Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Changing water bowls

I spoke with a caregiver this afternoon who was had an NEA officer tell her that she could not leave water bowls out because people were concerned about dengue. She asked if there was a way to explain to people using the Internet in her area that it's better for the cats to leave water out for their health and that she changed the water every day.

I explained that it's unlikely people will actually pay attention to threads on the Internet because the Internet just has so much information. I suggested that a low-tech solution might be the best - use seven different water bowls with the days of the week written on them. Instead of changing the water alone, she should change the whole bowl. That way anyone walking by can see that the water was changed that day and hence cannot be stagnant water. This also means that the people complaining (who must know where she puts the water) will be able to see it's being changed. She said she'd call the officer and call me back if there was a problem. She hasn't called so I hope that went well.

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Letter in Lianhe Zaobao

Thanks to Kootoo Monster for sending this in, and may I also take this opportunity to thank all of you who send me articles from newspapers. I don't read all the papers - and it really helps when you guys bring items like this to our attention.

This letter is from the Lianhe Zaobao today. Here's my go at translating it :-

The writer says that being new to Singapore, he or she is shocked by the number of cats around hawker centres and the like. The writer has seen cats jump on tables. The writer also says that he or she has noticed that there are a number of people who feed cats and that they are being kind but that it is making the place dirty - the writer also noticed someone feeding the cats in the morning and leaving a mess and that the cats were very well fed.

Worse this writer says that cats are dirty and that they may spread germs , especially to children.

The writer also said that if Singapore would like to make a favourable impression on other people visiting Singapore, then something has to be done to control the cats.



JaQ and I are now drafting a reply. First of all, the main problem with litter is not the cats - it's people. I am quite certain there are more people littering than feeding cats because just looking around at the variety of litter (soiled sanitary napkins, canned drinks, chairs!) most of it isn't cat food. If anything needs to be done, all of us just need to be more conscious of what we toss out.

Secondly, feeding is an important component of TNRM. It helps caregivers with trapping, and it in fact keeps cats away from areas they are not wanted - like hawker centre tables.

Thirdly, cats aren't dirty - they are in fact very clean. They don't also go around spreading diseases because most cat diseases are species specific. In fact, caregivers do regular and routine health checks when they feed - so those cats are monitored daily as well.

Finally, I have met tourists who love the Singapore cats. One couple I met had a map and walked to the Singapore River to look for the kucintas and were very disappointed to find it was a statue and not real cats. Another woman was trying to smuggle a cat back with her (I told her that wasn't a good idea and to do it legally). Our cats are pretty unique, especially with the kinked tail, and if anything, I think they would make a good tourist attraction.

Anyone want to write in?

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Speaking with your neighbour

I was speaking to a caregiver who says that her neighbour has been trapping cats and is very unpleasant. I asked if she had tried to speak with the neighbour and she said that the neighbour had yelled at her once. She said that it is better if the Society speaks to people as we can better educate people about cats.

First of all, as I told her, in general I've found that most people prefer to speak with their neighbours. Most people ask why their neighbours didn't come by themselves and sent someone else down.

Secondly, it's not as if we wave some magic wand and make people understand things or that we have tons of knowledge available that is inaccessible to everyone else. The thing is this - we've learnt along the way as well. A lot of information is of course readily available on the Internet and I know that I am still learning every day. Many of you have in fact sent me useful information from things that you have come across as well.

Most of the information we think is really important is written down in FAQ sheets or is available in the TNRM packets which are made available to anyone who requests them. And here's the thing - it IS important for every caregiver to know these things.

As I explained to the caregiver, most complainants like to know that there is a neighbour who lives nearby, whom they can go to for help. It's all well and good to have someone come down and speak with them, but given a choice, most people prefer to know there is someone close by who can help them if they face an issue. If it comes down to this and the caregiver has no clue on what to advise the complainant about the vacuum effect, why management is important etc, then it's very difficult.

The third thing I mentioned to her was to be careful sometimes how you phrase things. For example, most people hate to be told that you're there to 'educate' them (the caregiver told me that she was just using the phrase with me, which is fine). Most people feel they're educated enough, thank you very much, and don't need someone to come and basically tell them they're ignorant.

Also stay away from language obviously telling people that they hate cats or that they 'must be tolerant'. Some people will ask why they ought to be? It's better to point out that there are better alternatives to help solve their problems permanently - rather than trapping and killing the cats, which DOESN'T solve the issue.

Of course there will always be some people who refuse to listen - but they will be in the minority. Most people are generally quite receptive when you explain that you're there to try and solve the problems they are facing.

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Notice something?



Notice something about this cat? That's right - she's three legged (her leg was amputated a month ago because of a birth defect, on the advise of a vet). She's currently being fostered and awaiting a permanent home, and watching her play it strikes me that what someone said is true, that animals do not pity themselves when they have disabilities or are in some way disadvantaged.

The other thing that strikes me is also perhaps that is what holds people back - we have an awareness of our short-comings/weaknesses and as a result we give up trying. Cats don't - and so they don't give up.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cats in private estates

Bad news for those caring for community cats in private housing estates. It seems that now if the cats are caught, they will be microchipped before being returned as well and since there is no management committee governing the estates, this means that they cannot get a letter from any authority (unless you happen to be in a private estate with a management committee). This is a setback from community cat caregivers in private estates - and again I am not sure why the change in policy. We're trying to find out.

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Black Cat


Black Cat
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I spoke with someone who is the chairman of a condominium today at the request of one of the residents because he was saying that they had to remove the sterilised cats from the estate. When I spoke with him, he mentioned the usual things - cats sleeping on cars, the cats spraying before they were sterilised, etc. I explained that these were issues that could best be handled by management and NOT by trapping because clearly removing the cats mean new cats will move in.

The man agreed and said there was no way that they could keep the cats out entirely anyway - they did not have security 24 hours a day, nor was there a way to keep the cats out. However he said he had to remove the cats because some people were superstitious and as he put it, had irrational fears about cats being bad luck.

I just spoke with another caregiver who said that one of the black cats was trapped in her area - because someone said that a black cat had gone up and she had a huge fright. I got the impression that the cat being black had a part to play in that. When I called the officer to clarify what was happening, he said he was in a meeting and when I tried to give him my contact number he hung up on me in mid-sentence.

So here's the thing - I can understand that people may feel cats are creating a nuisance, and that there are genuine issues they face. The question is - are we now removing the cats too even when we KNOW there is no problem and the person is being irrational? Where does it end? If I irrationally have a fear of bugs , whose problem is it? Mine or the TC or estate management's? And will they come and clear all the lizards/flies/mosquitoes that might potentially be anywhere in my immediate vicinity? The list of course can go on and on because after all, there's nothing rational about it.

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Spay Day

Another volunteer writes about Spay Day. Read Lingcat's take on what happened at her pick up point.

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Individuals and organisations

I've been speaking with a few people over the last few days who told me that their town councils have told them that the TC's policy is to work with organisations, and not individuals, which I do find odd. For one thing, residents are individuals - and certainly when complaints are taken, the TC takes complaints from people who are individual residents. There isn't for example a 'Complaints Bureau' that you go to to lodge an official complaint, whereby the organisation then comes up to the TC and tells them what the complaint is.

As another analogy, say someone who is very proud of their estate decided that they wanted to mow the grass for free, or to pick up litter whenever they saw it. Say this person called the TC up and offered their services for free out of a desire just to make the community a better place. Would the TC decide that they do not wish to deal with this person because they are an individual and not an organisation? I seriously hope they would grab the person and take up his or her offer - not only is the person community minded but wants to do something for free for the community. In fact I think it's probably better that they are not an organisation!

Caregivers really are those individuals - they want to do something for the community. They clean up, often after other people. And they do it all for free. Sure they like cats - but that should not matter one way or another because they're helping to make the estate a better place by managing the cat population AND reducing complaints through management.

Perhaps one fear is that individuals are less reliable but that isn't the case. There can be very responsible and reliable individuals who take their duty seriously - and in fact because they do it because they WANT to, they may be far more likely to do a good job. Possibly another worry is that individuals come and go but organisations stay - but that isn't necessarily true. At the end of the day, organisations are run by people - better to have one committed person than a lackluster organisation.

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Caregivers versus Management?

I met with a young caregiver yesterday evening who is organising a pretty big project and one of the problems she is facing is the lack of responsible caregivers in the area. She said that many of the caregivers are suspicious of 'authority' and don't want to work with the management of the area. I can understand she's having problems with getting both sides to work together and I sympathise with her - but I think the old adversarial position should no longer be a model that we look at. For example it shouldn't be caregivers versus management authority.

At the end of the day, we're all working towards the same thing - less cats, better managed colonies, well managed cats. So why are we at loggerheads with each other? Now if we can only convince all parties involved.

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Today (30-10-07)

Another letter about the HDB rule in Today. Calsifer was kind enough to also link to the original and the version that appeared in Today on her blog so you might want to see what was originally written in and compare it with what was published.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Don't wait till it's too late

I was just speaking with a caregiver who works with her officer very well. However the caregiver would like to have the programme accepted more widely throughout her TC, and the officer was quite worried about this. While the officer is supportive, the officer did not feel that her other colleagues or superiors were.

The other worrying thing was that while the area had many caregivers, she was concerned that not many wanted to speak with their TCs or wanted to meet their TC on a larger scale. This meant that while some of them had agreements with their officers, there was no agreement with the TC as a whole. If the officers changed, then the whole 'agreement' would also fall apart. For those not working with the TC at all of course, it meant that their cats were at risk right from the outset.

It is a risk to not work with your TC - the whole programme can fall apart and your cats can be caught because no one knows you're even there managing the cats. Unfortunately quite a few people wait till there is a crisis to do something - and by then it can be too late.

Heading out for a meeting with a caregiver now.

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Finally Tally for Spay Day 2007


Finally Tally
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

This cat was exhausted from all the excitement (and probably anaesthesia) on Spay Day and was asleep in his carrier waiting to go home.

The last co-ordinator just checked in - the tally for Spay Day 2007 was 160 cats sterilised. A caregiver called though to say that one of the cats she sent in had been sent back unsterilised - am trying to find out which clinic the cat went to so we can find out what happened but that cat will be sterilised at any rate.

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Management

I was just speaking with a very frustrated woman who moved into an area in June. She had spoken with me once before and I can see she's getting more frustrated as time goes by. She said that she had three cats urinating outside her door. She also said the number is increasing and that the caterwauling at night is getting pretty bad. She said she did not want the cats killed - but that it is getting so bad she is considering moving out altogether.

I have been down to this area several times myself. The problem is that there are a lot of people feeding, and that there are no really good caregivers there. There is a woman who likes to leave the cat food partway up the staircase and the cats run up all the time.

The woman said to me that she can't really be sure the vacuum effect works - she says that she's not asking for no cats but that there are areas where they don't really have problems.

The difference really I am convinced boils down to two really important factors. One, whether the area has good caregivers and two, whether there is a lot of dumping. If either or both are not present, the whole programme will flop.

How else can two pretty similar estates, which aren't very far apart have such different levels of complaints? In one, the caregiver there works really well, gets the cats sterilised, and very importantly, helps handle complaints. In the other, just across the road, which is where today's complaint came from again, I am sure to have the TC or a resident call fairly regularly with pretty valid complaints.

This can make a huge difference - the cats are less obvious, they are less visible, and people are therefore happier. People with complaints are less likely to be frustrated because caregivers are on hand to help them - not yell at them, or dismiss their complaints as pointless before checking.

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Jane Goodall and the Singapore Wildlife Stampede

Exciting news! Dr Jane Goodall is in town on Friday and will be at the Botanics for the Singapore Wildlife Stampede! We'll be there too - and will be setting up a small booth at the Botanics. It'll be a great opportunity to meet such an amazing woman who has done such great work!

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Volunteers checking the cats


Volunteers checking the cats
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

The Spay Day volunteers did an amazing job - they were dedicated and very hands on, plus they were talking about how to do an even better job the next time around! Some blog readers responded too and did a fantastic job. It would really have been impossible without them!

Thanks to Nancy, Eslina, CK, Nancy (the fantastic area co-ordinator), Liya, Liza, Ena, Grace, Doreen, Stefanie, Kathy and all the other people who dropped in from time to time to help!

The transport people were great too - especially Roland who kindly told us to pay him whatever we thought was reasonable and Madam Goh who volunteered to drive ALL the cats to the vets for free (but which wasn't possible due to time constraints). One of the volunteers had breakfast bought for her by one of the transport people - and they even dropped the volunteers back at the drop off and pick up locations for free.

We're working on a thank you for the volunteers for all their hard work. Thanks to them, 58 cats were sterilised at my pick up point.

Here's what happened at the Bedok pickup point where another 24 cats were sterilised. Thanks to Coboypb for HER hard work too!

Thanks also to Rebecca, Nan Nan and Wiggie for all the hard work they put in organising this (and for helping on Spay Day itself!) and to Jacin, Michelle, Sarah and Corbie who were the CWS representatives at the different pickup points.

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Letters on dogs and cats in HDB flats

Interesting articles on the dog ban in HDB flats in today's Straits Times though I missed the original letter as I was on a plane :-

Pet owners dogged by biases everywhere they turn
Dislike dogs, blame their irresponsible minders
Time to review list of allowed dogs

Calsifer sent in these letters from Today and here's the link from her blog where it's better formatted.

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Cats waiting to be picked up


Cats waiting to be picked up
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here were some of the 58 cats waiting to be picked up Friday evening from my pickup point in Ang Mo Kio. Besides some delays as the volunteer who was picking up the last batch got lost on the way to the vet, it went pretty smoothly.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Spay Day over!

I just got back a while ago from Spay Day - we had some hiccups (the transport person got lost) which is why we ended at almost 9:30 pm. More details when I have gotten reports from everyone else on their locations - I've heard bits and pieces about what happened, but will get the low down from them on what happened in the different areas!

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Returning the cats

Heading out for round 2 now. Jacin reports some of the vets will not be done till later so she's asked the caregivers to come a bit later. Some of the vets that are doing more cats obviously may have to release the cats later to the caregivers.

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Who brought this cat in?

Quite a few people came in today with slots booked under other peoples' names, which was fine (and this happened at all the pick up points) - the only confusion then was to match the right person with the right slots because we wanted to be sure that we tagged each cat properly to go home with the right caregiver. One caregiver had apparently 'shared' slots with another and ran in a panic to the van thinking we had not tagged her carriers - but her friend had already told us that she was there and we had filled out the form with the caregiver's name on it and had attached it to the carrier already.

Another issue is that we want to be sure to be able to speak with the right caregiver if there is a problem. Right now, Michelle is trying to trace down for example one of the cat's that has a note on it's carrier saying it has an infected eye. The woman who sent the cat in, and whose name is on the carrier, apparently let another friend have her slot, and she's not sure about what is happening exactly as the cat was brought in by someone doing transport - and not the caregiver.
It was also kind of funny that a lot of people didn't know the names their friends had registered under so there was a lot of "what is your name again?" going on. It's not unusual that you might not know a fellow caregiver's full name. A few people came in without registering and we were able to accommodate them, but Rebecca and Corbie had more problems as they had far more cats than were booked in which meant Rebecca had to beg vets for slots, drive cats to other vets and basically try to fix it, while Corbie had to man the fort.

Thank goodness for the area co-ordinators who live in the vicinity and helped out. As the cats at my pick up point started going back early, Nancy, the fantastic coordinator was all ready for them and has been there watching them with some other caregivers.

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Spay Day details

Lots of little bits and bobs floating around at the moment - some volunteers misplaces verification letters on the way to the vet so the vets were a bit confused. One of the vets said that they had several carriers sent in - and each specified a different length of ear tipping. Another cat had a note saying to look at the eye - so the vet called to check whom would be caring for the cat afterward. I just spoke with the caregiver whose cat had the note on the carrier and she said that she had not put it there - but according to Michelle she was not the person who had sent in the cat this morning. So we need to trace down the origins of the note - we also want to ask the person if they want the eye treated.

Also a lot of the cats are being released earlier - but are still quite groggy so many of the transport volunteers and people doing transport today have had to go down earlier. Rebecca and Corbie are also short of people tonight at Tampines and someone just texted to offer to help so we're hoping to get more help there.

As you can see, there are a lot of little details that need looking into so all the co-ordinators are being kept on their toes.

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Cats waiting


Cats waiting
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Just got back a while ago as I accompanied one of the people doing transport to the vet. These cats had to wait at the pickup point as the vet opened later. We wanted to make it easy for people to drop off the cats before going to work, but these cats did have to sit and wait. We might try staggered times at which cats are sent in if, as Rebecca says, the vets are still agreeable to working with us next year! :)

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Cat watching


Cat watching
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here's one of the cats watching the other cats being loaded into the van.

Rebecca had some problems at her pickup point with too many cats. Corbie mentioned some of the cats were too young as well and have to be sent back. Michelle had some cancellations which meant Rebecca rushed the cats to the vets that Michelle did not use. Jacin and Nan Nan also loaded their vans off and rushed them off just around 10 am so hopefully they'll get there quickly.

One of the vets just called to ask him to sign the general anaesthetic form and another asked if the cats can be picked up earlier.

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Loading the van


Loading the van
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here are some of the cats being loaded into the van and getting ready to go. We were lucky to have a large number of volunteers - the volunteer who was the area coordinator got a large number of her friends and other caregivers to help out and thank goodness they were there as we were very busy!

All the cats so far have gone to the vet from my pickup point except for one vet which opens a little later in the day. One of the vets in fact just called up to say they were a little unhappy that the cats had turned up a bit early - while we do our best to try to keep to the schedule, some of the people doing transport have more than one pick up location. We also have to adhere to the different times that cats are to be dropped off (from 9 am till noon) and picked up (2 - 7 pm) from the different vets so it can be a bit messy even though we have 12 vehicles doing transport, with more people on standby.

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Caregivers with cats


Caregivers with cats
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here are some of the caregivers who came in with their cats to be dropped off for Spay Day this morning. At my pickup location, we were expecting almost 60 cats - and people started coming in with cats that weren't registered. Luckily, some people didn't show up so we ended up with the exact number we were supposed to send in.

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Spay Day 2007

And we're off! We're expecting 180 cats and they're going all across the island to several different vets. Wish us luck!

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Vets

I was just speaking with a very upset woman who had sent in a cat to be sterilised today. She said that the cat did not have its ear tipped and when she called the vet, they denied it. They asked her to bring the cat back in and offered to pay for the taxi fare. She was so upset, she started to cry and said she did not want to sterilise anymore. She also said the the carrier was dirty and there was urine on the paper. She asked why the vets were so cruel just because it was a community cat. She asked if it was possible for the vets to go down and tip the cat's ear - but I told her that it was not advisable to do it outside of a sterile situation whereby there was equipment to resuscitate the cat should anything untoward occur.

I told her that I did not know what had happened in this particular case, and I encouraged her to bring the cat back in if possible. I also told her that I thought it would be a good idea to bring it up at the time if she noticed the carrier was dirty. I said that I have had cats in carriers who were all cleaned up but because they're scared/dirty/groggy, they can throw up or soil themselves after the carrier was changed. Of course it could be because someone may have neglected to change the lining, in which case it IS good to bring it up.

I also don't think that vets necessarily give worse treatment because it is a community cat. I do believe that the vast majority of vets here in fact are very helpful with regards to the community cats and treat community cats as far as possible, similar to an owned home cat. Of course there are some differences - for example, they might not suggest to a community cat caregiver that they might want to do an MRI for a community cat not because that cat is less important, but because they know a caregiver has a large colony and thus has financial commitments to many other cats. Community cats may also be in worse health in some cases because they have never been vaccinated for example or they may be more prone to getting into fights/accidents on the street.

I do think that if the vets didn't want to help community cats they would just refuse to help outright. I was quite surprised to find that when I spoke to some caregivers in the US, and what one of the vets said at the conference I attended, was that they just aren't enough vets doing low-cost spay-neuter. When I asked other people why I was told that the reason apparently is that vets can make so much more doing a consultation for an owned cat rather than low-cost spay-neuter. I think that we are very fortunate to have many community minded vets in Singapore - and the number of vets helping us at Spay Day is a good marker of that.

It would also be a shame if the woman stops sterilising because of this.

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Transport

Every year we seem to run into problems with the transport at the eleventh hour - this year quite a number of people doing pet transport are unavailable. We're about to rent a van, but someone kindly offered to try and get a van for us gratis and I'm trying to get in touch with the caregiver who called earlier with a van as well.

Thanks also to everyone who is volunteering to come down and for those who offered their cars too. It's important to have backup transportation just in case because on occasion, we find that there may have to be last minute changes in transport detail and which cats are being sent to which vets. As a result, the extra cars come in very handy.

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Preparation for Spay Day

It's been a busy day so far - trying to rent a van, get in touch with the volunteers and transport people helping tomorrow, and speaking with some caregivers who weren't sure where to go tomorrow or at what time and one of the vets trying to clarify some information.

Also last year some people didn't bring in all the cats they were supposed to, so I think some people are hoping to bring in extra. However the slots go to those registered first obviously because otherwise, we will have too many cats and not enough slots.

Also had a strange case where a woman called someone who helps with exhibitions and wanted to know how to rehome a cat. When I called the number given though, the person said that the woman didn't live there - and that the cats were not hers to give away as this was some family dispute. I left my number in case they need to call but will stay out of it.

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Spay Day tomorrow

Thanks for all the nice welcome back messages! The Spay Day volunteers met last night to determine what the co-coordinators will be doing tomorrow, though I stayed home to rest as I don't want to be jet lagged tomorrow morning!

Hope all has been well with the community cats under your care - there have been some problems that I heard about via email and phone, but I do hope that everyone else is fine.

Someone just rang up to offer help with transport for tomorrow. I'll be checking in with Rebecca about whether we need more help in that respect as we are still trying to secure some help for tomorrow.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CWS Birthday

I was on the plane flying over CWS' birthday - but thanks to Ocean and Eslina for not forgetting it. Happy Birthday CWS!

Of course to celebrate we have Spay Day on Friday! Rebecca, Wiggie and Nan Nan have been hard at work - and slots are filled. They are meeting tonight to discuss details. If I'm not too zombied out from jet lag, I'll be going too.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Is this how you woke up this morning?

Thanks to Simian and Tarsier Girl for sending me this :-

How the cat wakes you up in the morning

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Blow Up Toy


Blow Up Cat
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I saw this outside a cat hospital today - Halloween is next week and it's a huge event here. There were children playing under it when I first drove by.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kitten for adoption


Kitten for adoption
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

This is one of the lovely kittens up for adoption at Petsmart!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Staff at Maryland SPCA


Staff at Maryland SPCA
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here are more of the staff members. One of the interesting things I learnt today was that they are changing their adoptions protocol and the way I understand it, it is to make people take more responsibility for their animals which I think is a wonderful thing. I was told that now they basically run through the different options that people have to rehome their pet and work through it with the owner, so the owner doesn't feel as if the shelter is taking over the responsibility. In addition, apparently most people actually GET their pets through friends and family in the US - so that is the best way to try and rehome the animals.

One thing that Maya, the dynamic Director of Operations, whom I have had the pleasure to meet a few times now, said was she felt that people are starting to speak LESS to their neighbours here as well. She told me that there was apparently a study at Harvard that found that when more people live together and if the number is above 300 or 500, that they are less likely to be involved in each other's lives and less likely to talk to each other. That actually does make sense - and maybe explains why in Singapore it's so hard to get neighbours to speak with each other.

The Maryland SPCA is also having an event at the zoo this and next weekend because it's Halloween at the end of the month (and which is a huge event here!). They will bring animals up for adoption to the zoo and get them to perform tricks so that people are more likely to want to go to the SPCA to get a pet.

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Maryland SPCA


Maryland SPCA
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here are some of the nice staff from the Maryland SPCA whom I went down to speak with today and who made me feel very welcome. It was a great session - I got to speak with them about Singapore and the things that we do, and I also learnt a lot of interesting stuff from them. For example, I had a good education about rabies (there was a staff briefing going on) and I am very glad we don't have that issue in Singapore!

Some of the questions I was asked seemed very familiar too - someone asked if we ever had people calling to get a mother cat and kittens out of their yard. I asked them in turn if they got a lot of people calling because they had seen a kitten, looked around, didn't see a mother and then almost immediately took it home, whereupon they couldn't nurse it. Quite a few people laughed so it seems that's pretty common here too!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feral Cat Day

Today in the US, it's Feral Cat Day so happy Feral Cat Day! Give your community cats a big hug and give yourselves a huge pat on the back for the work you've done!

I'm off to the Maryland SPCA in a short while to speak with the staff and share some of our experiences with them.

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Assateague Island Seashore


Assateague Island Seashore
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Today is Blog Action Day - and so we're deviating from our usual programmed message to talk a little about the environment. Or are we? The fact of the matter is that the environment affects all of us - and perhaps especially so when we live in Singapore.

Recent studies have shown that the polar ice caps are melting far faster than previously thought and this means that the water levels will be rising faster and higher than anticipated. Global warming is also far more serious than what the scientists had previously predicted. It may not just be an 88 cm level water rise. This has repercussions for all of us, including our community cats. Thanks to Simian for the links on global warming.


We don't even need to look very far - in Singapore this year, there has been more rain than I can remember in a long time. In the US, I was able to walk around in t-shirts till last week, which I have been told is very unusual for this time of year.

So what can we do? Be aware of our environmental footprint. Try to use less plastic bags, change your light bulbs so they use less energy (Ikea has some good alternatives), recycle. We do this because we want to be able to enjoy beautiful landscapes like the seashore above for years to come - and because we would like to go on living with our community cats in peace.




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Conference


Conference
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

It was nice to see how many people came down for the conference from as far away as Florida. There were 150 registered attendees and people from different regions took the opportunity to network. Makes me feel we're luckier in that it's easier to meet up for our local caregivers because you don't need to drive say three hours to meet people in your same state!

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What Cats know about War

Thanks to Mezzo for sending this in. This must be extremely hard to NOT be able to do TNRM at all because there are no vets available :-

What Cats know about War


The military apparently does have very strict rules about animals, and it seems that it doesn't seem to be enough to stop people who DO grow very attached to animals. When you think about it, why would bans on civilians in NON-war time then work? For another case of a marine who smuggled a dog back to the US (and who had a range of military people, journalists and Iraqis helping him), there's also this book : From Baghdad with love.

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Alley Cat Allies Tote Bag


Alley Cat Allies Tote Bag
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

At the end of my presentation, a woman wanted to comment and said her daughter and granddaughter live in Singapore and had told her about the good work we were doing. It was really nice to hear people have heard about us so many miles away.

I also spoke with a number of caregivers who wanted to know what to do next. One nice lady asked me not to go home yet so I can help out here :)

Thanks to ACA for asking me to speak at the conference. It was a real honour - they also very kindly sponsored the hotel room and conference fees!

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Feral Cat Project


Feral Cat Project
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

There was a very interesting presentation by Dr Christine Wilford from the Feral Cat Project. Check out their website which is packed with information.

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Suggestion bins


Suggestion bins
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

These were very cute suggestion bins put up to get people to give their ideas at the ACA conference.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tomahawk and Tru-Catch


Tomahawk and Tru-Catch
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I managed to speak with a caregiver who had used the Tomahawk and Tru-Catch traps. She mentioned that she preferred the Tru-Catch (which is similar to the ones we have) because she said they are larger and hence are a bit more spacious for the cats. She mentioned she'd not too fond of the spring on the back door of the Tomahawk either and preferred just typing the one on the Tru-Catch down.

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Conference Folder


Conference Folder
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I spoke on Mediation and working with your neighbours, officials (TCs and the like) and how important it is to remember the Management part of doing TNR.

What was really interesting was that a young lady from Washington DC approached me during the break and said how impressed she was by how many caregivers blog! She said she was doing some research on starting a blog for her organisation and she was surprised how many Singaporean caregivers and people concerned about cats blogged.

I told her I remembered when I first started this blog I was able to read quite regularly the people blogging about cats in Singapore - and now I am finding it very hard to do so because there are so many blogs. So bloggers - you guys have been noticed internationally!

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Billboard at Alley Cat Allies Conference


Billboard at Alley Cat Allies Conference
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I spoke at the Alley Cat Allies conference in Alexandria, Virginia yesterday. I went up Friday and met with some other attendees as well as other people speaking at the conference. It was a very interesting experience!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Getting to know the officers

One of the caregivers called me because she wants to claim her cats back in a private estate. She mentioned that the officer she knows is not around so she wants CWS to help out.

Now I understand that people do often need CWS' help, especially if for some reason they're having problems with the officers in charge. What I do find puzzling though is why many people do not want to call themselves and want CWS to do it.

For one thing - having a relationship with the officer directly is very important. This allows you to know sometimes before a situation has occurred. Also there are often things that are done 'officially' and that's where CWS can come in to try and ensure things are done the official way. Many caregivers though have good working relationships with their officers so they are more likely to have a more casual/friendly relationship - and clearly this trumps an official capacity. After all whom would you be more willing to help out? A friend or a business associate? So be pro-active - get involved and get to know the officers in your area. It can make a huge difference.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stanford

An article about the Stanford Cat Network - very interesting. It's similar to some of the campus programmes in Singapore. It's nice to see a community getting together to do something for the cats.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Community Cat


Community Cat
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Here is one of the community cats I saw in Baltimore - I understand he's an old timer in the neighbourhood but isn't always seen. Right now the weather is unseasonably warm (it's Singapore temperature right now!) but it'll soon get cold and the cats will have a hard winter ahead.

I've been calling a few caregivers who asked to speak with me and today was the second time someone very kindly offered to reimburse CWS for the phone charges. Just to clarify though, CWS isn't paying for overseas charges - I am and I use internet telephony so it isn't expensive though it can mean the connection isn't always the best :)

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Economics

I've been calling a number of caregivers and complainants because complaints have been coming in. What is unusual though is how many TC officers do not want to contact the caregivers in their area - one officer spent almost a week writing to me and for some reason just refusing to email the caregiver. I was glad that he finally did so today. While I know one or two caregivers can be quite abrasive, I think the main issue here is that quite a few officers don't feel like they want to work on a TNRM programme.

The main thing is that I don't think there is any correlation to say solving the problem permanently or incentive to say save money for the TC by finding alternate ways instead of calling the pest control. So the easiest method is to just ring the pest control. Calling caregivers is seen as a hassle because the caregivers will need to go down and investigate - whereas calling the pest control in means the case is closed. If the complainant calls, they can tell the complainant 'action' has been taken - even if that 'action' hasn't solved the problem.

Working with caregivers means keeping it within the community - AND it means making it a cheaper proposition for the TCs. I have heard time and time again that pest control is a package deal and hence it doesn't make things more expensive to call in pest control to trap the cats, but it's pure economics. Let's put it this way - pest control aren't doing this because they love the job. They do it because it makes them money, so you can bet the trapping of cats was factored into the cost - otherwise why are they doing it? So obviously, if the TC is able to handle cat complaints without calling in pest control, they WOULD be able to negotiate a better/cheaper rate and save money for the TC, and ultimately for you, the resident and taxpayer.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Animal Blessings

A nice article on Pet Blessing for World Animal Day in Baltimore. We have similar events in Singapore at one church I know of and there are probably more!

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It's their World too

I wanted to share this lovely drawing Eslina sent in! :-


It's their World too


Jacin says that we did very well at the exhibition over the weekend - thanks to everyone who came down!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

World Animal Day Exhibition

If you're in the vicinity of Marina Square Saturday or Sunday(or if you have a free day!), do drop by Marina Square level 3, where there will be a World Animal Day Exhibition. Organised by Action for Singapore Dogs, CWS will be one of the organisations there, along with Noah's Ark CARES.

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WAD

Happy World Animal Day everyone - I realise it's a little late for you guys but it's still WAD here and I'm getting the times confused :)

Here's something Yskat sent me which apparently is one of the most downloaded videos on Youtube - you can see the kitten is not biting, just nipping for fun :-

Mean Kitty Song

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cat tells life story of the Pope

Mezzo sent in this very sweet article :-

Cat tells life story of the Pope

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Mediation Workshop

I spoke tonight about Mediation and how to talk to your neighbours. It wasn't a huge crowd (but big enough for me not to sneak off!) and was about the size of one of our usual workshops.

People asked interesting questions afterward. One lady mentioned that she is from a very poor neighbourhood and that there are hardly any complaints about the cats because people have a lot of other things to worry about (she also mentioned incidentally that there were quite a few drug dealers, and that some of the friendlier people in her area had been arrested over the weekend - not quite what we're used to in Singapore!). Another woman mentioned getting a call from someone who wanted to help but said there were tons of cats and she had no money. She had to give food to both the people AND the cats in the area. I suggested asking her to spend a little less money on the cat food and to put aside a little each month to get the cats sterilised or the population would just keep growing.

However the more things are different, the more they are the same. Everyone agreed that if there were no complaints, then there would be no issue of the cats being removed. When I mentioned how some complainants (a small minority) will always be difficult, I saw nods around the room.

The Director of Operations from the Maryland SPCA asked if I could come by and speak with some of her staff and I said I would be happy to.

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Saucey


Saucey
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Saucey is one of the cats up for adoption at BARCS and was sitting in the lobby - she is such a sweetie!

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BARCS


BARCS
Originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I helped out with a workshop tonight at BARCS - around 15 people came, including several people from the Spay/Neuter Coalition for a Litter-Less Baltimore.

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Articles in today's papers

Here are some very nice articles in today's papers, sent in by Vegancat and Eslina about World Animal Day - thanks you two :)

Here's one from the Straits Times :-


Let's pay more attention to Animal Welfare


Here's a lovely one from Today :-

The instinct to care

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Talk

Just getting ready for the talk I'll be helping out with tonight (7 am Wednesday morning Singapore time!). Maybe no one will come and I can just go home :)

The funny thing is that a lady from Bermuda wrote to Alley Cat Allies and said she was sorry she couldn't make the talk but wondered if I could come to Bermuda to give the talk. Nice to know I now have a reason to visit Bermuda some day :)

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Spay Day

Rebecca has mentioned that there are still quite a few slots available for Spay Day which is on 26th October. I am also still getting SMSes and emails asking when Spay Day is so we're extending the deadline for registering.

We are also in need of volunteers to help at the pick up locations to tag cats, to help with transport, to assist caregivers bringing the cats in. We also need people at the end of the day to help with returning the cats to the caregivers. Most of the work will be done in the morning and evening so if you can help please do email us! Thanks!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Returning cats - with interest

Nice letter in today's Straits Times :-

No way to treat a devoted family pet

Sadly this is exactly how some DO treat their pets - by abandoning them, dumping them or just giving them away when they're tired of them.

The adoption volunteer told me today that someone called up to say that they wanted to return a cat that was adopted right away. She claimed that her child was allergic (though the cat was adopted quite a while ago) and as much as she loved the cats, she had to give it away etc. Then it turned out she wanted to give not just this one cat back but two other cats she had adopted since then - and she wanted the adoption volunteer to take them all. The woman kept insisting it would be easy to find them new homes and she needed them out latest Friday or off they would go to the SPCA. Talk about returning cats with interest.

The adoption volunteer told the woman that with the year end festive season beginning (it's festival after festival now from Hari Raya to Deepavali to Christmas to Chinese New Year) that more and more people would be dumping and few people will be wanting to adopt. It's really a shame that festive season involves spring cleaning, involves throwing out the pet for some people.

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CATSNIP

This man emailed again. He said that we could make our website and information easier to read by writing it as 7000-CATSNIP and then in the next email, he suggested 7000-228 7647.

The thing is we put it BOTH ways on our brochure and on the Mews because we anticipated that it would not be such a common number. However voice message boxes can only begin with 7000 so we had to get one of those numbers and in general, people can call.

The man said that he would request a meeting if this isn't resolved. The problem obviously is that we can't make people dial it the right way if they misread the number for whatever reason. I also gave him my handphone number for him to redirect people if he so wished.

The man said that I mustn't assume most people think like me and that most Singapore numbers start with a '6'. I am well aware of that, and I can understand it is frustrating for him to get wrong calls, but honestly, if the number is correctly printed, then there isn't much we can do if people dial the wrong number.

A while ago, I used to have customers from a provision shop call my home quite frequently. It turned out that the provision shop and I had very similar numbers - the number was off by a digit. After speaking with the provision shop and realising that they had printed it correctly, I realised it was just that some customers hit the wrong number in their hurry. So we just told the customers they had the wrong number - it wasn't something the provision shop could control, and clearly they did not give out the wrong number so that was the best thing that could be done. Sure it was annoying - but there was nothing the provision shop could do either and it wasn't their fault in my opinion.

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7000-CATSNIP

Someone emailed to say that he was getting numerous phone calls from people who were trying to get 7000-CATSNIP. The poor man has a very similar number - and is being bombarded by phone calls. I suggested that he tell people to call the correct number and apologised for the inconvenience.

He suggested he would help to redirect people for the next month or so but that we need to work something out for our 'customers' in the long run. I explained that these weren't our customers but people who were calling to book sterilisation slots and that frankly that was what the line was for. Our material does have the correct number so I'm quite at a loss on how to get people to dial the correct number if they don't dial the number on the website and the brochure.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Cats and People : Living together in Harmony

Here's the workshop I'll be helping with on Wednesday :-

Cats and People

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