trapped and removed. Worse, some may trap and send them to AVA or animal control , or call the town council without your even knowing about it.

So what do you do?

First of all, try and sit down and talk to the person and agree on certain guidelines. One of the issues that I think arises is that both sides may only have a vague idea of how this will play out and this gives rise to different expectations. Then when those expectations are not met, anger and/or disappointment sets in, and the situation deteriorates.

Second, hard as it may be, try and start anew. I remember a Town Council where the caregivers really did have justification for feeling that the town council had gone behind their backs and gone back on their word. Some of the caregivers always feared the TC would turn around and stab them in the back again. Some others were wary, but really tried in good faith to work with the officers involved. I would say that the second group was generally more successful. Mistrust usually just snowballs into more mistrust. There's a difference between being careful and being antagonistic - and usually people can tell.

Third, this doesn't mean you should not be careful. Decide how much information you are comfortable sharing, and how much you think the other party needs to know. If you think a person might go back on their word, then make sure you document everything. Get someone to go with you if you need to meet with them so you have a witness. If you speak with them on the phone, follow up with an email or a letter stating the contents of the conversation, and how they can get in touch with you. This will all stand you in good stead later on if there should be a dispute as to what happened.

Also make sure you keep good statistics with regards to your colony. Be sure you know how many cats you started out with, how many you sterilised, and how many you have now. Keep a tracking sheet - they are ALWAYS a good idea.

Finally, always be polite.

There will of course be some people who are just impossible to work with - but at least you will have tried your best. You may then have to consider possibly relocating the cats for example.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Keeping birds out

This is interesting - someone I had spoken with had talked of a consultancy to help with community cat issues in the same way. If people will pay to stop the birds from defecating, one wonders if a similar professional run company that handles attendant issues in relation to cats might work? Of course, since the birds CAN'T be killed (or aren't as easily caught to be killed), this may be the reason why the companies are willing to pay to prevent them from defecating on the premises.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sharp shinned hawk with kill

Sharp shinned hawk with kill, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

You know how cats get the blame for killing birds? I saw the black cat wander through my yard yesterday and walk right by the birds.

On the other hand, this hawk landed on top of my bird feeder. It usually flies off the minute I move, but this time it didn't notice me. It swooped, and in maybe thirty seconds, it had something in its talons. When I zoomed in with my camera, it was a bird and it was already dead from what I could see.

I mentioned this to my neighbour. She said that she always feels conflicted. I love the hawks - they're beautiful creatures. Also on one hand, it is nature. On the other hand, you do feel bad for the bird that died.

She also mentioned something interesting. Her cats, who are kept strictly indoors, were sitting on their screened in porch when the hawk swooped down. The hawk landed and stared at them - and the cats were terrified. Her cats like watching the birds, but they knew that this hawk was a predator, which could easily carry them off, and they froze till the hawk was gone.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Simon's Cats - TV Dinner

Right after the article on cats and their purrs, here's a cute short film on a cat purring to get his food :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cats and their purrs

Thanks to yskat for sending in this really interesting article on cats and their purrs. Ask anyone who has spent a significant amount of time with a cat and I think they'll tell you that different meows and purrs can indicate different things. They can also be very persuasive as anyone who has been woken up by a purring, hungry cat in the morning can attest - though in the case of one my cats, nipping me has the same effect :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Adoption - always the best thing for a cat?

I was corresponding with a caregiver about an adoption that she had to help out with. The feeder she has been helping out told her that she found a home for some kittens. The caregivers warning bells went off when she realised that all of the kittens were going to the same household that already had some cats. She decided to go with the adopter, especially because the adopter turned up with no carrier in tow.

To cut a long story short, the existing cats in the household weren't sterilised, and the condition of the household was far from ideal. The home was not meshed up, the cats were being fed raw, uncooked food, there was no litter, etc.

Fortunately, the feeder was able to get the cats back, but in the first place, it's important to make sure that the cats go to a good home. Sometimes, some people are so excited that someone will take a kitten, that they give it away with no questions asked.

I have been asked by a desperate foster to help her 'catnap' the cat back because the adopter would not let her in again and the foster was worried about the adopter's ability to care for the cat. I found another cat literally matted in dried defecation.

Some people think that the ultimate goal is to find homes off the street for community cats. It really isn't. The goal is to find GOOD homes for cats that can be adopted out. I know of caregivers that are definitely taking better care of the cats than some 'adopters'.

You have to wonder, which is worse? To live life on the street, cared for by someone, fed regularly and sterilised? Or to have a cat enter a household where it is unsterilised, has several kittens, is fed badly, and gets no or scant medical attention? The former might well live longer. The latter may well continue the cycle of misery by having more kittens that live under the same conditions.

There are far worse things than living on the streets.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cat in cinema

I'm sure some of you have received the email about a cat that was stuck on the roof of an abandoned cinema along with a link to an earlier blog post of mine. I was sent the email as well by a few people. Fortunately the cat has been rescued. Unfortunately, it seems that the situation there has not been resolved though I have not heard from the people involved for a while.

There was also no link to my followup blog posts which are here, here and here. This may give an incomplete picture of what has been happening - or at least what was happening when I went down almost two years ago.

The person who contacted me about this case was helping out but wasn't the feeder and thus was limited in what he could do. The management had gone down a few times and opened the place up - but unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an attempt to plug up the holes. The building was also apparently in bad condition and would be unsafe to walk into.

Worse, at least when I was there, at least one feeder was still feeding the cats inside by throwing food in. The woman I met was worried that the cats would be hungry, but throwing more food in does nothing but encourage the cats to stay in, especially when the doors were open as on the day I went down.

Obviously, thinking long term - ie how to keep the cats out - is more important than the short term, ie the cat is hungry. To that end, it would have certainly been better if there had been attempts to try and work with the management to prevent the cats from going in. Perhaps it was done, but the feeders I did meet did not seem very interested in that.

Whatever the case must have been, unfortunately because there doesn't seem to have been a long term fix, this means that this has been going on for years. I am also pretty sure the management will have long lost patience by now if the problem has been reoccurring.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Here's an interesting article about rats not straying from their territory. There have also been reports of how birds seem to know how to know how to return to their territory after migrating every year. It seems that somehow animals have an instinct on where to return - and a strong territorial instinct. Perhaps this explains how lost cats and dogs find their way home - though we still don't know how.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Knitting and cats

For those of you who knit (and preferably read Japanese!), you might find this of interest.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

ST (2-7-09)

This was an interesting letter. Instead of asking that the cats be killed, I think that it's good that he asked that feeders be educated and that cats be sterilised instead.