Saturday, April 30, 2005
April Committee Meeting
Yes it's that time of month again - our monthly committee meeting. Our meetings are well known for two things - one, that they tend to be long and two, that we generally have a lot of food. Today was an anomaly though - we finished by 11:30 pm which is EARLY for us and we didn't have that much food, except for Pizza and chocolate! The last meeting committee members brought two kinds of cake, rolls, chips, biscuits, chocolates, etc!
Had to stop blogging for a moment because I heard a cat fight outside - quite rare in my area. I have never seen these two cats before, and one of them sounded like it had a bell around it's neck.
The reason our meetings are so long is that we have such a lot to discuss since we meet once a month- we had twelve items on the agenda today. We do keep in contact via e-mail but there are certain things that need to be thrashed out.
We do have an exciting publicity campaign coming up to promote sterilisation. Once the graphics and details are ready, I'll be posting them.
Lillian has updated that the supplier printed both small and medium on the same sized t-shirt, so we're re-printing the smalls, but the rest of the t-shirts can now be sold. She also showed us new merchandise ideas, including bookmarks and the like.
We also decided that a sterilisation video is just out of our budget right now unless we can find sponsors. We need to focus on getting enough money for Spay Days - the good news is another two vets may be volunteering! The bad news is that it's going to cost more money because of the additional costs. Tonight was spent ironing out details on that as well.
Our newsletter head also said that the newsletter should be out by June. There's a new format so members look out for that!
Friday, April 29, 2005
Abandonment, Pizza and Meetings
Jolanda and a volunteer went down to return the cat to a really irresponsible woman today. The volunteer has been trying to get the lady to sterilise her cats because she keeps picking them up and abandoning them in the area, causing lots of problems for the volunteer. The volunteer offered to sterilise them and pay for the cats because otherwise, she keeps having to deal with the offspring of these abandoned cats. However this person kept Jolanda and the volunteer waiting for two hours before handing the cats over them for sterilisation, claiming she could not catch the cats which were in her home! Then they had problems returning the cat to her today. Jolanda and the volunteer spent two hours trying to get her before she came out and took the cats back in. They are hoping that if the cats are in her home, she'll at least stop picking cats up and taking them home and then abandoning MORE cats.
Why do people do this? The woman will undoubtedly say she pities the cats - but taking them in, and then dumping them later is NOT helping. As Jolanda mentioned today if the town councils can put up so many "Stop feeding stray cats" posters, how difficult can it be to put up one that says "Stop Abandoning cats"?
I went to the bank and to pick up some pizza as our committee meeting is tonight. I also went by one of the potential places we could use for Spay Day clinic and had a chat with the person running it. We will be meeting again possibly next week, with the volunteer vets.
Chat line number
I just received one of the strangest phone calls (and trust me there have been a LOT) from someone who said they got my number from a chat line. Considering how I've never called a chat line, and I told the person so, he went on to ask if I had given out my number on an IRC or MSN chat, both of which I never do. After a pause, he went on to ask what I do for a living!
My number is being circulated everywhere - I have heard of people giving out my number and passing it around to people in the queue at SPCA. It's probably being scrawled on walls at bus stops! :) The funniest calls are from people who call me and say they got my number but then say in a film noir-ish tone of voice that they can't say from where!
This certainly explains a LOT!
So what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night to answer email? :)
Guardian Unlimited | Online | Emails 'pose threat to IQ'
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Spay Day Clinic update
Number of cats we were asked to take in today :- Two
Just when I posted my last entry, the vet called! The bad news is that the original price quoted to us was not enough - it's going to cost $1100 to waterproof the room, and we'll need to pay almost $900 for the lights. Time to start looking around for another contractor who can help out! The costs just keep rising and rising.
Asia for Animals
Asia for Animals is going to be held on 22nd to 24th June this year at the Novotel Clarke Quay. As I mentioned earlier, our President will be presenting on Stray Cat Management, and I'll be moderating. I've never moderated a session before so this should be interesting! Do go to www.acres.org.sg for more information.
We're also hoping to get a license for a vet who does speed spay to do a demonstration for the local vets as part of the conference. I don't think anyone checks the SVA website because my email went un-answered. I've just sent in a fax and hope we can get permission to get this vet in. He's supposedly very fast - our vice-president also saw him speak in Hong Kong at a conference in 2003.
Speaking of sterilisation, we are waiting for the vet to let us know when the contractors will be coming in to waterproof the room and for the tables and lights (which he is kindly providing) will be arriving. We also need to raise the funds now for our anesthetic machine and our autoclave machine. We are trying to source a second hand one as it would be substantially cheaper.
I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with one of our caregivers. She is trying to help out in an estate where there are existing caregivers, who for one reason or another, have all stopped sterilisation, which is a real shame. She and another friend are planning to come in and take over from where they let off, but are encountering some resistance from the existing caregivers for various reasons.
This is something that unfortunately does happen - caregivers do not get along, and the problem is that at the end of the day, the cats are the ones that suffer. If caregivers can put aside their differences and focus on the fact that everyone has the cats' welfare at heart, much more can be done.
Just got some very exciting news about the sterilisation advertising/awareness campaign we're trying to run, but it's very preliminary and the details aren't at all fixed yet, so I'll blog about it later when I have more definite news. Watch this space!
Marcus organised a meeting this evening with a volunteer who wants to help with the website and I went along. Another volunteer (who suggested we meet tonight) did not turn up - we don't have his number so there was no way to contact him. He must have been very busy and perhaps did not see the e-mails.
I dropped by a CWS foster's home to drop something off and managed to take photos of the lovely cat she is looking after. He was found with his two front legs broken and in the bushes. Someone in the area said that he has seen someone throwing the cat off the fourth floor. The lady who picked him up could not house him, so we were very, very lucky there was a foster available just then. He is the most friendly, vocal, gorgeous cat and his legs are healing beautifully. If you put your head down, he comes up and head butts you! Let's hope he gets adopted and finds a permanent, loving home.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
I wrote in one of my earliest blog entries about going to flyer a block with my colleague. The lady who had originally wrote in to complain wrote again today to say that the problem of cat defecation had stopped since we dropped the flyers. We're so happy to hear that!
Killing cats more humane than TNR?
As ludicrous as this statement sounds to me, some well-meaning people think that killing healthy cats is more humane than TNR. One of our volunteers is going down to check today because this woman emailed to say there was a stray that liked to sit in her condominium carpark. The cat is fine - healthy, friendly and quite happy according to her. However she thought the tail might have been run over. She wants to put the cat in a shelter. When I explained there were no shelters, she said she thought it might be more humane to put this cat down because it might get run over. After speaking with her, she said she only saw the cat in the carpark perhaps one of the four times she sees the cat, but she said that to avoid a traumatic death, it might be better to consider putting the cat down. She cannot take it in, nor rehome it, nor change the feeding spot because she says she is not looking after it.
Obviously if the worry that the cat may get killed, relocation or changing the cat's feeding spot is the first option, which is what the volunteer will look into (as well as the tail). However, killing a healthy cat because one day it might get killed just makes no sense to me. If it lives on the street, it has a 50-50 chance of survival, and has as good a life as it can. If it's put down though, it's 100% certain that it's dead as a doornail!
It would be less worrying to think that this is what a few individuals feel, but some of the international animal welfare organisations do not support TNR for this very reason - ie that the cat may die on the street, so it is better to give it a 'humane' death. Fortunately every local welfare group here is a strong supporter of TNR.
Around Chinese New Year, I got an email from one of the employees from an international group in town for a visit. They found a stray and said he looked injured, so we arranged for him to be taken to the vet. They dropped the cat off and there was some dispute over what to do with him, so Jolanda went down. Apparently, they were suggesting that, even though the vet gave him a clean bill of health, he should be euthanised. According to Jolanda, they said if he had no fixed caregiver, then it might be better to save him from a life on the streets if he could not be adopted out. Jolanda told them she would take over from there and they left.
The cat was a handsome male, two to three years old, and not a good candidate for adoption based on his age, but could still have a good life on the street. The two people we spoke to gave us very vague directions on where his territory was, and we were quite worried about finding the right place, but after walking around, we found it. The people who worked around there said they realised he was missing as they had been feeding him, though they had not sterilised him (which we had done at the vet).
When we released him, it was so clear it was his home - he sauntered off into an alley and lay down to relax. Crueler to let him live out his natural life in his territory - I don't think so.
We are too presumptuous sometimes - if the cat has lived a good life for two to three years, it clearly CAN survive. Why should we come along and say it can't? Of course, we want every cat to have a home eventually, but there are too many strays out there right now and rehoming all of them is not an option. Sterilisation is (she repeats, ad nauseum).
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Cat trap delivery
I dropped a cat trap off to someone who had emailed as a family of kittens had taken up residence in her roof and who needed to learn how to use it. She's a nice lady - allergic to cats so she can't keep them, but she wants to get them sterilised and to, as she put it, 'do the responsible thing'. She lives in a beautiful estate off Holland Road - one of the houses looked like a country club because the house and grounds were so big. I literally stopped dead in my tracks. I would have whipped out my camera to take a photo, but I envisioned security guards jumping out and hauling me off for being a security threat to the Ambassador to some country or other!
On the way over, I took a wrong turn and found a dog wandering around. He looked so forlorn and just sat in the middle of the road which was fortunately quiet, but he clearly had a collar on and looked lost. A taxi swerved by him so closely that I thought he might have been hit, and when I managed to get close to him, he was limping. Fortunately, after ringing one of the doorbells at random, I found the house he came from and they told me the limp was a chronic problem he had.
Today was post office day - so all the mail has been collected and I'm going through it.
I also stopped and coincidentally managed to speak with a lady who is sterilising the cats in her workplace. One cat apparently sleeps at the door to the office, but everyone loves him. She was so pleased to hear she could get subsidised rates. She said she and a friend can sterilise them faster now.
I mentioned we were thinking of doing a video on trap-neuter-return-manage, but that in the meantime, Alley Cat Allies has a great video. Jolanda just sent me the link as some of it was archived online. Go to the Pets911 website at :-
The caregiver who asked us to do the mediation over the phone last night called this morning to say one of her cats was found dead. She was obviously very upset and brought the corpse to see the complainant, who was in turn upset and said that he had nothing to do with it. He insisted he had wanted the cats removed but did not want to kill them.
That's the problem with cat abuse - in many cases, there are obvious signs of abuse, but in some cases, it can be very difficult to tell. For example, this cat had no marks or bruises anywhere. Also it lived right next to a road, which means it could easily have been knocked down.
It's best not to accuse someone without having direct proof. The timing in this case is suspicious, but it could well be that the complainant really is innocent - the best way to tell is to get a necropsy done at the vet. They will be able to best establish when and how the cat died.
Also, take photos, get a report from the vet, and if you think abuse has been perpetrated, then file a report with the police. Do not bury the corpse without doing all this if you want to (and you should consider it very strongly) pursue the matter.
You can always accuse anyone you suspect when you have more direct proof - it also allows you to watch their behaviour more closely. If they are guilty, gather your evidence to make a stronger case. If they are innocent, then you will have made someone upset/angry who is less likely to be co-operative in the future.
Monday, April 25, 2005
If sterilisation is the backbone of cat management, then I think that mediation is the glue that holds it all together. That's why we call it cat management - after the sterilisation is over, mediation is really important to help keep the cats safe where they are.
I just did a mediation over the phone an hour or so ago - was supposed to go down with a colleague later on in the week, but the caregiver decided to try and speak with the complainant today and then rang me on the phone. The complainant was very upset at first, but calmed down considerably by the end of the conversation - let's hope he agrees to let the cats be sterilised and remain where they are.
It just reminded me that over the many mediations that I've done with my colleagues that I've learnt several things :-
1. If the complaint is valid, don't dismiss it - Often complainants don't want the cats to be there because the cats are causing a problem. If the problem can be removed, many will be content with leaving the cats there. If there is a valid complaint, don't brush it away - try and work towards resolving it. Saying for example, "Why can't you be more tolerant, cauterwauling only happens every few weeks when they mate?" (which a caregiver actually told a complainant last week) is not helpful. Just as we find it really difficult to imagine why someone would not want to let a cat stay, the complainant may feel the exact opposite. It is imperative to communicate that the main thing is to solve the problem together and then to do so. No one wants defecation on their front door, whether you like cats or not.
2. Get your facts straight - When people ask, as is very common, "why don't you take the cats home if you love them so much"? have an answer ready. Make sure you understand about sterilisation and why it is done, why it is the most effective and humane means of population control, about the vacuum effect, how feeding does not cause the population to increase, why shelters alone will not work, etc. If you sound credible, people will be more inclined to believe you. If you need any information sheets, write in to the Society.
3. Try to be co-operative - If someone is not pleased the cats are sitting on their car, try moving their feeding spot for example to another area so the cats are not so near the cars. Do not expect the complainant to bend over backwards for you because they are already angry.
4. Always be polite - As hard as it can be, always keep your calm. Yelling at people will make them defensive and less likely to work with you - remember, at the end of the day, the cats are the ones to suffer if the complainant decides to keep complaining to the authorities.
5. Remember not everyone loves cats - hard to imagine as that is! However, at the same time, many people are not cruel, but are ignorant - if you can explain to them the importance of cat management they may well see your point. Most people do not want the cats to be killed - do make it a point to tell people that if the complaint is not resolved, the cats when taken away by the town council/management committee, etc will be killed. Not everyone realises this, and some complainants have stopped complaining when they learnt what happened to the cats.
6. It may be a good idea to ask a third part to mediate in some cases - It is always a good idea to try mediation first because you don't want to escalate the situation. If for example, you are both neighbours, solving it among yourselves is always the best means - it keeps the relationship friendly rather than bringing in someone else. However, there are some instances when you might want to consider asking a third party to mediate. For example, if you know that you will lose your temper, don't mediate - you will do much more harm then good. Another instance is where tempers are already frayed and/or where the complainant sees you as the source of the problem - in those cases, ask a third party to mediate. Write in to the Society if you need any help with mediation. Write in too if you think you'd like to volunteer for mediation! :)
Mediation Part II
Just came back from mediation with another volunteer. The reason it's important to go in pairs is that you do want to have someone to back you up, in case there is any contention about what was said. Also, it's of course safer in numbers - in almost all cases, mediations are perfectly safe, but you do want to have someone with you in case the complainant gets angry or worse.
The town council was able to give us the exact address of the person complained about today. The complaint was about defecation on the sixth to tenth floors (see a trend here?). The person who was complained about said that he had only ever fed one stray on one occasion and he has not seen the cat since. He said that on occasion the cats did come up, but that he had no idea if anyone is feeding them. Let's hope that the cat has stopped going up - though I'm not very hopeful if there is a feeder around.
Some feeders (and I am not saying this is the case in this particular complaint) deny feeding even though the cat is theirs or one of the strays they look after. Some of them are frightened they'll get into trouble. As long as the message gets through though and the feeder is able to change feeding locations, then the problem can be solved.
Also spoke to one of the feeders who feeds in the void deck of a neighbouring block. The lovely ginger tom in the photograph below is one of her colony. She was saying she hoped she could find someone to take over all her feeding as she feels she is getting old, though she's been saying this for the past three years that I've known her, so she may not. She looks very healthy to me too - it's a shame that so many people I've met seem to think they're old when they're past 60 - I know many post-60 year old people who have so much to contribute and who actively volunteer!
More Spay Day space
One of the vets we spoke to mentioned another vet clinic that may be able to loan us some space, but for part of the day. We are planning to meet up and see if we can make use of this space as well, as one of the clinics we are using is not ready. For one thing, as I mentioned in my earlier post, we now have to get our anaesthetic machine, which means that we need to find one for a reasonable price. We also need to pay for the room to be water-proofed as the walls are not solid walls, but plywood.
If there is a clinic that is up and running and can offer us space, then we should look into it - if we can find enough vets and vet assistants and nurses to help out, then we can actually run on more days.
Finding vet nurses at the moment is a problem too as there are not many ex-vet nurses/techs around to help. They do need to be fairly experienced as we have been told that if the nurse is very quick, then more sterilisations can be done.
Helping volunteers to help the cats
Number of cats the Society was asked to take in :- Four
Common misconceptions that people have about the Society is that we are run out of a large office/shelter somewhere and that we are run by what must be an army of paid staff! :)
Besides the sole employee (myself), the accountant and our hopefully soon to be employed web master, every single other person who helps the Society is a volunteer. I think the volunteers do an amazing job - these are our volunteers who help with sterilisation, adoption, cat management, merchandising, newsletters, fostering, etc. They are literally the backbone of the Society. In everything other than cat management, we actually have a very small number of volunteers who are regularly volunteering.
Unfortunately, some members of the public and others who write in and call are very demanding. Our adoption team (consisting of two volunteers) for example needs to forward adoption requests to the fosters, who are then to e-mail the potential adopters directly. The adoption volunteers will email both sides to let them know this is done, and they almost always answer within the same day. However, potential adopters can be very demanding, asking to see the cats ASAP - and writing in (and I have seen this!) literally five minutes after asking why there has not been a response yet.
What some fail to realise is that the fosters are also working full-time and may not be sitting at their computers all day. Also, some potential adopters write in to say they want to be 'first in line' so as not to 'lose out'. Cats are not bargain basement items that are handed out to the first person who writes in - clearly they need to go to the right person, and this is not dependent on what position the person is in the queue.
The sterilisation team (also a dynamic duo - Jolanda and another volunteer) have people ringing the voice message system and asking for slots immediately - while they try their very best to get the earliest slots for sterilisation, the slots are allocated by the vets. They cannot get an earlier date for example, if the vet cannot operate on more cats that day!
It's sad when people write in to ask for something, and you ask if they can help - too often, people will say they're busy and/or working. For example, people will find a badly injured cat, will leave it there and email. We try our best to find volunteers in the area to go down, but they may be at work and can only go after work hours - when we explain that to the person emailing though, and ask if they can help the cat first since they are on site, the response is usually that they're too busy - just like 95% of our volunteers!
I have to say that I cannot understand how a person can purport to care and leave a dying/injured cat there. It seems that some people think the minute they tell you about the cat, it becomes YOUR problem. Some people are worried about what to do as they may not have experience with injured cats, and once they are given some advice are marvellous, but too many unfortunately, just don't care enough.
Thank goodness though for our committed volunteers - a big thank you to all of them for the time/money/abuse they have to put in or put up with!
Friday, April 22, 2005
Bank Account & IPC status
Today is a momentous, historical day - after trying to open a bank account to facilitate our GIRO donations and having four different committee members go down six times, Josephine, our Treasurer, and I finally opened our bank account! Unfortunately opening a charity account is quite rare, and so every time we went down, there would be some new document or form we needed - we were in despair that the account would never opened, but it's done. Pop the champagne!
On a much more downbeat note - our Institute of Public Character status was rejected. We went to the National Council of Social Services but were told we were not people oriented enough in late January, whereupon we applied to the Singapore Environmental Council. One of our committee members in charge of the application was told that this is because we are not deemed to be directly affecting the environment. She explained that sterilisation does have an effect on the environment, so they will put in an appeal on our behalf. We really need IPC status because without it, there is no tax write-off for donations, and many of the corporations look to this before donating.
After the whole massive packing and unpacking exercise yesterday, Lillian called today to say that she had measured two of the shirts from the different designs and that the Medium of one was the same as the Small of the other. Now I'm measuring them and realised that the Small and Medium are the same size even for the shirts of the same design, even though the label clearly shows that they are different sizes! Lillian is going to call the supplier and asked what happened.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
What an exhausting day! Lillian and I spent four hours in the warehouse sorting through the t-shirts that arrived. They look great, but the sizes were in a mess. The supplier gave us only 4 XL instead of 50 and the boxes would have a few odd sizes stuck in a box full of another size. Plus we were short of a few t-shirts - Lillian is following up witht he suppliers on this. The warehouse is great - lots of space, which someone is kindly letting use. However, there's no lift up so the delivery man was grumbling about having to carry the cartons up the stairs.
After counting 800 t-shirts, Lillian and I were both brain dead - simple instructions such as "could you please put in 5 tshirts into the box over there" took on the complexity of rocket science. Of course this also meant that it took us longer to unpack each subsequent box of t-shirts, because we were regressing into zombies. Of course, it also had to pour when we were trying to leave and dispose of the now empty cartons (we were wondering if we could slide the cartons down the stairs - Lillian didn't think my idea of rolling the empty cartons and yelling "TIMBER" was effective for some reason).
But we're finally done! And the t-shirts are all ready so you can order them - the announcement should be on the Society's website very soon on how you can go about doing that, or drop me an email!
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I spoke to one of the people who wrote in yesterday in response to my proposal of the cat management programme. She referred me to one of the people in charge of her company and they have said they will consider it because sterilisation seems to them to be a practical and long term method! Let's hope this takes off.
Also, one of the caregivers called up - one of the other women in her estate who has been constantly abandoning cats and refusing to sterilise finally agreed today and sent in 4 cats to be done. This is literally after years of people trying to convince the latter to sterilise. The cargiver did a fantastic job.
Baby steps - but with lots of baby steps like this, we'll be able to lick the overpopulation problem. If everyone can just convince one person to get their cats sterilised, we will have literally have thousands less on the streets.
I had a very difficult conversation with a caregiver today - spent a long time speaking with her a few days ago, but she is one of the handful of difficult caregivers who does not listen to what is said, but instead to what she wants to hear. Basically, she asked for the Society's help to pay for a stray cat bill - and I told her that we do not usually pay for rescue bills. However she managed to run up a huge bill and now says she cannot afford it and wants the Society to pay. The vets have also expressed some problems with her - that she did not come in and pick up the cat on time, running up more expenses and that she does not listen to what they advise as well.
The problem now of course is that if we pay for this bill, we're going to end up (1) really broke, (2) the money could be used to help so many other cats and get a lot of cats sterilised, instead of just this one cat.
With the extra anaesthetic machine we have to pay for (and now possibly surgery lights as well!), we really need to save money too.
Jolanda and I went down to meet with the two volunteer vets at the clinic today. Unfortunately we spoke with the vet who is letting us use the space and he will no longer be able to provide us with an anaesthetic machine, and that means we now have to find $5000 to buy a machine. We can proceed without an anaesthetic machine, but it's not very good in case the cats run into distress so we do not want to do without one, or the cat can die on the table.
We will be doing a small number of cats to start with so we are discussing using the best drugs and material we can afford. The costs are starting to mount though - we need to put in shelving and waterproofing, but it's the anaesthetic machine which is going to cost the most and that's a bit of a worry.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The Society gets emails from management corporations, factories and individuals asking us to take the cats away - today for example, a factory asked us if we could take away all the strays. Someone else from a condominium also wrote today to ask if all the cats could be adopted out. A third person emailed, worried that his employer is going to trap the cats and remove them from his office premises. These of course are the nicer people who do not just kill the cats and want to let them live, but the problem remains the same - removal and eradication are both doomed to fail (though in some isolated cases, relocation of a cat, not an entire colony, may be necessary).
Firstly, there is nowhere to put these cats - there are no shelters that have space for these cats. Imagine this, Singapore is a tiny, tiny island as everyone knows - even if by some miracle we were able to secure land for free, how many cats could we put on that plot of land? 2000? 5000? There are an estimated 60000 - 80000 stray cats out there. What happens to the rest of them? Do we just ignore them? They will keep proliferating and then there will be a lot MORE cats out there. Why not sterilise AND shelter them, some people may ask.
This brings us to reason number two, shelters cost a lot of money to run. Putting in 2000 cats a year could runs into the thousands. The money used to shelter these cats could then be used to sterilise far more cats. This means less cats are reproducing, leading to less cats being born, meaning that less cats will eventually need to be sheltered. So why not just kill the cats, some people ask? Because it does not work!
This is reason number three, cats are territorial - once you remove existing cats, new cats just move in. Biologist Roger Tabor termed it the 'vacuum effect'. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, and will fill it, new cats will just fill the space left by cats that have been removed. Some mistakenly believe that by removing the source of food, the cats will not come in, but this is not true. Cats wander - and they will wander to find food, but this is not the place that they may consider their territory. Removing the food just means they will wander somewhere else to eat and then return back to their territory again.
We have had volunteers tell us that they removed the cats from an area, so that the cats would not be caught. After a few weeks had passed, new cats had moved into the existing area. One volunteer told me that on the same night she had removed the cats to a shelter intending not to feed strays any more, she went back and found new cats she had never seen before in her area.
At the CHAMP conference in Florida last year, I heard about the work done in Puerto Rico. Over there they started pushing sterilisation aggressively, and found that they could afford to close their shelters down because less animals were coming in as I mentioned in an earlier entry.
This is why I believe so strongly in sterilisation - because it works! I've talked to and met volunteers whose colonies have stabilised or even decreased after they started sterilising. People sometimes accuse volunteers of being animal lovers - of course we do love animals, but we have also seen that killing animals does not work. The stray population has not decreased as time has gone on, no matter how many cats are killed. I believe in sterilisation because it is humane, but also because in the long run, it is the most effective and cost efficient solution. If we sterilise agressively, we WILL get a handle on stray overpopulation.
Feed your cats somewhere safe - I see and hear of cats being fed in places that are dangerous more often than you would think. Cats need to be fed away from traffic, both human and vehicular, and should be fed at a time that does not attract too much attention. It's not so much because caregivers should be frightened of complaints, but you will be surprised at how much difference feeding a cat at prime time (when everyone is leaving or coming home from work and school) and a bit later when everyone is already home can make to people's impressions of the cats.
Managing a colony is really about managing perceptions and ideas of cats. People often do not care about cats either way, but they do not want to come home and see a colony of cats congregating because it suddenly draws home the point of how many cats there are. This is despite the fact that the same number of cats is there all the time e- if people do not see it, they do not think it is a problem. The same goes for kittens - we notice complaints go up when kittens are born because it clearly shows that the cats are reproducing. For the latter, sterilisation of course is the way to go, but if your cats are all sterilised, then it's just about changing your feeding time or location so that the cats are not as visible.
People have often said that the cats are used to a certain time and they are - but the time can be changed. It will take some time, but the cats will eventually learn and adjust accordingly. The same goes for location.
Please do not feed in an area where the cats are clearly not wanted - move the cats. If not, the cat is going to end up in someone's cat trap or get rounded up by town council, and will be killed.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Cats the Society was asked to take in today :- Three
Jolanda and I went to meet one of the vets who is giving us space in his new hospital and looked at the place. The surgery tables and other items will be coming in soon and the vet is providing all that. Right now, it's essentially a big empty room!
We will need to get some items for the room - a small fridge for drugs that need to be chilled, curtains to partition off the cages, a vacuum cleaner (the bagless type) which will not be too noisy and scare the cats, and a safe. Apparently, by law you need to now lock the drugs up. We'll also need to get an autoclave machine, and to get Spay Day packs.
Jolanda and I went down to Mustafa's to try and get all the non-surgical items we needed, but when we found a small, nice fridge, we were reminded that the small fridges tend to get all choked with ice. The room is pretty small too, so we can't get a bigger fridge. Then we went to look at the vacuum cleaners - we were told to get the bagless ones, but the ones we saw that were reasonable were noisy and seemed rather flimsy. The more expensive and fancy ones were $500+ - way over budget.
We tried to also get a safe, and were told to go upstairs, but when we got to the right department, they did not have any! So two hours were pretty much wasted.
Anyone have small fridges, a safe deposit box or a bagless vacuum cleaner in good condition to donate?
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Friday, April 15, 2005
Spay Day volunteers
I spent some time speaking to some of the people who have written in to volunteer for Spay Day. Unfortunately most people cannot make it on weekdays, so we are short of nurses and admission and release assistants on weekdays, which is going to be a problem.
Also, not everyone has had much stray cat experience. While the cat should be unconscious at all times when a clinic assistant is handling the cat, mishaps can happen. These cats are strays in a strange environment, which is ultimately very frightening for them and they may freak out. For example, at no point should someone stick their hand into a carrier when the cat is awake because the cat looks friendly. If the cat escapes, the whole clinic will need to be locked down, at the instructions of the building owner loaning us the space, which means frightened cat locked in building with stressed out volunteers. Not a pleasant situation when the cat is bouncing off the walls!
Really though, volunteers just need to be calm and follow the procedure and everything will be fine. Jolanda has been working through the procedures very thoroughly - I think she has everything covered!
Anyone else want to volunteer? We're still looking for people desperately!
Cats we have been asked to take in since the last post :- One
Jolanda, Josephine and I have been talking about doing a trapping video for volunteers and members of the public to learn how to trap cats. We have noticed a lot of people are very daunted by the whole concept of trapping and then decide not to sterilise at all. If we can however show people that it's do-able, though not necessarily always easy (as all things in life!), we hope more people will have the confidence to start trapping on their own.
If possible, a short version of the video could be put on our website and then we could send the video to people who were more interested. I spoke to one of our ex-committee members who has a production company and she's willing to forego her fees, but it's still going to cost around $6000-$7000 for the facilities and editing which is not done by her. That's pretty costly. So back to the drawing board, unless we find generous sponsors!
Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org) actually has a very good video on trapping - they also have good resources for other information.
Number of Cats that people have asked the Society to take in :- One
One of the schools which have asked us to give a talk have asked us not to use the word 'mating' in our talk to their students because parents may complain. This is a class of 8 year olds, but we've given the same talk to children younger than that, with no one getting upset. In fact, none of the children even seemed to really notice. We do not of course go into detail, but use the word perhaps three times as in the context of 'female cats risk contracting diseases while mating'.
I will be checking with the school to see what their exact concern is, but by extension, what context will we then be able to speak about sterilisation? Children do need to learn about sterilisation of their cats young - so they can share it with their parents and grow up to be responsible people who sterilise their cats.
Or maybe I just hate to be censored :)
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Number of Cats the Society was asked to take in :- One
I had a long conversation with a caregiver today. As I mentioned in my earlier blog today, how far would one go for a cat? In addition, this caregiver has a multi-cat household AND she is completely and utterly broke. She called for advice. She is obviously a very kind hearted woman, and loves her cats dearly as she was very upset on the phone. However, she is spending all her money trying to cure a cat which according to the vet cannot be cured. In the meantime, some of the other strays she is looking after are not getting the special diet they need because she does not have the money - this in turn is going to lead to her other cats possibly getting ill and then THEY will need medical attention too. She told me that her problem was compassion - she wanted to save every cat and she finds it very difficult to euthanise cats even though she mentioned the cat might be suffering.
This made me think - what is compassion? A woman is causing some caregivers in another area a lot of problems. I spoke with one of the caregivers today and she said that this woman keeps dumping cats in their housing estate. The woman constantly brings home cats from other areas, keeps them for a while, does not sterilise them, and then when she cannot cope, abandons them. This means the caregivers are then stuck with the problem. She does not want to sterilise even though the caregivers are offering to do it for her - and only after a lot of badgering did she allow them to sterilise one cat yesterday.
The reason this woman gave? Compassion for the cats. She said she cannot bear to see them suffer outside, so she brings them home, but then she cannot cope, and they get dumped outside, where in all likelihood the town council will round them up because there are so many of them all of a sudden.
So ironically, compassion kills sometimes - in one case to prevent suffering, and in the other case, because the person just does not care about the outcome of their actions. Again, I think the thing to always consider as the paramount consideration is the cat's welfare. It's not about making you feel good - ie I'm so compassionate, I care about these cats. To paraphrase John F Kennedy, it's not about what the cats can do for you, it's about what you can do for the cats. Or to paraphrase another American President, "It's about the cats, stupid!" :)
It's public opinion time!
Just had a long conversation with a caregiver who called up to ask for advice. Will write more about it later, but here's a poser for all three :) of you who read my blog, how far would you go to save a cat? And how far would you go if you had extremely limited funds, and a lot of cats to look after? Thoughts?
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
We have been getting a few requests for reimbursements for treatment of cats for a variety of problems. The Society generally does not reimburse and right now, with the clinic coming up, we have to be even more careful with the money we spend.
I realise that a lot of people understandably want to save every cat out there, especially people who are fairly new to rescue work. They are kind souls who are trying to do everything to save every cat, but the sad truth is that not every cat can be saved.
This is a really difficult decision to make and everyone of course has to come to a decision that they can live with, all of which are deserving of respect as long as the cat's welfare is always paramount. I believe however there are several factors to consider when the cat is being rescued/saved (leaving aside religious beliefs) :-
1. What sort of life will the cat lead after - will it be able to sleep/eat/play and live a normal life? This could include cats with various handicaps who are able to still live normally and not be subject to a life of perpetual suffering after;
2. Where will the cat go? Is the caregiver going to take it in? I wrote earlier about how hard it is to find adoptive homes - for handicapped/injured/sick cats, multiply that by ten. If the cat is for example, an abuse case going back on the street again only to get abused or killed, then what is the point? The cat has to be taken in by the caregiver and if they are not prepared to do so, then the chances of finding the cat a permanent home are very slim;
3. What is the best course of treatment for the cat? This depends on what the vet suggests - and the vet is the best person to advice you on the course of treatment;
4. Is the caregiver able to give appropriate medical care? I've seen caregivers unable to properly look after kittens and cats, take in even more rescue cases only to have most of them die because of pre-existing diseases within their homes which they do not have the resources to treat. A life on the streets is definitely better than almost certain death in these homes;
5. Can the caregiver afford medical treatment? Again taking in a cat that you cannot afford to treat means the cat is going to suffer and die. In addition to the cost of paying for that cat, the opportunity cost is saving many more cats out there. For example, if you spend $1000 on one cat, you could have sterilised at least 20 cats. These 20 cats will then not reproduce. They will be less likely to get cancers and FIV and FELV - they will not spread it on to any offspring, which means that you will actually be saving far more than 20 cats. Unfortunately finances are finite - and as with everything else, resources do have to be allocated in the most efficient manner.
This is why I firmly believe that maximum allocation of resources to sterilisation is the best way of saving the most number of cats. If everyone sterilises, we WILL make a dent and less cats will have to die every year.
If you're feeding, please sterilise
This just in - someone emailed to say that the cats around his block were making a lot of noise. He said that he was thinking about calling the town council but was told the cats were being killed, so he was advised to call Cat Welfare Society to ask the Society to get the cats sterilised. All very good advice - and I'm glad he followed it - but here's the interesting part :- the person who asked me to call the Society was the caregiver!
I asked the complainant if he had asked the woman why she wasn't sterilising, and she apparently said that there were too many cats! So again, if you know anyone feeding, or if you are feeding, please sterilise - the problem will NOT get better if you don't start sterilising. This may seem obvious, but some people seem to think the problem will just go away somehow without their doing anything about it. It won't. The cats will just multiply at a frightening rate, and they will either getting killed when they are rounded up by pest control, or the caregiver will end up having to sterilise far more cats than they started out with.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Of T-shirts and emails
Taking a break from stuffing envelopes to blog. Only another 150 envelopes to go!
One of the town councils called today to ask for help - the complaint was about 'too many cats' in the vicinity and they were making noise. Apparently the complaint is that there are more than 10 cats in a three block radius. I spoke with the caregiver who says there are 8 cats there that she is aware of, all of them sterilised, except for one cat that is too old to be done. She is not aware of them making noise. Of course this means that to get more information, we need to speak with the complainant, but because it was an anonymous complainant it's a dead end. Also, what is ' too many cats'? Obviously if the whole place is over-flowing with cats, that is a problem, but I have dealt with complaints where someone complained that there were too many cats - and there were two or three cats in the block. One complainant wanted a single cat in their block removed. If everyone would just be a little bit tolerant, that would be helpful. If someone can live in close proximity to another 100 human beings in the same block of flats, then surely letting a few harmless cats live out the rest of their lives in the surrounding area cannot be too difficult?
Lillian told me today that the new t-shirts will be out by next week! So we will have two lovely new designs. They are a bit more expensive than the usual Society's t-shirts, because they are very colourful, but members will likely be given a discount.
Also, Marcus has been a genius and managed to get us a much cheaper rate for hosting our email server. This means that we will have more space for our emails but without having to pay too much. We do need quite a bit of space, because people send us photos and the like, and because we do get a fair amount of email. Today for example up to the time of this blog, I have received 64 emails, 45 coming from the public - and this doesn't include the emails that our other sub-committees get.
The PC ate my income tax!
Or rather the server did. After painstakingly entering all the necessary information and saving it on the system, I submitted it to the Registry of Societies, only to have it say that the server was busy and that I had to try again. I went back and found all the information saved was gone. After frantically clicking, I found most of the information still online - thank goodness.
If I kneel over from aggravation because of electronic services like these which are supposed to make your life easier, it will all have been for the greater good, because it might revamp the system. Then again, maybe not. :)
Monday, April 11, 2005
Meetings & Annual Reports
Cats the Society was asked to take in over the weekend :- Two
There were a lot of things to do today, most of them administration related - starting with collecting the name cards for one of our new committee members, Lillian. Lillian will be meeting a lot of people for merchandising and to liase with them for other events, so namecards are really important. It gives a very different impression from passing out little scraps on paper with your name and phone number on it (which is what we used to do) - back to what I said earlier about trying to look credible.
I also went to the post office to pick up stamps for all the AGM reports which will be going out to members. If you're a member, you can expect your AGM report to come pretty soon, once the envelopes are all stuffed. Envelopes were all printed by the way by our two new committee members, Marcus and Michelle - much nicer than the labels I used to print very badly! The last time I bought stamps to send out the notice of our AGM, I was asked if I was selling stamps because there were so many members to send them to! :)
Then off to a meeting at one of the tertiary institutes - Marcus and Michelle teach there as well and we met with the Student Affairs department. The department wanted to meet with the Society to see how the students could do community service with the Society in a meaningful manner. We have decided to try and put up specific programmes and see what the response is like, including IT requirements and perhaps fostering, and fundraising, which is Michelle's portfolio.
Speaking of IT requirements, the Society was given a quote to finish the Society's website and it came to $11,000! While I understand that there's a lot of work involved, it really is a lot of money - money which the Society cannot really afford. Marcus, who is helping us with our IT requirements is trying to see what else can be done. A few people have also written in to say they want to help with the website, so Marcus will be meeting with them over this week to see what can be done.
Marcus and Michelle also introduced me to a student at their tertiary institute who had written in to the Society and whom they had already met last week. She wants to set up an animal welfare society within her school, which is wonderful! I know of one other Junior College that has an animal welfare club, and I'm always happy to hear of new groups setting up.
Joy - the income tax form has gone out! So we've met the April 15th deadline with a few days to spare. The committee member who used to fill out the forms is no longer on the committee, so this year we found a very nice accountant to do it for a nominal charge because he loves cats too and has three strays himself. Now just have to fill out more or less the same form for the Registry of Societies - I am quite surprised that the Income Tax department and the ROS don't just share the same information instead of making Societies fill it out twice. It is quite a waste of time to fill out duplicate information on different forms. Oh well - the mysteries of the civil service are far too complicated for me to decipher.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Cats the Society was asked to take in today :- Four
We were sent an email about a radio programme yesterday where someone had complained that there were too many cats in a particular area. The volunteers in the area whom we alerted to this were understandably upset today in case the cats get rounded up.
What is upsetting is that there seems to be a lot of weight given to complaints against cats. For example, one thing that really irks me is anonymous complaints. If someone wants to complain and get somebody else or the cats into trouble, they should at least be willing to stand up and allow the caregiver or person being complained against the right of reply and to try and solve the problem.
Why is it that volunteers who tirelessly sterilise and manage the cats in the estate often have their comments/feedback brushed aside, but someone who anonymously complains is immediately dealt with? What I think is that some town councils and management committees forget that volunteers who look after the strays are also residents, and more than that, are residents who are actively helping to make the area they live in a nicer one. This is of course opposed to the complainants who pick up the phone, lodge a grouse and then do not actually help to resolve the problem or make the situation better.
Of course when the Society brings the matter of anonymous complaints up to town councils or management committees, we are often told that all complaints are dealt with on the basis of whether they are legitimate, but how much investigation is done? There's often no way as well to go back to the complainant and clarify on what the exact nuisance is, or to report if action is taken, because the complainant is not contactable due to their anonymity. I find that if someone is serious about resolving a problem, they are more than willing to work with volunteers to try and find a solution and in these cases, solutions are often found. Frankly, I fail to see the legitimacy of an anonymous complaint where someone says there are cats in the vicinity for example (which happens more often than you would think).
This brings me to another bugbear - the grounds of complaint, some of which border on the ludicrous. There are a LOT of other things that may be annoying in the vicinity, and yet nothing is done about them. There will always be cats - and people should just learn to deal with it. If the cats are causing a nuisance in some way, or are inconveniencing the other residents, then of course something must be done, but the fact that for example, sterilised, managed cats EXIST in an area should not be grounds for removal. Where do we draw the line otherwise? If the birds/leaves/grass/incense burning/my neighbours bother me, will they be removed too?
In one case I went to last year, the person who was being complained about told us that apparently a resident could SEE a cat in his window even though the block was across from the complainant's. The cat was not in bothering the resident in any way, except by merely being in the same field of vision. Yet this complaint was taken seriously.
Of course there are also some town councils and management committees which support the work of the volunteers and are willing to look at the matter objectively and then let both parties work it out. Kudos to them - and here's hoping that this enlightened minority will continue to grow in numbers.
On another front, the Society just confirmed that we will be presenting at Asia for Animals in June this year. I will be moderating one of the sessions in all likelihood. It is a conference organised by ACRES - and will be attended by delegates from all the world. It is open to the public, so do go to ACRES website if you want to register.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Number of cats the Society was asked to take in today :- One
Fantastic giving people who are willing to go all out to volunteer are very rare - so when one comes along, it goes a long way to restoring your faith in human kindness and decency.
A lovely young lady emailed to say she could help to foster. When I wrote to ask if she could help to take in the kitten dumped in the field, not only did she immediately agree, she offered to go down, pick up the kitten AND bring it to the vet. Not only that, she offered to pay for any expenses incurred. I wish that everyone was like her - it would really help to go a long way to making Singapore a truly caring society.
Since we're on the topic - kudos to all the great volunteers who go out every single night and feed, sterilise and manage colonies of cats in all weather and who put up with abuse and un-supportive families sometimes.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
It's 11:15 do you know where your neighbour is?
Someone just wrote in to say another kitten has been abandoned and they need to see if someone can take it in. It was apparently dumped in a box in a field, but the woman has left the place as she had to go to work, and I hope the kitten is still there. I am trying to find out more.
I just received an email from someone saying that their neighbour has been feeding strays but does not sterilise. By now, I think my views on sterilisation are pretty clear :) and one of the volunteers and I would be happy to mediate. However I am constantly surprised how many people do not just speak to their neighbours directly. I'm not sure that this is the situation in this particular case, but in many of the cases I deal with, the problem could have been easily solved if neighbours had just spoken directly to each other.
Singaporeans are exhorted to be neighbourly, but I have to say I don't really see that happening. I often hear people say that they don't want to cause trouble with their neighbours as a reason for not wanting to approach them directly, but I find the exact opposite - most people are upset that their neighbours called in a third party instead of speaking to them directly. So in the spirit of neighbourliness, say hello to your neighbour today - keeping good relations with your neighbour is important for a generally pleasant living environment and especially if you have cats!
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Sterilisation not destruction
Cats the Society was asked to take in today :- One
Another condominium has asked for information on the sterilisation programme. I do hope that they will consider setting up cat cafes - we've had three requests in this past two weeks, and I hope more people will consider sterilisation. At the moment the problem is that sterilisation costs money, whereas if you send in cats to the AVA to be killed, it's free - unless you hire pest control, so even though sterilisation is a more effective long term solution, some people will pick the cheaper method of killing the cats.
If I had it my way, for every cat that someone sends in to be killed, they should pay an administrative fee. Make it expensive for them to kill the cat. After all, money IS spent killing the cat, buying the traps, providing the manpower to put the cat down, etc. This will make them consider other solutions.
I also know of people who send in cat after cat - clearly killing the cats is not working, but they are wasting everyone's money killing the cats anyway. One man I know of has said that he's sent in cats in the hundreds, but why would he consider sterilisation when he can get his problem removed for free?
In one of the counties in Florida which has roughly the same population in Singapore, the animal control there changed the way they worked - they also used to kill cats for free, but changed the scenario to now charge for every cat killed. They found that one organisation had sent in 2000 cats to be killed and clearly they were still not happy as the population has not decreased. They used the money raised to instead fund a sterilisation and educational programmes. They have found residents actually prefer to have the cats sterilised as most residents did not want the cats killed, but were just at a loss of how to stop the cats from multiplying. I find that to be the case here too - many people may not love cats, but it's only a tiny minority that want them killed.
Abandonment Part II
What is to be done about recalcitrant people who insist on abandoning cats? It's not that they don't know it's wrong, but that they don't care.
We had three volunteers calling over the last two days about the perennial problem of abandonment in their estates all across Singapore. One woman for example has been suspected of abandoning cats for years. The AVA, SPCA, town council, and caregivers have spoken to her. I've spoken to her twice too, and she denies she abandons them but the volunteers in the area recognise the cats as cats in her home which are thrown far afield. What's worse is that she abandons them unsterilised. I've spoken to three separate volunteers who have recognised cats as being her cats which are abandoned in their area.
The volunteers have offered to sterilise the cats, and take them off her hands as long as she does not take any more in, but she refuses every time.
She keeps her doors closed so no one can see the cats, but caregivers in the area see her cats wandering outside at night.
I was talking to Marcus, one of our committee members last night about possibly setting up a wireless web camera connection to monitor the common areas where the cats are currently dumped, but we also need a PC connection and Internet access which may not be available.
Even if we do catch someone red-handed, the person might just turn around and disclaim responsibility. After all, if no one can legally own a cat in an HDB flat, then how do you prove 'ownership'? It makes it that much more difficult. People are likely to just say they were stray cats that they took in to play with and that they then returned to the street - and no one would be able to disprove this.
I spoke to Jolanda about this the other day and we were discussing why people abandon cats. One reason we thought of was that some people take cats off the streets and then when they get tired of them, they just release them back onto the streets again. They may think that the cat is not in a worse position then it was in, but a cat that is kept indoors for months, or even years has lost its territory and its natural instincts. They may have become very people friendly. This makes them easy pickings for pest control or abusers.
Even if they do survive, they add to the number of cats in the colony, threatening the entire colony's existence If people would just think before tossing their cats out.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
One of the Society's brand new committee members, Lillian, helped out today with her first Mediation over the phone. The town council called just as I was rushing out, and when I spoke to Lillian, she offered to take over.
The complaint is about - what else? - cats defecating outside someone's flat. Very often speaking to the complainant gives you many more details, and Lillian found out that someone is again feeding the cat upstairs in the corridor.
Though the lady said the cat was causing a fair amount of nuisance, she told Lillian specifically she did not want the cat killed - and we do find that happening quite often. People want the nusiance to stop - but that does not equate to killing the cats for most people.
I think Lillian found her first mediation interesting - the complainant was so distressed I think she was a little loud over the phone. Thanks Lillian, if you read this, for helping out today.
I will now need to followup on this case with another volunteer and try and find out who is feeding and ask them to please change their feeding spot.