Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What do you see?

What do you see?
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

What do you see when you look at this photo? A photo of a fairly typical HDB corridor? Or do you see "Obstruction of the Common Property"? It can be argued that it's the latter and that owners are not supposed to leave things out in the corridors.

I bring this up because the adoption volunteer and I were speaking just now about why it is that only certain things seem to be enforced. Say I complain about a cat downstairs, the cat is likely to be removed - but what if I complain about the complainant with plants in the corridor?

We brought this up at the meeting on Monday - that some complaints are based on personal vendettas and that's why anonymous complaints should not be entertained. If there is a nuisance it should be dealt with, but not if it's a frivolous complaint or a complaint by one neighbour to get another neighbour into trouble.

The adoption volunteer was saying that it wasn't fair to enforce action against one complaint and not against another. She said why the TCs will ask for removal of community cats, but not enforce against these other people who are breaking the 'rules'. That includes (in some of the TC bylaws I've seen) not removing soil from common property, no throwing of objects from the building, no use of the common property as a living or dining area.

Now this is not to say that I am in any way against plants in corridors (though in some areas I do think that when people start moving out what looks like half the contents of their flat,that it can be an obstruction). I think that in fact they give the area a nice feel - and remind me a little bit of a kampung environment in what is essentially a big concrete block. People like greenery and nature - and they will try and create little pockets of it where they live, which I think speaks of the resilience of people to adapt and to create a nice living environment.

What's interesting though is that some of these people who have plants turn around and complain to their town councils about cats defecating in what is arguably something they're not allowed to even have (ie the plants in the corridor). And the TC takes their side and has the cat removed. While I agree that cats should not be defecating in the neighbours' pots, it doesn't make sense to me that action against the cat is taken, but that something actually in the TC bylaws isn't enforced - ie telling the owner to remove the plants.

Does it mean that action is only taken when there is a complaint? And is that really the sort of community we want to become?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange, TC officers do not see plants (many times bigger than a cat, possible mossie breeding place, smelly fertiliser), bicycles, shoe racks, washing put up to dry, boxes - most are 24/7 along the corridors. But they take anonymous complaints of a cat who took a stroll now&then.

30/5/07 3:53 PM  
Anonymous belle said...

i hate to bring in racial issues, but am i right to say most complainants are chinese ? this seems to hark back to those chinatown shophouse days when cats were numerous & hated & feared ... thats why the prejudice towards cats & cats alone, but not towards noisy birds, barking dogs, obstructive plants, etc ...

(bcos chinese like birds, dogs, & plants - all good luck symbols ?)

btw, im chinese ... and im feeling real angry ...

when im in a taxi taking my cat to the vet, i have had (chinese) taxi uncles ask me - why do i keep a cat ? why not a dog which is better ? i juz shake my head & sigh ...

30/5/07 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not heard of cats being hated and feared & I'm an aged Chinese. My parents (they would be 90+ if they were alive) always had cats, dogs, chickens, birds when we were young.

30/5/07 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cats actually is a guardian creature in chinese, if u r a chinese but u dun knw tat means u really must work hard or study well

y some pple hate cats than dogs?

becos when olden days stray cats stays in drain n dustbin area so their body gt fleas or ticks n sme hve rabies n others disease n many pple gt scratch or bite by them gt very ill

n older age pple will tell their children ( example ur father or mother) tat cats is dangerous wat will happen if they bite u then after those saying sme pple will add other extra things tat nver happen b4 n tats hw pple anti cats

so for those saying has passed down age by age n becming a bad reputation for the cats so until nw sme pple hate cats becos they think tat the cats r dirty n full of disease becos tats wat the elders told them since young n elder pple won't lie to them

31/5/07 1:51 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Actually Anonymous you're far more likely to catch rabies from a dog than a cat - that's usually why they license dogs but not cats. So if that's the reason why people are frightened of cats then it would seem that the logic should apply to dogs first, but it doesn't.

31/5/07 4:17 AM  
Anonymous ace said...

I'm not sure if complaints are increasing these days as the cats are much more affectionate than before due to more interaction with human caregivers.
I overheard few of my colleagues discussing and dislike cats because they always follow and rub themselves against them..
Years back, most cats are timid and run away when you go near. Now I can actually pat any cat I see anywhere.. So we really can't blame those cat haters, some of them just can't get over that phobia

31/5/07 12:46 PM  
Anonymous belle said...

yes ace, but this doesnt explain why HBD dwellers are NOT against plants, esp now that dengue fever is on the rise and flower pots are one of the main breeding grounds for mosquitos ... we wld expect lots of complaints to TC abt plant-owners but there arent ...

there are so many pigeons around (bcos their usual predator is all but gone) ... bird droppings are everywhere, how come nobody complains abt bird-flu scare ? instead they blame the cats for carrying the bird-flu virus !!

yes there are complaints of dogs in the media - but those usually (if u notice) come from muslim letter-writers as their religion forbids them to come into contact with dog ... yet, my malay-muslim colleague, an animal lover, stopped to help an abused dog & even brought it into her home until further help came ... so prejudice plays a big part in all this anti-cat hysteria, i must say ...

31/5/07 1:17 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Ace - I think that it depends on which cats. There are still quite a lot of cats that are wary of people and run away. One thing people who don't like cats often don't realise is that their behaviour paradoxically attracts cats to them. Animals tend not to like to make eye contact - it's threatening to them. In fact in monkeys it's a provocation. So if a person afraid of cats looks away, the cat thinks that the person is actually being 'friendlier' to them and will move closer. Ask your colleagues to just stare the cat in the eye or stamp their feet.

Also the thing is, you may have a phobia of something but how does that translate to wanting to kill that thing? People are frightened of a lot of things, but while I sympathise that people may be frightened of something, how does then demanding that they be killed make it better?

And Belle is right - why do people not complain about other things, like plants? At a time when dengue is at again almost at a record high, why aren't people demanding that all plants be removed?

31/5/07 1:24 PM  
Anonymous ace said...

Belle, there are plant complaints, we do not know how many since no plant welfare blog for info. Not many complaints too as owners are generally responsible in daily watering, making sure no waste to their planting efforts and no owners would want to risk themselves with dengue. I believe the top habitats come from containers ie pails, roof gutters or roadside drains. I like plants, I grow them, I be responsible but it's a different thing with cats. Like it or not, they go near you, at food centres, on your way home, on cars, outside your house, they just seem to be everywhere. When people come together, like my colleagues, they see eye to eye because cats are everywhere and they can share their bad experiences but not all units have plants next door..

Yes, there are birds complaints too, that is why we see them being fired down once in a while. People blame cats for bird flu virus because cats seen every other hour and higher chance of cats contact than birds. You usually see birds only early morning and early evening.

Dawn, how can I ask someone afraid of cats to stare them in the eye? Have you seen people running for their life when a lizard or cockroach is 100m away from them? Stamping doesn't always work, I hv tried many times but some cats just won't budge, I believe again, they are too familiar with human interaction..
I don't think people can demand plants to be removed, otherwise can we also request for the govt to stop promoting Spore as a garden city and to stop their annual tree planting day..

I am a cat lover and surely killing is not a way out. I am only writing to support my stand that present cats are no longer afraid of human compared to their ancestors and that is also why we see so much abuse cases these days. So the govt won't support us, they do not want cats to get all so familiar with the human grounds for cat lovers and haters alike...

31/5/07 3:35 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Ace - a few things. First of all, I'm not saying people with plants all cause dengue fever. You're right, most people ARE responsible, and the chance of it happening isn't very high. However, the point is that (1) we are at a peak almost of the dengue problem (2) water in households seems to be one of the highest contributing factors. So why aren't people demanding that all plants be removed? Because people are behaving logically and realise this isn't really a very high risk factor as long as everyone takes precautions.

Let's compare this with your bird flu argument. You said people see cats more often. True - but cats don't even spread bird flu! So why is it people want cats removed 'just in case' even though there is no connection! So just because I happen to see the cat more often then the bird, the cat gets it? Does that make any sense?

What you said though about not removing plants not being possible isn't actually true. Plants AREN'T allowed in corridors. Technically they are an obstruction, so the authorities CAN ask people to get rid of them. So why are there so many people with plants? There may be tree planting day - but that's in the garden areas, NOT in common corridors.

I walk a lot of estates in the course of my mediation and I can say that there are far more plants than cats.

The point I was trying to make is that your friends who are frightened of cats are giving off the wrong signals inadvertently which may make the cats think they are more friendly.

I don't particularly like cockroaches but I don't run screaming either. I certainly do walk away from them but logically I realise this is a problem with me in that I can certainly do worse to the cockroach than it can do to me.

I understand what you're trying to say - but I don't see how this is supporting your stand. There are cats that are frightened of people, there are cats that aren't. Kind of like people really.

As for why this would make the authorities not support the programme I don't understand. Which is better? A few sterilised, managed and friendly cats? Or a lot of cats unsterilised, running around the estate and breeding uncontrolled?

31/5/07 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my two cents worth,

1)Does anyone even know that plants are not allowed in corridors? Looking at all HDBs, one has the impression that the govt endorses and even encourages plants. If the law is enforced, there would be a mountain of plants. There was even a recent case in the papers of a guy who turned his corridor into a "jungle".

2) Why the govt doesnt support TRNM? Because of the no stray stance. To the govt, community cats are not regarded as pets, they are regarded as strays no matter what CWS or anyone says. To the govt, if you have a home then u are a pet, no home means stray. Corridors and void decks do not count as home as they are govt property. Finally, knowing how efficent our govt is, they rather clean the country sparkless and without life then to allow even one or two cats. Which is really ironic.... for soon the only cats we see in the wild are the two statues of the Singapura cat at boat quay....

1/6/07 11:49 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous - it's quite possible people are unaware of it, but I think the main reason is as you said - that so many people already keep plants that it's hard to enforce.

However why have a rule and then not enforce it? Then why have it in the first place?

As for the no stray policy, TNRM will cut down the cats. What surprises me is that in Singapore we normally look at results - if something doesn't work, we change it. Here we have been killing cats for more than 20 years. Is it working? No. So why not try something new? Plus you have a group of concerned residents who are willing to do this for free out of their own time. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

1/6/07 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm, people do complain about pigeons. Thats why they get poisoned en masse by TCs. Also, any stray dog that ventures into a housing estate is as good as dead. There isn't a particular bias against cats, just against animals in general.

Btw, I wish people would stop blaming cats/dogs/birds whatever for spreading disease. Your chances of getting hit by a falling tree are probably higher than your chance of catching some exotic zoonose, yet I don't see anyone proposing that all trees be chopped down.

1/6/07 12:03 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous - that's true about most animals. However I think people realise that they cannot for example do anything about birds (again poisoning isn't working so great) - so they blame cats when they see anything about bird flu.

And you're absolutely right about the trees.

1/6/07 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous at 1149am

Mmmm I think the reason is because our Govt believes in instant results, to them TRNM takes too long. Years for the sterlized cats to die off. It is faster in their opinon to just cull. Whether or not results show that it is not effective. At least in the short term, when there is a complain and there is a visit by some VIP, the cats "disappear" in an instant. Instead of having to explain when questioned by the VIP or minister why there are cats and what measures are taken to control them, "sir we have adopted a TRNM program, however the cats will disappear only after 10 years." which will most likely get them a lashing and an black mark in their record.

1/6/07 12:59 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

That's quite possible but it is sad that something that right is done at the cost of something convenient.

1/6/07 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Dawn that is how it works here in Singapore, we certaintely didnt become the great economic giant we are now without sacrifices. Also although you may say that the govt should be happy to see residents taking the matter of cats up and willing to act on it. On the contrary, the govt might actually be thinking otherwise. As civil action that does not agree with govt policies is considered dissent behaviour, cat welfare givers might be instead deem as a thorn in the govt's side in their ultimate dream for a clean and "stray free" Singapore. Sadly cats are just not in the equation for Singapore's future. Or for that matter any form of animals. I was reading a book by Alexndra Powe Allred called Cat's Most Wanted and in page 104 in the description of the Singapura Breed, it says:

" Some claim that the Singapura's suspicious nature stems from its treatment by Singaporeans who dislike cats intensely. Also known as "drain cat", this breed is said to roam the streets and has endured great abuse. "

To me it sounds very much like what our ferals go through and also it is alittle embrassing we are on a book for the wrong reasons.

In my humble opinon, to save the cats in Singapore, besides TRNM, there has got to be a use found for them. Either support the arguement with facts such as number of rats in areas with cats and those with none. Or maybe medical facts on how lonely elderly Singaporeans have less medical problems when they have a pet etc. Basically you got to give cats a reason to be around. Simply saying they have the right to be around doesnt bite with the govt and the culling will just go on.

Anonymous at 1149

1/6/07 4:00 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Hi Anonymous - thanks for your suggestions. We have actually come up with those points in meetings as well, but so far, that doesn't seem to work either.

1/6/07 4:40 PM  
Anonymous ace said...

Pls let me correct myself, I meant "most" cats now (of course not all cats) are not afraid of human beings.
I agree it doesn't make sense that cats always seem to get it first for bird flu, sars and what nots. I also don't understand why the HDB still hold on to their decade yr old no-cat-allowed-in-HDB rule? We all don't understand so what else can we do? I read somewhere or was it from your blog that the officials are human doing a job, they are not the enemy. We must not assume they are concerned about cat welfare too, we are all different, just like cats as you stated.

Surely the govt are aware we have a network of dedicated people managing area cats, working with TCs to deal with complaints, working to reduce stray population on their own time and expense. How can they not know by now the benefits of TNRM with all the countless meetings, emails, letters to newspapers, MPs and so on. But why do they continue to kill every day with our tax dollars for over 20 yrs? Surely they can reallocate the funds to better use? But instead of changing their outdated policies, they slap you with a new anti-cat rule!

Instead of reforming our govt on the cat issue, can we target the public instead. Educational booths on cats, TNRM, aggressive cat marketing. When the public have a better understanding on cats, works of caregivers, benefits of TNRM, hopefully they can be more tolerant, appreciating cats as part of the environment and complaints greatly reduced. School talks reach out to teens only, we should not forget the mature groups as they form the main complainant and also to stop them passing down wrong info to their children. Fear may turn to hatred because they do not understand. I don't run away from a roach too but I have really seen people running for their life which again I will never understand.

When you see a doctor for a problem and doesn't get better, we go back again and it's right to say we made a few visits. Same goes to complaints, same complain but no remedy so TC rightly can add up each one too.
So my point again is that since cats are now not as shy as before due to increasingly familiar human interaction, we can expect more complaints too. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying it's the caregivers faults for taming the cats, I have all due respect for your work and the caregivers as well. I am grateful that we have CWS. But I think it's time to wear a hat from the anti-cat party and not sticking on to our own caps. Prevention is better than cure. If our prescription doesn't seem to work with the officials, then maybe it's time for a new formulation.

2/6/07 12:22 AM  
Anonymous preventive said...

Dawn, have you thought of tweaking the TRNM programme to reduce the number of compliants? I believe the TCs will be most willing to work with caregivers if the TRNM can result in a reduction in the number of compliants. You will need to be very objective though - use the number of compliants to justify the TRNM.

2/6/07 11:28 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

ace - actually a lot of people DON'T know there are caregivers. Many MPs have expressed surprise when the caregivers approach them. Why? Because in the past, caregivers rarely did.

Also this may just be a new policy that the TCs came up with and I suggested in a later post, it may have to do with whom is doing the work. AVA for example supports bringing back the programme now.

I would also say that I don't find cats in general friendlier. A lot of cats are still quite wary. If the concern is that cats are too friendly, I don't see what the argument would be made to them.

Preventive - that is exactly what we're doing and why there is an "M" in TNRM :) We have complaints checklists and flyers and the caregivers handle complaints. Maybe you'd like to attend the workshop to find out more.

2/6/07 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



29/6/08 7:03 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I am very sorry to hear that Tom - actually there are several countries that are exempted from quarantine, but I'm not sure which country you came from. I believe most countries without rabies actually are exempt. I hope you and your cat are reunited soon.

29/6/08 10:07 PM  

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