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!