Thursday, 28 September 2023

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Travails of a community cat lover: the Bishan case

He was an orange-and-white domestic short haired (DSH) kitten, probably no more than a couple of months old. He was hiding timidly underneath a neighbourhood park bench overlooking a long canal, along a route I usually take when I walk home every night. I’ve seen many stray cats before in the Bishan area, but this one caught my eye immediately when I first encountered him a few months back.

For one, he looked really hungry, and it showed in his skinny physique and tender, bony paws. I bent down to take a closer look but he scurried off, so I decided to leave him alone.

The next night however I saw him again, under the same bench, looking even skinner than before. For some reason, I decided to sit down on the bench to see how he would react. To my surprise, he did not scurry off like before. Instead, he stayed put where he was sitting, and after a while, he tentatively approached me and took a few sniffs of my shoes and socks. When he realized I meant him no harm, he grew a little bolder and started to toy with my shoelaces.

I realized then that he was not a completely feral cat (who are naturally afraid to approach strangers), but more likely a kitten that had been previously cared for by someone and who had either been lost or abandoned. He looked extremely pitiful, with that particular expression on his small, cute face betraying his intense hunger. In the past, I left stray cats alone, but that night, I felt compelled to do something for this little kitty.

I reached down and picked him up, and that surprised him a little. I held him gently with two hands, one hand holding his front paws so he could not leap off, and another supporting his slender belly so that he would not feel too uncomfortable. Then I walked towards the nearest block of HDB flats that I knew had some other community cats who are being fed by caregivers on a regular basis. I wanted to see if I could find him some food left out for the other cats.

It was disconcerting for the sweet little kitten to be taken away like that, and he struggled a few times, but did not try to bite me or claw at me. I tried to comfort him, and I somehow knew I was doing the right thing for him even though I was taking him away from a place that was familiar to him.

I managed to find a big pile of cooked chicken scraps that someone had dumped near the rubbish bin area for the other community cats to feast on. I sat him down immediately and actually half-expected him to leap out of my grasp and dash away in fear. But there was no fear in him, only hunger.

The moment I released him, he lurched toward the food and started eating ravenously. And boy, was he a hungry one. When I checked back on him a good 15 minutes later, he was still ferociously clawing at the scraps of chicken bones and meat and wolfing them down like there was no tomorrow. My heart totally went out to him.

The next few days however when I went in search of him around the same area, I couldn’t find him anymore. I wondered what happened to him. Perhaps he had been chased away by the other community cats who can get pretty territorial. Or perhaps he had wandered off elsewhere in search of another meal.

I never did see him again but to this day I remember that famished little kitty digging frantically into that dirty pile of cooked chicken, barely pausing once or twice to gaze at me with a pair of teary eyes.

Even to this day sometimes I would sit under that HDB block or around the bench where I first picked him up, hoping beyond hope that perhaps I might see him again.


By Ng E-Jay

Headline image courtesy of Love Meow


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