Monday, June 26, 2006

A need for a cohesive approach

I just got off the phone with one of the volunteers. She mentioned that there are a lot of people letting their cats out of their flat and worse, these cats aren't sterilised. The town council is very annoyed by the whole situation because the residents are complaining to them.

The volunteer has spoken to a few of these residents and they usually either deny the cat is theirs, or ask her to take it away.

Another volunteer went down with a volunteer the other day to speak with another woman who is so careless that her cats keep falling from her unit and dying or breaking their legs. This woman too says she does not want the cats anymore.

Now the town council won't step in - to them, this does not constitute their problem. The HDB will just say that to get rid of the cats if they come into the situation. This is exactly what some of these residents will do - dumping them into their own estates and increasing the community cat population.

This will clearly result in an increasing community cat population problem. It seems to be extremely short sighted that town councils and HDB do not work together on this problem - it's as if the left hand pretends it does not know what the right hand does. Telling people that they cannot keep cats in their flats is all way and good, but they are ALREADY DOING IT. What do you expect them to do with their cats? Plus, asking them to get rid of their cats this time, does not mean that they are not going to just go and pick up new cats which means that the whole cycle starts again.

So what to do about it? Allow cats in flats legally and force people to follow some rules - cats must be sterilised, cats must be kept indoors and microchipped, there must be some cap on the number of cats (with a grace period till the existing cats die) and people with cats can then register their cats. HDB argues they'll deal with more cat complaints then - here's the thing, right now people who are irresponsible are already keeping cats in their homes. However, there are responsible owners who are also getting busted by the HDB just because they own cats. If cats are allowed officially, they would have a smaller group of people go after, ie the truly irresponsible ones, rather than the whole entire cat owning population. It's a waste of resources to go after people just because they own cats.

In addition, by insisting on people keeping cats indoors and sterilising them, you help end a lot of problems. Right now there are no guidelines. People think there is nothing wrong with letting their cats walk about. If the force of authority can back this up, a lot more people would be sterilising and keeping their cats in.

We will never get a hold of the community cat population until the HDB and Town councils stop burying their heads in the sand and pretending that there are no cats in flats.

8 Comments:

Blogger vegancat said...

Now that the GE is over, what can we use as shovels to dig their heads out of the mud!? Stir people up by showing what a great waste of public fund used to paying pest control companies just because HDB and TC won't get their act together!

26/6/06 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way I look at it, a big part of the problem lies in the sheer irresponsibility of pet owners in Singapore.

Irresponsible cat owners in HDB flats already pose a problem. Not only to the HDB and to the neighbours but also, ironically, to the cats they are supposed to nurture and protect. These people will continue to be a problem even if HDB allows cats. In addition, there are probably many other irresponsible people who are not rearing cats in HDB flats now because they know they are not allowed to. But if cats were allowed, these people might well bring home cute little kittens only to abandon them once they grow up, or allow them to roam unsterilised, or allow them to fall out of their ungrilled windows.

While I agree that certain conditions can be set if cats are allowed, enforcement would be a real difficulty.

Please don't think I am in favour of the HDB's current policy or that I agree with their misguided reasons for not allowing cats in flats. I am a cat lover and I sincerely hope that HDB will review its policy one day, but only if teh outcome works out in the best interest of the cats.

3CatHome

26/6/06 12:08 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Hi 3CatsHome, I think the problem is that the irresponsible people are NOT the ones who are deterred by the ruling and not taking in cats now as a result. In fact, it is the many law abiding, responsible cat owners who are often the ones who do not have cats now.

In addition, enforcement now is impossible because there are so many people with cats - they cannot possibly go after every single one. However, if you ensure that everyone must register their cat and agree to abide by the guidelines mentioned, you in fact have a much SMALLER group of people to patrol. That way if anyone is not registered, they can be fined. If a cat causes a nuisance, there are laws to protect against this too.

If I am a cat owner now in fact, it is in my interest not to keep my cat indoors - because HDB might fine me. It is better to allow my cat to run around - and that in fact discourages me from feeling a sense of ownership over my cat. I can always say it is a community cat. However, if I am told I must sterilise and keep the cat indoors but that I will be allowed to keep the cat legally (and without fear of being fined), I think a lot of people will do that. It also encourages a sense of responsibility.

26/6/06 12:16 PM  
Blogger vegancat said...

The problem is that there are problems with current rules regarding cats.
To provide evidence for decision-making on legal allowance of cats into HDB, surveys may need to be conducted to ascertain
1) How many people are aware of HDB prohibition of cats as pets?
2) How many will take in cats and kittens if the prohibition rule is removed?

I still think we are generally not a pet-inclined peopl and removal of prohibition is not going to cause a surge in cats kept as pets but effectively allow a legal address of the current major problem of abandonment.
I also feel that a certain community is more likely to keep cats and education addressing ignorance of sterilization and horrors of abandonment plus providing financial help for sterilization within that community will go a long way in curbing abandonment that is the frustration to care-givers in estates that achieve a high percentage of sterilized community cats.

26/6/06 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Town Council and HDB should set a regulation that residents must sterilise their indoors cats if they want their cats to go outdoors for a walk. Some residents keep 10 to 15 cats in a HDB flat and sometimes they feel very stressed. They might want their cats to go out for a walk. As long as their cats are sterilised, there is nothing wrong to let the cats out for a while.

26/6/06 1:55 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous, there is if the cats then go and defecate on someone else's doorstep. If the cats are feeling stressed indoors, then perhaps the person with the cats should consider keeping less cats. Most cats live indoors happily for their whole lives without getting stressed - it is the number of cats, rather then being indoors that stresses them out.

26/6/06 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dawn, to continue with our earlier exchange, do cat owners who let their cats roam really do it to circumvent the HDB ruling that they are not allowed to keep cats? It seems more like a throw-back of the old kampong mentality that it is more "natural" to let cats wander and not bother with sterilisation.

Actually, if I were a cat owner in a HDB flat, I would be sure to keep my cats indoors and keep them quiet and clean and trouble free so that no one outside my household would know they are there. After all, the HDB does not as far as I know, conduct household inspections to check if people keep cats. Most of the time, they are alerted by neighbours' complaints. And common sense should tell cat owners in HDB flats that if they allow their cats to come and go out of their flat and create problems in the community, the neighbours will not only complain but will finger them as illegal cat owners.

A consistent and coherent policy from the authorities would certainly go a long way to address current issues, but ultimately, the key is education, education and more education so that certain values will be forged in the society that will enable it to respect life even if it comes in the form of a cat.

3CatHome

26/6/06 2:14 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

3catHome, some people probably do allow their cats to wander because they don't view the cats as theirs as you said - which is why it would be helpful to clarify it. If you 'own' the cat, you have more of a sense of responsibility.

I do know of people who put their cats out when the HDB came by so that they would not get into trouble. They told me that they could not afford to get fined. In addition, people who are told they can't keep their cats because someone complained are also often the ones who dump their cats. I have personally gone to homes where the cats were kept indoors at all times, there was no smell and a complaint still came in. In another case, it was clearly a personal grudge. In a third, the owner trying to be helpful, pointed out that they had a cat to another neighbour and got complained about.

Another thing not to be under-estimated is people's fear of authority. They will not keep the cats in because they are frightened of being caught. Conversely, once something is officially sanctioned, people are much quicker to embrace it.

As you said, education is important - but look at what signals the authorities are sending out. Cats are not allowed as pets to be valued and treasured as such - if you have cats in your flat they should be gotten rid of. No one cares where you get rid of them as long as they don't stay in your flat - so most end up on the street, where they are then caught and killed.

One complainant in fact asked me why he couldn't just kill the cats himself because the authorities clearly consider them as pests and round them up.

26/6/06 2:26 PM  

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