Tuesday, March 31, 2009

good news on the rehomed, the sterilised and the released

the rehomed
ah ma's conjunctivitis kitties grow from this,

to this.

afiq (in the background) has a squinty eye while putri has a cloudy eye. still, they are in the care of a loving extended family so it's as good as it gets. their siblings are faring just as well, one as a royal family pet and one with a mummy inspired to greater cat welfare volunteerism.

the sterilised
just out of surgery but look at him go. popped out of his picnic basket for a merry-go-round in mario's moving taxi.

wonder what the people in the car behind make of this.

safely back in a more secured cage but still acting up, shredding the newspapers and lying on his back in defiance.

the woman had a bit of luck catching this one. he walked right up looking for food. but now, we are so waiting to let this constant whiner back out where you belong.

the released
auntie's released cats are doing fine. they get plenty of food and cat auntie company (definitely more than one, including the woman).

although one ginger with a knotted tail seems to be losing out in the pack. she bolts when she sees the woman and doesn't get to the food fast enough when it is left out. hope she gets her groove soon.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

animal hoarding in Singapore

City density does have its advantages. No animal hoarder has been left isolated and undiscovered long enough for the situation to spiral out of complete control. Usually an irate neighbour does everyone a service by blowing their horn.

Proximity to neighbours aside, it is probably also a reflection of our society that hoarders are kept from their irreversible slide from eccentricity to psychosis by their own tenuous but indissoluble family ties, and our wide-reaching government mechanisms. Their situations have hardly escalated to the kind of horror and devastation that are reported in bigger, more far-flung countries.

At least as far as we know.

Animal hoarding traits and types

Pet News Examiner Helena Sung provides an inventory of animal hoarding traits in her article What is animal hoarding? Psychological profile of a hoarder. They are used here to make a comparison of our two recent cases:

Yesterday, the Seletar Hills multi-cat home was featured in The New Paper. Are they borderline hoarders? It is hard to say without insight into their situation. But certainly the widely reported stench is worrying.

In most cases, hoarder caregivers are dealing with what the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium identifies as an Overwhelmed Caregiver. Their self-esteem is linked to their role as caregiver. They have some awareness of their situation, have problems triggered by change in circumstances and yet are unable to resolve them effectively. This could happen to any caregiver, even the woman, and this is the category that Auntie falls under.

According to a HARC report, “the overwhelmed caregiver is more likely to respond to a softer, more therapeutically-oriented approach. S/he has greater insight that the situation is out of control, and may actually find some relief at the prospect of help and downsizing.” Also, threat of action from the authorities may be sufficient to reduce the likelihood of repeat offending.

Ah Ma is trickier. She leans towards being a Rescuer Hoarder, whose mission to rescue leads to compulsion. She takes an active rather than passive role to acquisition and believes she is the only one who can care for them. She also has an extensive network of enablers - neighbourhood people who think she is the best resort to leaving kittens and cats on the street and even compensates her with little gifts and donations for her ‘work’.

If Ah Ma’s case is anything to go by, verbal persuasion, even threat of action from authorities, is unlikely to be effective with this type of hoarder. They are paranoid and they do not take kindly to criticisms. Caregivers need to spend time and energy to gain their trust, usually by injecting large doses of flattery about their compassionate nature and tireless work.

The last type of hoarder we hope never to encounter. The Exploiter Hoarder is sociopathic, lacks empathy for people and animals, lacks guilt and remorse and has a need to control.

Local animal hoarding situation

No one has as yet looked into the local animal hoarding problem in any great detail. Perhaps there are nuances unique to our society. Certainly, we need to build up a set of tried and true intervention methods that works in this country. Currently, there are at least 5 cases (update: 7 cases) surfaced and handled by caregivers. With a growing aging population, increasing uncertainty of a globalised economy and widespread breakdown in family bonds, we can expect more cases ahead.

HARC recommends a multi-disciplinary approach that focuses the law, law enforcement, animal welfare organizations health department and social service agencies on this issue.

Right here, right now, there are just HDB by-laws, eviction letters and amateur caregivers. IMH has no answer, social services have no clue. Govt agencies have but two solutions, removal of animals or removal of said person and animals. Nothing is halting the hoarder's mental deterioration nor stopping the hoarder from repeat offending, leaving little room for preventing the suffering of the animals except with the promise of death.

A preliminary guide to hoarder intervention in Singapore

Ideally, hoarders are reconnected with their families when their situation improves. This is the case with Auntie, whose sister and niece's family have come to visit after the intervention.

In Ah Ma’s case when reconciliation is a long rocky road, the burden on the befriending caregiver is a big one. As these hoarders largely fall into the elderly or needy boxes or both, it is not unreasonable to expect involvement by befrienders, social workers, psychologists and counselors to reach a shared commitment to this problem. Yet none has been forthcoming.

Until they are, we need more Jaimes and Janets in Singapore. If you think you can fit into one of the roles below, please come stand with the giants and bring hope to these lonely suffering lives, on two legs and on four.

Monday, March 23, 2009

hoarder crisis averted – for now

It was inevitable. Our old hoarder neighbour got her eviction letter.

The woman negotiated with HDB to give her time to help resolve the situation, namely, the smell that caused an entire floor of residents to band together crying for blood. They gave her a week. Deadline: Today.

First visit

The flat had not had a change of air in years. There was no moving air as every single window was shut to keep the cats in and prying eyes out.

Both kitchen and yard sinks were clogged.

While the walls and tiles were yellow with age, the space at first glance did look tidy and neat but for the bits of cat biscuits scattered by moving paws. The old woman is a cleaner and really, no one can fault her for not cleaning her flat. She sweeps and she mops relentlessly. Unfortunately, she only cleans what she can see.

And no one taught her anything about cat litter. The cats were given a large metal cage, encrusted over the years with rust and dried shit. It had an unwieldy bottom tray that on the day of the woman’s first visit, was inch deep in cat urine. No litter, not even newspaper to soak it up.

The woman then inspected the toyogo boxes. In every one of them were pools of age old urine seeped through when the cats had good sense to avoid their designated litter space for greener pastures. Obviously, these boxes had not been opened for years as the old woman had no idea!

The woman’s nickname at Ah Ma’s is “Chu Liu Xiang” for being able to withstand the worst smells. This time, the woman’s eyes and nose went on strike with water pistols.

The cats

The old woman started with two and they bred to double digits. Fed primarily on Friskies, they are nonetheless all healthy, full-figured with thick coats.

But the woman witnessed the heartbreaking sight of a mother rejecting her babies. The old woman had to chase after her with the newborn, only to be rebuffed. One had already died and it looked like this one would not survive the night either. The place was no longer conducive for newborns and the mother knew it before the old woman did.

So intervention could not have come too soon and the cats were sterilised in a week-long mass logistical exercise. Three were pregnant.

It was apparent even to the old woman that she could not cope with this many cats so she released some of her cats downstairs under the auspices of our TC officer and our cat feeding community.

They are terrified of course but they will be looked out for. Whitey and Orange took turns to shield each other from loud noises.

The clean up

The grills went up on the windows for air.

Out went the cage. They saved what they could from the toyogo boxes, including some rather nice glassware and crockery, and chucked the rest. It’s a good thing this old woman is not the stubborn ox that Ah Ma is, adamant on keeping every shred of her croach-infested human history.

The TC cleaners came for the old rusted fridge and the rotten kitchen cabinet.

The plumber came, the painter came.

It was something the old woman never imagined. That she could have strangers come into her flat and it would be ok.

Although these two kitties were none too happy with the invasion!

The neighbours

The neighbours also came to look in on the commotion. One thought the woman was moving in.

It was a good opportunity to ask them for their understanding of the old woman’s situation. Obviously, no one knew she was alone with no children, looking after a retarded brother.

They in fact, came to their own conclusion that it was not possible to take away all the old woman’s cats without causing her much pain and suffering and finally only asked that the situation with the smell be resolved.

One neighbour even spoke up to say that even though she was affected, she would not complain against a lonely old woman, causing some sheepish looks from the others.

All in all, the situation still needs to be carefully monitored to assuage neighbourly frayed nerves. The HDB officer is giving her a second chance and we need to cherish it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

cat abuse at choa chu kang

The 'worst case of cat mutilation' was discovered at Blk 550 Choa Chu Kang on Street 52 on 21 Feb 2009.

Last Sunday, a group of us went door to door in the vicinity to see what information we could find about the case as well as to ask the residents to participate in a petition for more security measures to be put in place in the area.

Most of the residents were not aware of what had happened in their neighbourhood, although a few had seen the SPCA reward posters on the notice boards or read the TNP article. But after being told what happened to the cat, many were noticeably shaken and eager to ask for something to be done.

This was not a case of a misguided hot-headed or frightened individual protecting themselves or their territory from an errant cat. Appalling as those cases are, many might shake their heads but ultimately, find no real bearing on their own safety. This crime on their doorstep is a grotesquely meticulous, pre-meditated act with a highly lethal weapon, very much the work of a troubled individual seeking release in the worst possible way. Enough studies have shown the correlation of such violence against animals to violence against humans and that message has made more than a few residents sit up and take notice.

And this was not an isolated case in Choa Chu Kang. Equally gruesome was the pregnant tri-colour cat found on 29 Nov 2008 at Blk 130 Choa Chu Kang Ave 1 with her stomach slit open and guts hanging out. That makes two cases in Choa Chu Kang where mutilation with a knife or sharp object is evident. Over the years in that estate, the caregiver has found and cared for countless more injured or dead cats, bashed in, run over by bicycles, thrown from high floors.

Statistics on animal abuse in Singapore number in the hundreds every year – 800 on average. Most of these are pet-related, outcomes of irresponsibility, negligence and plain old stupidity. These perpetrators are usually ordinary people with some vital deficiency and we know there are too many of them littering the earth. If education, threat of fines and public humiliation cannot get through to them, well, let’s hope there are enough busybodies in this world to call them out on their shortcomings.

Just as importantly, we need to take a magnifying glass to the actual number of violent crimes committed against animals every year and the mode of abuse. We’d like to think the individuals who would take these actions are few but they are also gallingly hard to apprehend. Better profiling and records can make all the difference. Perhaps SPCA or the police are monitoring these cases but as a lay person, the woman was not able to get much more information than the yearly reported statistics.

Hand in hand with that, we would like to remind people to report all abuse cases to SPCA or to the police, if only so that a comprehensive database of abuse can be built that might force authorities to take closer notice of this insidious underlying threat to society. It might one day even help build a case against a perpetrator.

As the woman was assigned the block directly next to Blk 550, she and another volunteer encountered quite a few households who heard distressed cat cries several nights in a row around the time the body of the kitten was found. Their hearts sank when they heard this. One young girl who told them about the cries was also visibly cut up. Let’s hope she never hears those cries again in her neighbourhood.

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