Saturday, February 28, 2009

conversations on cat welfare II

Several significant connections were made at the cat welfare meeting between active individuals immersed in cat management in one way or another – TNRM, rescue, fostering, feeding.

Beyond cat management practices, potential advocacy and education/awareness platforms were shared and discussed. These ideas are being ironed out before they can be usefully shared. There is one they can start working on that will benefit from inputs from the wider cat community – you.

They plan to produce and disseminate a smart little booklet for general public consumption. More specifically, for people who don’t like cats. The booklet will educate, entertain and more importantly, provide practical, humane solutions for avoiding cat encounters on the streets and on their lawns.

This, it is hoped, will work towards reducing human-cat conflicts. Working on it might even open cat advocators’ eyes to the predicaments of those who find us less than adorable, even sinister and menacing. Frustrating as their phobias and prejudices are, bashing them really hasn’t gotten us any further along in our goals of getting cats into HDB flats and for the government to stop culling. Satisfying, yes but here’s the much needed Plan B.

Through the next few weeks, drafts of the book will be put up on this blog for comments. The woman’s initial thinking is that it will be in a no-nonsense B/W format downloadable online, also easily printed on any printer by anyone and freely given out to family, colleagues and neighbours.

Owing to her animal welfare and eco interests, the woman has had the good fortune of meeting many socially conscious, passionate people like the cat activists and volunteers who attended “Conversations”. Justifiably, she has been encouraged to think that perhaps people in Singapore of her age and younger are differentiating themselves from those before them by becoming more engaged and more involved in the social and in the political.

If you think the same, you would be wrong. Findings from a recent study on local Y-Gen’s attitudes will knock you off your feet. Y-Geners (born 1977 to 1997) are found to be a very pragmatic lot – they want remuneration for their work. No surprises there. Yet while ability to make decisions and implement changes is cited as the main reason for choosing not to work for the government, a whopping 77% indicated that they should not have a voice/say in any government policies.

So let there be no lingering delusions of grandeur for us rabble-rousers. We have no audience. If the message is too robust for local sensitivities, we will be like a posthumously decorated JBJ making his final stand outside Raffles City, ignored.

That's why the book idea is worth a fair shot. Cat advocators need to speak the regular language of the general population and of the government. As important as words like ‘compassion’, ‘karma’ and ‘rights’ are, they really only work in novels, on TV series and in America. They don’t work in campaigns, on letters and in forums simply because they are too elusive, too vague to bridge the psychological gaps between the 23% and the larger 77%. we need grounded words like 'responsibility', 'co-operation' and 'mutual benefit'. It’s worth thinking about.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

continuing stroke of luck with new TC officer

We have a new TC officer and she is a cat-lover! There has been some complaints about the number of community cats in the estate but she lets it be known that the TC abides by the general rule that sterilised cats will not be removed.

The sun is finally shining on our estate.

But the area she is referring to is a problematic one that keeps us busy catching and sterilising every few months. There must be at least one chronic breeder upstairs if not more. The officer has spotted kittens in one of the corridors and the woman will hopefully be able to follow the lead this time to the culpable unit.

The woman also reconnected with a feeder who discovered an old hoarder in the neighbourhood. The old cleaner lives with her mentally challenged brother and 20 cats, although the number can’t be confirmed as the old woman opens her door only enough to speak through it. Even so, the putrid stench can fell a grown man. Only seasoned cat aunties like the woman and the feeder are able to stand their ground without so much as an involuntary nose twitch as they coax the old woman to let them sterilize and install grills for much-needed ventilation.

They met minor success when the old woman agreed to neuter her male cats. The whole experience brought forth geriatric tears as she passed the cats out to the woman one by one. It’s a start. She has still to relent on the females and help in cleaning and grilling. At least there will be no more new litters for now.

These are the small victories that the woman keeps her eyes on when the decision to fund cat welfare efforts becomes more complex in our present economic climate. Yet all the more, it calls for dedication and determination from volunteers and sponsors to stay the course. It will really be a crying shame if we let our collective labours be undone by a prolonged but ultimately temporary bad situation.

Ginger needs you!

Friday, February 20, 2009

conversations on cat welfare

the cat blogosphere has been ablaze with fresh activity since ava’s banal “no easy response to stray cats” rejoinder to the spirited TODAY feature on Dr Tan Chek Wee “the outspoken doc”.

the govt’s arguments about cats being a nuisance and hazard are laundered yearly right down to its bare threads and so past its sell-by date, it’s heartening to see people still with politically-correct words left in their defense. i only have one, @#%.

then the grisly discovery of 45 cats buried in seletar stunned the nation. cat lovers grieved. seletar residents fretted. cat non-lovers were appropriately respectful. the media prepared for a bonanza. and how the authorities must have braced themselves for an impending public relations problem.

true to fashion, TNP sold many papers with their provocative features on cat aids and Tony Tan Tuan Khoon. they freaked the public and gave Tony and cousin Choo their cringe-worthy airtime. but they also ignited a coherent campaign against govt funding and support for vigilante cat trapping by ordinary citizens that might actually stick.

it is a point worth driving home to the powers upstairs: rubber-stamping culling as a reasonable method of reducing strays spawns the likes of Tony, one civic-minded law-abiding poster boy no respectable govt agency wants to be associated with.

while the cat community keeps the dialogue alive on blogs, on forums, on facebook, perhaps it is time for a parallel approach. as we continue the battle of words, letters and petitions, perhaps it is time to see it from the govt’s perspectives and offer concrete solutions to the sticky issues that they cite time and again as deterrents towards more progressive and humane policies. and this may actually require working alongside the govt to tackle their pet issue – reducing public complaints on strays. it’s a tall order but one worth pursuing.

already, AVA numbers show a definite down trend in nuisance calls. CWS should take the credit for that for their relentless effort in engaging TCs and AVA, providing support for caregivers and channeling resources to education, mediation and to sterilisation. that barrel needs to keep rolling.

and still there is always room for fresh ideas and platforms if the right people can come together on it. and that is where “Conversations on Cat Welfare” comes in. we are meeting tomorrow 21 Feb 3pm at Food#03 on 109 Rowell Rd.

this informal meeting hopes to identify current gaps in cat welfare practices, areas of collaboration and ultimately spin off projects that will help the cause. these can eventually be taken up individually or collectively.

to start the ball rolling, some information has been collated to provide perspective on the cat welfare ecosystem in singapore. this is by no means complete and inputs are welcomed to make this a robust repository for the benefit of everyone. if anything, our message is that it is time for the cat community to work together despite differences, share information as much as possible and to support each other’s ideas and efforts, because the stray cats downstairs can only benefit from more of them, not less.

click on images to enlarge
CCM = community cat management
AWO = animal welfare organisations

Before 1998
*150,000 stray cats
*13,000 stray cats culled annually
*14,000 cat nuisance calls

1998 – Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) (then PPD – Primary Production Dept) implemented Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme (SCRS)

2001 – 28,000 stray cats impounded

2003 – AVA terminates scheme
*80,000 stray cats (10,000 sterilised)
*16 Town Councils (TC) & 500 volunteers on TNRM
*Cat nuisance calls spike during SARS, sterilised cats also at risk
*AVA & TCs culling bill up 20% ($62,000) to $598,944 to catch and cull 7,682 cats and 4,744 dogs

2006 – AVA supports sterilisation by volunteers with subsidy and communication to TCs

if you have an interest in cat welfare, feel free to come join us.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

slumcats can be millionaires too

i can see the vivid unforgiving streets of mumbai in her thought cloud. in her 2am reverie, the woman tells me why she can’t go to india

she will come back to our flat with no less than

ten babies
five monkeys
eight dogs
twenty cats
and one elephant

three with four legs between them
two blind
one abused

she will raise the children as her own

four will be teachers
three counsellors
two social entrepreneurs
one politician

they will be religious

three as muslims
three as hindus
three as christians

in pairs, they will
save strays
save whales
champion the environment
champion the poor
while one writes about it

and her favourite child, the one with the unhappy eyes under a fringe of curls

he is the godless vigilante
she will raise him on gun justice for silky gangster, mercenary, criminal scalps

the thought sends serotonin bursts through her cheerless insomniac neural crevices. but just before her hand grows still on my tipped ear and she drifts away, another occurs to her

the children will more likely rebel against their crazy hippie adopted mother. they will be sterling citizens

four as lawyers
three as bankers
two integrated resort developers
and one game show host

sweet unhappy dreams

Saturday, February 07, 2009

rule no. 5 - don’t balk at their poverty

it is a shabby place with little creature comforts but there is nothing to despise, to pity or to be ashamed of here.

this is the kind of simplicity and pride that ah ma’s own children, closer to our generation, cannot embrace and shrink away from. maybe in the name of progress, maybe of conformity but mostly of this insane crippling quality called ‘face’.

but ah ma soldiers on. and she is laughing in our powdered faces. her home, with just that modest injection of human connection, is now one that rings of laughter, playful antics, new friends and romance.

you really can’t take away anything from anyone who doesn’t want to give it.

ah ma with ah orh gia

heng heng & mi mi the dog

heng heng the self-appointed protector of the weak and the small

ah orh was found tied with 4 other cats to ah ma's gate last month. it hurt her but ah ma released them downstairs. clever ah orh would not budge and becomes one of the family

cheeky little ah orh gia

ah ma's favourites - mi mi the cat & ni ni

tua tau in retirement

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