An ear tipped, a life saved

By Micah Sulit, who joined the Cat Welfare Society in January 2011. Her growing love for animals, vegetarianism, and volunteer work in animal welfare all began with a community cat.

Whether you live in a private estate or a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat, you probably know of at least one “stray” cat in your area and sometimes more. At the Cat Welfare Society (CWS), we call them “community cats,” because they are part of our communities too. Love them or hate them, they are sentient beings that deserve tolerance and kindness in our neighbourhoods. That is what CWS volunteers, including scores of community cat caregivers all over Singapore, work hard to give them.

A non-profit organisation founded in 1999, CWS is run entirely by volunteers. We feed the community cats, bring them to the vet when they fall sick, and step in when complaints and conflicts arise in the neighbourhood. Perhaps most importantly, we sterilise community cats.

Singapore has a huge and still growing cat population. To many, the obvious solution is to wipe them out. But when cats are killed in an area, other cats will simply come and take their place. This creates an endless and cruel cycle where more and more cats are killed and yet we do not come closer to solving the problem.

An alternative is the Trap, Neuter, Return, and Manage (TNRM) programme. As the name implies, this means trapping cats in humane ways, bringing them to the vet to be neutered and then returning them to the community. Managing the population means feeding the cats responsibly and looking after their health. It also includes being on the lookout for animal abuse and educating others about our community cats.

A single pair of cats and their offspring can have as many as 325 babies in just two years! Neutering, or sterilising, a cat means surgically removing the ovaries and uterus of a female, also known as spaying, or the testicles of a male so that they can no longer procreate. Caregivers can manage the cats better, there will be less complaints and no need for culling.

Last year, around 5,100 cats were culled. That is an improvement over the numbers of cats culled before sterilisation was introduced, which used to average 13,000 a year. Sterilised cats are marked with a tipped ear so that they will not be accidentally rounded up to be sterilised again or be culled.

In line with our emphasis on TNRM, one of CWS’s key projects is Spay Day, an annual event that provides free sterilisation for cats. Last year, 286 community cats were sterilised in one day. We are targeting 300 cats for Spay Day 2011 on October 28.

Sterilisation has health benefits for both feline and human residents. It reduces the risk of some cancers and fatal diseases in both male and female cats. Male cats will be less likely to spray their smelly urine or fight with other cats and sustain injuries from those brawls. Better behaviour from the cats will make their human neighbours happy too!

We hope to see you and your community cats on Spay Day 2011!

Developments in the Political Landscape

The past few months have seen exciting developments in the cat welfare scene. In July 2011, the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) began a Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme (SCSP) in four pilot areas: Chong Pang, Yio Chu Kang, Tampines North, and Macpherson. Under this programme, AVA will cover 50% of sterilisation costs—a huge sigh of relief for so many private citizens who have been sterilising cats out of their own pockets!

Along with the SCSP, an inter-agency task force will also be formed to review government policies on pet ownership and stray animal management. This task force will consist of officials from AVA, HDB, and the Ministry of National Development.

If successful, these pilot programmes can pave the way for a big breakthrough in animal welfare. It is not about making a cat lover out of every person in Singapore. Our work is about making Singapore a loving home for every cat, whether it is a pet or a community cat. This is our dream: a responsible, humane society where cats are treated kindly and are free from hunger, abuse, and the threat of culling.

Here are a few simple things you can do for community cats:

1. Be informed! Educate yourself by reading up on cat care, TNRM, and other related matters.

2. Spread the word. Often, people who do not like cats or who want them to be removed are only misinformed. Talk to your neighbours and friends—you just might change their minds!

3. If you are a community cat caregiver, feed the cats responsibly and do not litter.

4. Sterilise the community cats in your area! Book an appointment through CWS to get sterilisation subsidies.

5. If you see someone abusing an animal, call AVA at 6471 9996 and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) at 6287 5355 right away!

6. Looking to get a pet cat? Adopt one instead! There are so many shelters and private fosterers housing rescued community cats who are waiting for a loving home.

7. Help us tip more ears! Here are three easy ways to support us!

    By Bank Transfer
    Make your transfer to Cat Welfare Society, DBS Current Account Number 065-013507-8. Bank Code 7171 and Branch code is 065.
    At an AXS Station
    Click the ‘community’ button, followed by the CWS logo and the instructions to complete your donation.
    Through online charity portal SG Gives
    Note that the 3% admin fee and 7% GST will go to SGGives.