Tuesday, August 26, 2008

proud to be a cat auntie

if you have been following the local cat blogs, you might have heard about a hoarding case of an old woman in a roach/maggot-infested 3-rm flat, which she shares with 40 unsterilised cats, 2 dogs and 2 tortoises.

it is rightly called a house of horrors, with black streaked walls, cobwebs, flying roaches, sick animals, dead animals, broken tiles over which animals defecate, everywhere. and in the midst of all these, a stubborn cranky suspicious forgotten old woman.

a couple of cat aunties discovered this and with understandable trepidation but unusual courage, took it upon themselves to help her. jamie and janet, i don't know what classes you did at school, for darn sure, everyone else should have gone to the same!

they started the ball rolling and inspired a lot of people along the way to get involved, the woman being one of them. Babywail's Shelter gives a complete rundown of the events surrounding this case, Lynn being one of the pioneer volunteers herself.

for sure, a case like this draws much attention and on some forums, even on Lynn's blog, there has been some contentious comments. some said that the old woman should be locked up, some said the animals should be taken away from her, some said that the volunteers are taking things into their own hands and the authorities should be involved, one even hoped the old lady will die soon.

our woman won't even be bothered to answer the person who posted that last comment.

her initial reaction from discovering this case was also that the old woman should be in a home as she seems to have a condition, obviously can't take care of herself, much less the animals. but upon meeting the old woman, she did an about turn.

this old woman is far from being non-functioning. and the bond between her and her animals is undeniable. she is frail for sure but lucid she still is, sometimes to the point of sharpness. she understands, but she is unable. she feels, but she is resigned. she doesn't have a mental problem. she is just trapped in the unforgiving state of being old and alone.

the final nail in the coffin of despair would be to take away the last of her freedoms and in particular, the little ones who love her so dearly when everyone else had gone away. she simply needs warm human bodies with friendly faces and willing hands, which in a world population of 6.684 billion, is in short supply.

so until the day we have a solution for the helpless that wouldn't conclusively break their human spirit, no easy decision can be made in a case like this and for better or worse, the authorities and the organisations have stayed distantly silent.

and so the day is saved by a swat team of cat aunties armed with face masks, shower caps, mops and cat traps. partial to both human and animals, they don't choose one over the other and save them all. they fundraised, they scrubbed, they sterilised, they befriended. their special ability? having ears close to the ground (often an excellent source of information), great powers of persuasion (try outtalking a cat auntie), speaks all the local dialects, networks with handy people like taxi drivers and contractors, garang, gung-ho, and most importantly, not afraid to get hands dirty.

it is our hope that when the conditions of the flat and the animals have stabilised and the old woman's trust in people regained, people will come back, family, social workers, befrienders. in the mean time, she has the formidable cat aunties and that is nothing to turn your nose up at.


Nomi said...

Thank goodness there are people out there who can see beyond initial appearances. Bravo.

KXBC said...

I applaud the valiant efforts of the cat aunties.

But the root problem is still not solved and that is the old woman. She is clearly in need of medical help and human interaction.

Even if this episode is over (assuming her cats are not returned to her), she will continue to hoard. The day will come when one of her neighbours complain to the HDB about the stench and it will then become out of their control as all the new kitties will be PTS. I am surprised there has not been any complaints against her so far.

A hard, unfeeling but rational decision has to be made for the old woman and the cats. They cannot be given back to her, however attached she is to them. Clearly, she cannot cope emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. Surely it is not in anyone's best interest to see kitties suffering unnecessarily, losing eye sight etc.

Before this breaks in the local newspaper and thus the authorities have no choice but to act (probably in a no-nonsense high handed manner), please ask Lynn to make an informed decision with the rest of the volunteers and cat aunties. Building upon the rapport Lynn already has with the old lady, tell her what may potentially happen to her kitties should there be a complaint. Only way is to appeal to her kind heart to let her kitties live a better life whether in a shelter or be rehomed.

I know I sound harsh but sometimes, love does not conquer all.

animalfamily said...

i hear you and rest assured that the welfare of the cats informs our every action. we do have to tread delicately on this case. as we gain more of the old woman's trust, more can then be accomplished. the sad reality is, not all the cats will be adoptable. so while every effort is given to rehoming, more importantly, we need to find ways to ensure long-term human presence for the old lady. or else, she will be driven by loneliness to start collecting cats again and just the addition of a couple of unsterilised ones would recreate the tragedy we see here.

Unknown said...

I nearly cried when I read this. I have seven cats, all sterilised. I'm young and have plenty of human interaction, but I can't imagine losing even one of them. I had to leave town for a week to deal with some medical issues and I spent every minute of every day missing them and worrying about them.

If the cats aren't returned to the woman, she at least should have every opportunity to visit them. That would be a big start to rebuilding her trust in people.

Mary said...

Yes, long term care and companionship for this woman is definitely needed. This is what i said to Jamie; and for a 'hands-on' volunteer, jaime is definitely doing a great job. i applaud her and her sister for their patient and compassion.


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