Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Monday, December 31, 2007
Today is my last day with CWS. I've really enjoyed my 6 years working with the Society and volunteering with the Society for a few years before that.
I have to say that these 6 years have been frustrating at times, often tiring, but never uninteresting. It's also been my honour and privilege to have gotten to know many amazing individuals who are caregivers, both in person, over emails and phone calls - and lastly through this blog. I've also had the honour to work with many wonderful volunteers who have helped the Society out. Of course on the flip side, I've also met some very strange, rude and downright nasty and malicious people, but fortunately they've been in the minority.
I've faced some of the greatest trials in my life while working at CWS, especially during SARS and this year's 'no stray cats' policy - but at the same time, as the old cliche goes, the human spirit really can triumph in adversity - and I've seen caregivers rise to the occasion.
The one thing that has made me happiest is seeing caregivers start to work together and with their Town councils and management committees. The way forward is to work together and not as adversaries. One of the things that has struck me this year is that when caregivers work together and are able to have a cogent, logical discussion with their town councils, that the town councils have responded in kind.
As I leave, I urge you to continue working with your town council to help protect the cats. And don't fall prey to the mindset that some do - that you can't make a difference. Every one of you has already made a difference. You are never too old, too uneducated, too shy or whatever it is that you think holds you back, to be able to make a difference. Some of the most amazing caregivers I know are elderly and have little or no education, but they have not let that stop them. The most important thing you can remember is that you DO count and that you are the voice for the cats.
Not only that - you are helping to shape a Singapore that we can all be proud of. One where every citizen works to make Singapore a better place, where everybody really does their part - and doesn't just complain to some authority to take care of whatever it is that makes them unhappy.
Remember we all live in the society we deserve - and if you don't speak up, then you cannot complain if someone else happens to speak up and say something that you don't agree with.
Lastly, I am just an email away. My new email address has been uploaded and you can click on it on my profile. At the same time, because several people have asked, and because I don't want to lose touch with all of you, I will be starting a new blog. Watch this space for the new URL in the next few days. I'll also be leaving this blog up.
Have a Happy New Year everyone - and to all the community cats.
Now I'm off for a rest :)
Cats to be sterilised
I just spoke with a caregiver. She said that another caregiver knows a feeder in this area and called the town council. Apparently the TC said that they are willing to try and work with the caregivers. The caregiver I spoke with has decided to donate some money and is getting friends to chip in for a project in the area and to get the cats sterilised. They're starting right away but are trying to get the feeders in the area to step up and take some responsibility too.
I'm sure all the emails asking that the TC consider other means such as TNRM are helping too!
Lianhe Zaobao (31-12-07)
Friday, December 28, 2007
A caregiver wrote in after reading this post and mentioned that she had seen increased dumping in her area after posting some information on her blog. It always pains me - and never fails to amaze me - that people will think that because a caregiver is doing a GOOD job, that it's a good idea to throw more cats in their area. Why on earth would people think that caregivers want more cats? Their own idea is to reduce the number of cats so that they can live out their lives safely. If the number increases, those cats too are at risk. Or perhaps, more accurately these people who dump aren't thinking - or if they are, they are only thinking of themselves.
It seems that some people on the adoption board have been getting harassing calls (according to one foster) and someone else said that unfortunately people were able to tell the area that he was caring for the community cats in and started dumping there. It may be a good idea to be circumspect about what information you put on the board - a number is usually fine, and certainly an email address is good, but if you do send a link/website/etc be careful how much information you put out there because anyone can access a website. Unfortunately that's the beauty and the bad side of the Internet - the information is out there for everyone.
Someone called to say that they had found two new born kittens. The umbilical cords were still attached. Unfortunately he had been told the mother cat was dead. The man who found them then went to the public adoption board and found that someone had a nursing mother cat - and the foster offered to let try letting the kittens latch on to the mother cat that she had. Let's hope it works out and thank you to the foster who agreed. For these kittens, it really is a question of life and death.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Testing for FIV/FELV
I'm going through the bills sent in by people right now. Someone just sent in a bunch of bills andI realised that almost every cat had been sent for a SNAP test (to test for FIV and FELV). This obviously made the bills a lot higher than they would otherwise have been.
Here's the thing - what does testing really do? Assuming that you tested the cat, and it DOES turn out positive, what are your choices? Will you take it home? Put the cat down (which chances are, if this is routinely done, and not in response to specific symptoms, is a healthy cat)? Will you put it back in the colony? What if the test is a false positive? Are you going to re-test? What will you do in the meantime? What if the cat has had a FIV vaccine and is now obviously going to test positive?
Some people will not put the cat back in the colony - though of course you have no idea if the other cats are FIV positive or not, unless you test all of them. And here's the thing - tests are expensive. For the price of testing one cat, you could easily have sterilised another. If you really want to cut down infection rates for FIV, then sterilise more cats because it spreads mostly through biting, and that's through aggressive male cats, which generally indicates, these cats are likely to be unsterilised.
So here's the question to perhaps ask before you decide on that FIV test. Will knowing that the cat is FIV positive change the way you treat the cat in any way - ie are you going to treat the cat (and clearly if it is healthy, there isn't anything to treat right then)? Do you have a plan for after-care and what to do with your existing cats in the colony? If not, then consider whether your money might be better spent on sterilising the cats instead.
I was speaking with a caregiver today who called about a television crew coming to film some caregivers in the area. She asked if CWS would want to go down. I told her that frankly, it seemed that it was a programme about the work of the caregivers in the estate - and it should stay that way, since the focus ought to be about what they did.
I did ask her however why the crew was coming, and she mentioned that she wasn't sure and that another caregiver was arranging it. I was telling her that I was sure that the caregiver would weigh the pros and cons of appearing on television, but that it is important to have gone through the thought process.
Now I'm no media consultant, but there are some simple pointers to think about when deciding to do an interview/go to the press. For one thing, what do you hope to achieve by appearing on television/in the newspapers, etc? As with any publicity, there are pros and cons. You need to be very focused on your aims - is it to bring up a certain issue? If so, what is it? If you can convey it to the press in a short, snappy way, that is best obviously. If you can't explain it in a pithy manner, then the journalist or reporter will need to sieve through all the information that you have in order to understand what you are trying to say. And it may not be what you are trying to put across.
Also remember what you think is important may not be what the press decides to cover. Say you want to talk about TNRM and mention that there are a lot of complainants in your neighbourhood who are unreasonable in your opinion. The reporter may feel this is a more interesting story - and it could become a story on neighbourhood disputes, rather than on TNRM.
Next, remember that there is the possibility of a backlash. Some people will think what you do is wonderful - others may not. The worry is that among those others may be some who complain about the cats. Or a third group who decide that they might dump THEIR cats on you because you'll care for them.
Do speak with the journalist - you can ask as well to check your quotes to ensure that they are put in the right context before it goes to print. Journalists are usually very accommodating about this.
At the end of the day, be clear about what you want to say and WHY you want to say it.
Heading out to pick up mail - for the last time probably. It is pretty sad to be doing many of these routine things that I've done for the last 6 years, knowing this will be the last time I do them.
Poor Wiggie was given a scolding over the phone. She checked the voice message system and there were no messages in the morning, but due to some glitch, when she called again, she got a message, saying that someone needed help to rescue a cat. She did not leave a name or location. The woman eventually called the SPCA who went down.
Wiggie called her back and explained that this isn't what CWS does - and that the catsnip number is for booking sterilisation appointments. The woman scolded her and said that there was no point in having CWS and that we were the only Cat Welfare Society in the phone book. She asked for Wiggie's name, then hung up on her.
CWS as regular blog readers know, is NOT a rescue organisation. We focus on sterilisation and management. We do not do rescue work, and our focus is more on advocacy in working with the TCs/management corporations and caregivers. Also, the voice message system is only to book sterilisation slots and not for urgent matters. We used to have a message that said that but for some reason, the message has disappeared (Wiggie is working on that).
Here's a bit of trivia for you - when CWS first started, the founders wanted to call it the Cat Project to have more of an emphasis on sterilisation. Unfortunately at the time, the Registry of Societies did not allow Societies without the word "Society" in the name. So on the spot, our then-President Jean came up with Cat Welfare Society - no one has actually liked the name, including (especially!) Jean.
So please don't leave urgent messages on the voice message system - email firstname.lastname@example.org if there is anything urgent - and sorry Wiggie. You didn't deserve to get yelled at, or hung up on!
Lianhe Zaobao (27-12-07)
Thanks to Kootoo Monster for sending in this link in response to the letter to Lianhe Zaobao three days ago.
In a nutshell, the person writes that while he or she believes that caterwauling can be very annoying, the best solution is sterilisation. The writer also says that there used to be a programme that allowed for cats to be sterilised for free under the AVA and asks that the AVA bring this scheme back. The writer adds that it would help many people who do not have the financial ability to pay for the sterilisations.
Kootoo Monster also added that the editor weighed in on this too - and this translation is from Kootoo. Thanks Kootoo Monster!
"The issue of strays and feeding of stray cats has been discussed many times on Zao Bao forum. We hope that the discussions do not merely repeat what has been said before, but to raise the awareness of the issue so as to allow readers to have a deeper understanding and to eventually establish a consensus."
I have to say that more people are writing in response to letters in the Chinese media too now and I'm very glad to see it!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I was speaking to someone who had called a while ago. Her parents had been feeding cats but were adamant against getting them sterilised. She called again today to say that her father has been diagnosed with dementia. She said that she feels that something has to be done before the number of cats increases dramatically and she is absolutely right.
Unfortunately with people growing older, sometimes people fail to (or are unable to) think of what will happen to their cats if something should happen to them till its too late. Of course this may be something that can happen to any of us - no matter how old (or young we are). At least, if they are sterilised however, the number does not keep growing - someone might well be happy to have 15 cats and more being born, but the next person taking them on may well not be. A manageable number of cats is definitely easier to plan for as well.
The woman I spoke to said her mother may well feel she cannot cope with the cats and may ask for them to be removed - so it's a good thing to start thinking of what options there are as soon as possible.
I suggested she try and convince her mother that if the cats are sterilised, that the number is still pretty manageable. If her father gets worse, and her mother is not in the best of health, there is going to be a real issue of how to manage all the cats. She will speak with her brother and get back to me.
Feeder threatening to poison cat
I knew all the good Christmas cheer was too good to last. A caregiver emailed yesterday to say that they were having problems in her area with a woman who is threatening to poison one of her cats. Here's the interesting thing - the woman is herself a feeder!
A new cat moved into the territory a while ago and they have been having some problems trapping it, though they have tried and used a cat trap. Unfortunately this cat is quite aggressive and bit one or two of the woman's cats.
The woman approached another feeder in the group and said the cat had better be sterilised or removed a month and a half ago. The group had no luck and apparently it happened again on Christmas Eve, whereupon the woman came and banged on the caregiver's door.
The caregiver asked that I try and speak with her as the woman then claimed she was going to poison the cat. She had repeated this threat to at least two feeders.
I spoke to the feeder this morning. I told her I understood she was frustrated and I was sure that she did not mean what she said about doing anything to the cat, but she insisted that she would take action against the cat if nothing was done. She kept insisting that the cat has to be removed or sterilised. She insisted the rest of the people are not co-operating.
I told her if that was the case, then why did SHE not do something? I told her that she could help to trap the cat. First she said that she was not the feeder. I told her that she could always use the cat trap. Then she said that she was under stress at home and could not bring the cat home. I told her it was always possible to bring the cat in to some vets the night before.
She started to tell me how when everyone else was sleeping, she was up caring for the cats, but I cut her off and told her that the main issue here seems to be an unsterilised male. Why not work together and not against each other. She insisted that the other caregivers and feeders did not want to call her. She also criticised their trapping methods.
I told her that in addition to killing a cat, the poison could very well spread in the colony and kill HER own cats. I told her for example, if the cat she was trying to poison threw up the poisoned food (which is quite possible) and another cat ingested it, then the other cats - 'her' cats - could be killed too. She said she could not think that far. She kept insisting it was a last resort - and I told her it was not. There were plenty of other options, like helping to get the cat trapped and sterilised.
I asked her why she, someone who supposedly cared for the cats, would not only kill a cat, but kill cats that she herself was supposed to be feeding? I asked her why she would put her own cats at risk like that. She then said she could not talk to me anymore, and hung up.
Musashi's Xmas song
What's Christmas without strange Christmas songs? It's been a slow day (not that I'm complaining) - bear with me :)
Labels: Cat fun
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Letter in Lianhe Zaobao
Thanks to Kootoo Monster for sending this in. This writer is basically complaining that since the writer moved into his or her flat in May, the number of cats has increased. The writer complains that the noise is bad at night, the cats are unsterilised, and repeats the common misconception - if the cats are cared for by people, why would they leave? He or she also asks what laws are to protect people especially since he or she has spent thousands on his or her flat. He or she says that there are laws to protect animals but nothing to help people like the writer, who suffer sleepless nights. That's my bad translation - please feel free to improve it or correct any mistakes I made :)
The point is that the cats will always be there - the question is how to manage them properly. Plus I never understand the point of mentioning that you've spent a lot of money to buy your flat - sure, you do spend money to buy your flat, and of course you hope to be able to enjoy the quiet environment. However so what if you paid thousands of dollars? There are other factors at work that affect where you live - for example, construction noise (which is happening where I live at the moment), traffic, noisy neighbours. Does the fact that I paid money to live here give me the right to tell the contractors that they cannot make noise? Certainly, there are limits to how much construction noise can be generated - and that is the way it should be. If my neighbours make a lot of noise, can I have them removed? However, when it comes to cats, if they caterwaul, I can call the town council and have them hauled away - which doesn't solve the problems when the new cats come in.
I understand that caterwauling and fighting at night can be noisy and disturbing - but removing the cats is not helpful. It also doesn't solve the problem. Clearly sterilisation and management would be a better option. Unfortunately I do not know whom the feeders in this area are.
Prowling cats keep rodents on the run
You know how the regulations are about cats in eating places - they apparently have something similar in New York City. However, the cats have an important function - keeping the rats out, which a lot of shop owners think are much worse (seriously, would you rather have rats running around or cats in the shop?).
Thank you to Mezzo for sending in this link.