Can the PM urge Malay families to sterilise their pet cats and be responsible?

I have been mulling over this, not least because of our most recent encounter. We are also hardly the only ones frustrated by the nonchalant attittude of irresponsible cat-owners, who are made up mostly of Malays.

When even risk of death is not enough persuasion to make them take responsibility for their own pet cats, what else can we do? Who can we call upon to get the message across? Even Malays who understand the importance of being responsible and sterilisation aren’t getting through, so it’s hardly a simple case of communication malfunction.

Yes, this is a sensitive topic, and we have had our share of indignant Malay readers. But is being carefully non-specific about the race of problem cat owners in our midst the way to go? I feel not. If the PM has seen fit to tell the Malay community of a problem within that he woud like ot see resolved more than once, why should we tip-toe around the issue of irresponsible cat-ownership within the community? It affects not only the pet cat’s safety, but also community cats and good neighbourliness too.

Can you imagine the day an article like this appears, but with the headline: PM Lee urges Malay cat owners to sterilise their pets, keep them indoors and be responsible? In an alternate reality maybe.

This story was printed from TODAYonline

Live within your means

PM Lee urged Malay families to control and plan their finances

Weekend • March 15, 2008

Loh Chee Kong

IT is good to aspire for the better things in life but one should always cut the coat according to the cloth.

On Friday, at a charity dinner to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Malay Youth Literacy Association (4PM), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong broached what he deemed a “sensitive” topic: That “quite a few” Malay families are living beyond their means.

Calling on Malay/Muslim organisations to promote financial planning and discipline among youths, Mr Lee underlined the importance of frugality, even though it is “natural, and good, that families aspire to upgrade their lives”.

Mr Lee said: “MPs often see families who have over-committed themselves financially, run into serious trouble, and then come to the MP’s meet-the-people session for help. Some have been extravagant in doing up their homes using renovation loans. Others have bought expensive furniture or large-screen television sets on hire purchase.”

The families “with the most serious problems” are the ones who had bought homes “larger than they can afford, and taken mortgages which they are then unable to pay”.

Mr Lee added: “These families belong to all races, but quite a few are Malay families. It is a sensitive matter to raise, but all MPs and social workers know that it is a real issue that needs to be tackled.”

A community-based and grassroots organisation, 4PM runs outreach programmes including a mentoring scheme for youths-at-risk and educational and welfare assistance for children from low-income families.

Encouraging bodies such as 4PM to imbue in youths “the sense of commitment and conviction” for Singapore, Mr Lee also urged other Malay/Muslim organisations to consistently replenish their ranks with new blood.

He added: “As they reach for the stars, they must also learn that this is their country, and that Singapore’s future is in their hands.For its part, 4PM can encourage more young people to get involved in community work, and make a difference in the lives of others.”

He also urged 4PM to extend its programmes to non-Malays, and encourage youths from other ethnic groups to volunteer in its activities.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.


11 responses to “Can the PM urge Malay families to sterilise their pet cats and be responsible?

  1. As I posted here before, there are a few reasons for why Malays do not sterilize their cats and why it’s always a case of Malays copping the blame for poor pet management.

    1) Malays who are Muslims cannot keep dogs and only cats hence you hear only stories relating to Malays and cats. Honestly if they are allowed to keep dogs under their religion…. I think the same problem will arise.

    2) There are Malay Muslims who insist that sterilization is not permitted under Islam despite calls from Muis their religious authority that it is. And again you cannot fault them there as just as there are Muslims that believe in one version of the Koran, there are others that think otherwise. That is why you have people like Osama, the Bali Bombers and our infamous Mas Selamat. So to these Muslims, they feel that they are right in the eyes of Allah for not sterilizing.

    3) As for the part of mismanagement of their lives and etc…. well wouldn’t comment on that…. it is just going to stir up an hornet’s nest.

  2. Adriane,
    Just as the existence of Malay families living beyond their means does not indict the whole community as chronic debtors, high incidences of teen pregnancies, drug addition do not translate into an accurate if negative portrait of the whole community. But, neither can it be denied that these problems exist.

    So it is with Malay families keeping cats. If it seems that Malays are always “copping the blame for poor pet management”, it is not a baseless, or indeed biased, perception. btmao is even more jaded by the phenomenon than I can ever be because she’s the one out there in the ringside seat with her routine EVERY day.

    If we were not feline minions, but canine minions, I would say much the same about Chinese more frequently and more obviously. But hey, don’t let that deceive anyone – people who do pop in regularly ought to see the clear evidence of my criticisms against the gamut of humanity the world over for the atrocities and problems we have inflicted on the Earth and her creatures.

    Back to topic, the question as ever is: what does it take to make these irresponsible people take the very basic and simple steps to be responsible? Cajoling, sponsoring both sterilisation and the corresponding transport costs (to a family with a very nicely renovated home, and a family car who by their own taciturn admittance is able to afford all the costs), reality checks, MUIS fatwa copies, translations of educational materials, official warnings, before-and-after comparison of cats who are sterilised vs those who are not (and even the family itself admit to noticing the diference), the actual death of a “beloved” free-ranging pet cat that fell mysteriously ill… nothing works, at all.

  3. Nope calisfer, I am not defending Malays. I have brought this topic up before and even suggested to CWS that perhaps we should rethink why HDB insist on banning cats in HDB. My reasoning was perhaps knowing how Malays are, HDB doesn’t want their flats to be filled with caterwauling colonies of cats that are legally allowed to be there. Afterall what is HDB going to do if the Malay community are going to start letting their cats breed and use Allah as an excuse? However this was diplomatically shelf aside by CWS as not a valid reason. I don’t blame them, after all the race issue here is so sensitive. No one wants to take the brunt and be arrested under the sedition act. Perhaps the change must come from within and the Malay community must act on their own. Us outsiders and non believers of Islam will always be deemed as outsiders whose comments might not seem right to them.

    Put it this way. honestly I have no solution for irresponsible Malays and for that matter irresponsible Chinese too. You would be surprised that even some Chinese also want to breed their cats especially pedigree ones. Their reasoning can range from wanting to sell the offspring to something as simple as hoping to see more pedigree kittens… Well I guess we have a long long way to go before Singapore is a first world country towards pet ownership.

  4. Adrian,
    Well, I was speaking to the points in your first comment and adding in our experience.

    It is a sensitive issue, even in the best of times. Even letters by Malays urging the community to sterilise and be responsible are not printed in the press, much less a (figuratively of course) call to arms by “outsiders”.

    I am not saying either that it is an exclusively Malay issue, but it is really magnified in the community, especially at ground level.

    I’ve always maintained that Singapore, ie we all of us Singaporeans, sadly, is a nation equipped with forward living and quantitative standards but utterly backward in almost everything else that matters.

  5. Hey guys, i’m a malay, and i do agree with the issue. But as a muslim, so far, i’ve never heard anything about islam not allowing sterilisation. I’m guessing you guys got the info from your correspondence with the older generation?

  6. Hello Di,

    unfortunately it is not the older generation but young people and teenagers. The reasoning given is that Muis’s fatwas are not law and do not need to be followed. It seems that there are Muslims that feel that Muis is not “religious” enough…. Honestly I dont know what do they mean by that….

    Also if you would observe in many forums, the moment this is talked about.. the topic gets shut down as it is deem as insulting to Islam or that such racial and religious topics shouldn’t be discussed hence it never gets talked about.

    To be fair, there are Chinese too who insist on breeding their cats. But just that I think we have been hearing lots of horror stories of Malays who abandon their cats. Example my friend told me of how his Malay neighbour threw his persian cat out the house and mesh his house to prevent the cat from coming back in. Sigh…

  7. Hi Di,
    Thank you very much for looking at this post objectively and appreciating that it’s not targeted at the community itself but behaviour of members in it.

    My experience is similar to Adriane’s. I’ve come across people of all ages with the mentality. The older ones would tend to get defensive and say it’s the way their grandparents kept cats, the younger ones would more or less leave it to their parents and take their lead on this.

    With older folk, sometimes there is the problem of language too. I had thought it would be logical to try to get the understanding of the young ones and then educate their elders through them. But my efforts of engagement don’t work.

    Also, pardon me for saying this, I find that even those who nod their heads and agree with the reasoning, expressing their understanding and support are either not sincere or did not really “get it” because they still continue as before.

    The frustrating thing is, many trot out religion and shut the door on sterilisation, and trot out the excuse that they have kept cats this way because that’s how it’s been traditionally done for not keeping the cats in.

    There are also those who will tell you they can’t afford to sterilise – even after hearing the reasoning on how sterilisation helps them save money, and they themselves are not badly off. However, if the cats gets sterilised by someone else, they are happy about it. But then again, even if you offer to sponsor the operation and even handle the transport, it is difficult to get their cooperation. You have to “steal” their cats on the sly. Also, what gets my goat is the money which would have otherwise been spent on sterilising a community cat ends up being used for sterilising someone’s pet!

    Like Adriane says, this is hardly a problem exclusive to the community, but it is just very prevalent in it. We have heard of problems from other races of course. But In our experience (which seems typical of cat minions), thus far, the problems we have faced with TNRM are from Malay cat owners, and in our rehoming work, mostly Malay cat adopters/ potential adopters.

    Again, I am not to say only all Malays are bad cat owners of course. I know a good kawan who does TNRM and cares responsibly for her babies at home. My worst adopter experiences are with a CHINESE woman eye specialist and a Korean woman.

  8. Yes and just as we are on this topic, a thread on the topic of Malays and their cats was started in 2 days ago. I checked today and its been removed by mods.

    The truth is there is a problem among many Malay Muslims and their cats but citing religious tolerance and etc, this topic is never allowed to be talked about. The last I read in that thread was Malay girl giving the typical you should not be bashing us Malays statement…. sigh and let me tell you its not the first time a thread like this has been brought up and talked about. And subsequently deleted… it’s really sad.

    That is why this problem never gets solved. We are just not allowed to talk about it and hence if officially there is no problem how to have an solution?

  9. Honestly it is not solving the problem and this whitewashing of any problems that relate to the Malay community is just going to result in the problem festering and getting bigger and bigger.

    And well until this problem is solved, we can forget about ever seeing cats being kept legally in HDB. I mean despite all the denials from all quarters, anyone give it a thought why HDB just uses the same old reasons and don’t seem to even consider the idea of letting us keep cats in HDB?

    Well I might be wrong but I think now its already a headache for HDB as the thread in gave examples of. A Malay man who let his cats breed and everytime there are kittens, he simply open his front door and throw them out his house. Families that claim their cats are sterilized but every few months you see a bunch of kittens that look like their cat at the void deck. This are just some examples. So imagine if HDB officially allows cats. Is the problem not going to escalate?

    Unfortunately the thread was deleted as so many before it so these facts will never be revealed and the problem will go on and on.

  10. Hey guys, dont worry..i’ve had my fair share of problems trying to educate a few people i know about better care for their cats and keeping them indoors but its been tough. Everyone just comes up with all sorts of reasons. I mean honestly…if they dun wana learn, they shldnt even be keeping a pet.

    But i do find it weird that these people are giving reasons that islam doesnt allow sterilisation. I’ve never heard it my whole life!

    Issues that come with a particular race or religion tagged to it definitely gets people all sensitive and defensive. Its just human nature. I guess in a way, it’s right not to bring it up in the forums coz different people take it in a different way. Instead of a civilised and objective discussion, the thread will turn into a one with name calling and all sorts of things. Unless u can be sure that those reading and posting on the thread are well…positively-minded people or something of that sort.

    Anyways, from my point of view, the best way to counter this is thru education. Like, seriously intensely educating them. The problem is how to put the message across and drilling it into their heads without making them get all defensive and stuff.

    Plus from what calsifer said: “The older ones would tend to get defensive and say it’s the way their grandparents kept cats, the younger ones would more or less leave it to their parents and take their lead on this” —> I think this is probably the root of the problem. Coz well, u noe, being the older generation, they definitely had pets back during the kampong days. And during those times, pets were not sterilised and roamed freely. Then when these people moved to hdb flats, they carried on with the tradition, teaching their kids the same thing. And it goes on til now. So its definitely tough to educate them coz they’re so used to it.

    And sometimes, yea, they’ll listen to you, but it’ll take quite awhile for them to take action. In a way, calsifer, i didnt think it was a good idea for you guys to sterilise the family’s cat for them free of charge. I duno, but i think it wld’ve been better to let them learn the hard way.

  11. Di,
    Personally, I also believe in letting them learn the hard way. all things being equal. But the situation would get out of hand if we left things as they were, and who suffers in the end? The cats. And who suffers the most? The commuinty cats in the area implicated by the family who refuses to sterilise and let their pet cats out to be nuisances.

    There is a family here who we’re also quite disappointed with. After all our sharing with them about sterilisation, they seemed to have got it. But then what they do is wait for us to sterilise the newcomers, and if the newcomers are good-looking, they lure to their home and turn into their pet cats. When they see us, they would tell us about newcomers who need sterilisation. There was once, during my jobless period, I responded to the father that for the cat he mentioned we want to try to find out who’s his family and get them to sterilise instead. After that, the poor cat disappeared, we believe the father “relocated him”, something he’s done before. He’s admitted it himself!

    I really would love for them to learn the hard way… but seriously, it seems they don’t care what happens to their cats… they can always just get “replacements”, and do.