Local animal welfare group, Cat Welfare Society (CWS) has launched its fundraising campaign on GIVE.asia to help finance its efforts against the culling of the animals.
It seeks to raise $80,000 to allow the sterilisation of up to 5000 cats in a year and for its mediators to keep doing what they are doing to engage Town Councils, government agencies, estate managers, intolerant feedback providers and irresponsible cat owners.
In its fundraising site, CWS writes, “Everyday, our community cats face risks from bad human decisions, especially when there are complaints about them. The Cat Welfare Society has been the intervening body tackling over 2000 such cat issues every year, by advocating humane solutions and preventing cats from getting impounded and culled.”
Currently, there are around 50,000 community cats in Singapore and seeing them round the streets is something usual for people.
However, ten years ago, estates were overrun with stray cats and they were barely tolerated. There were even louder call for further action when SARS hit the country.
Mdm Law Mui Ng, a veteran cat caregiver, said, “In the past cats were treated as vermin. Like cockroaches and rats, they were subjected to hurt and abuse.”
“Today, people do know that our street cats have been neutered, and are well taken of by volunteers. If they see any issues with the cats, they know that they can seek out our volunteers.”
A small group of friends responded to an article published in 1999 about cat abuse by creating a group called CWS as there were really no voice of the cats on the ground.
Thenuga Vijakumar, the President of CWS, said,”It was just very discreet individuals who were doing things like feeding here feeding there. But really there were really no concerted effort or any group to represent and advocate for cat welfare in Singapore.”
However, there was a major setback in efforts to preserve lives in 2003 as SARS hit the shores and the Government reacted by culling cats on the suspicion that they were transmitting or spreading the disease.
There were about 13,000 to 14,000 cats culled in just one year, which means there were about 35 to 36 cats being put down each day.
“And that was the sort of panic and fear that we must have now moved away from,” she said, adding that the main thing is that we must never allow something like SARS or something at this sort of level of culling to come forward again.
Mr Balakrishnan Matchap successfully started an awareness which said, “Cull ignorance, not cats.”
“So when the SARS crisis happened, when the cats were being culled, I thought maybe something needed to be done in terms of awareness. Because, you know, there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that the cats were spreading the disease,” he said.
CWS had Spay Day, a rallying point for caregivers to come together.
President of CWS in 2010-2012, Ms Fareena Omar, said, “And from there (Spay Day), we got to know our caregivers and our networks. So we grew Spay Day from sterilising 100 cats a day to about 440 a day. And it became an event for us annually and from there we got ground support.”
The Spay Day has always been successful because it is well-publicised.
People can come to get their cats sterilised by CWS for free and it has become an avenue to educate people, to get them to know each other, and to build their own network.
“And through Spay Day we were able to organise these groups, organise our volunteers and disseminate the plans that CWS had islandwide,” Ms Omar said.
MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng and Chief Executive for ACRES said that the Nee Soon GRC has been working intensively with CWS for five years to establish groundbreaking program.
He said, “We have stopped the culling of stray cats Chong Pang, Nee Soon East. The important part of sterilising them, managing them more humanely and sustainably so that in the long term, both the residents and the cats can benefit.”
“We have also worked very closely for the Love Cat Program. So that residents in Chong Pang can now keep cats, which are sterilised, microchipped, kept indoors,” he added.
This program is the first pilot program to legitimise cat owners in Singapore to see if it is possible for HDB residents to keep cats.
“And I think that the trial or the pilot have been successful so far. It is coming to the end of the four year phase. And I think that’s why we are reviewing it to see whether we can expand it, whether more residents can benefit from it, areas we can improve, areas we can do much better,” the MP said.
However, there remains to be still many incident of cats abuse in the country.
Ms Janet Sum, a cat caregiver, rescued a cat four years ago. The cat was dying of kidney failure and somebody pierced through its legs. She then took it to the vet and the cat survived and lives until now.
Just recently, a case of cat abuse took place at Jurong West Blossom on Thursday (23 November) where a distressed cat was shown bounded by cable ties and was being rescued by concerned residents.
So looking at all this, the society needs a helping hand, either by volunteering or donating to allow them to run all the activity to save the cats, making a step closer to become a humane nation.