NewPaper 20090327: Seletar Hill residents get catty over strays


The ghosts of the 45 dead cats of Seletar case are still haunting the estate it seems, and have exposed a long open can of worms. Us-vs-them doesn’t work, but obviously these folks aren’t willing to sit down and talk. It doesn’t help that

Mr Madhavan Kannan, head of AVA’s Centre for Animal Welfare and Control, said those troubled by strays are informed about AVA’s free loan of cat traps and free collection of trapped cats.

Hello, vacuum effect? Is this conveyed to the aspiring trapper? Are aspiring trappers also told the cats are killed once they reach AVA? And who is paying for the costs of such trapping and killing? How about actually suggesting effective options like the Scarecrow for a change? Options that happily, also happen to be humane?

‘The borrower is informed to ensure that the trapped cat is not subjected to ill-treatment or injury and that it is an offence to subject an animal to cruelty,’ he said.

Yes, public service announcement. Well and good. But who ensures the trapped cat really wasn’t ill-treated? What action is taken if such ill-treatment is discovered? Who checks the trapped cats for signs of ill-treatment or injury before they are sent into the kitty murder room in AVA grounds?

For complaints on a large number of cats in a house, an AVA officer will visit to check on the number of cats and their welfare, and advise the owner to confine them within the premises, sterilise them and also to reduce the number by re-homing them.

At last, some recognition that sterilisation and keeping kitties indoors is the way to go. But why are such simple pre-emptive measures not suggested and promoted BEFORE such a case happens? And once again neighbours should be told about the impact of vacuum effect rather than offered the free traps upfront. It doesn’t take much to convey the message, especially if it’s men-in-uniforms doing the conveying.

Re-homing them… what is the likelihood of successful rehoming? What aid is given to ensure the re-homing is done properly and the cats’ new homes are genuine refuge for them where the risk of abandonment or neglect is minimal? Otherwise, what is the point of ‘advising’ the owner to re-home? Lip service? I hope not.

Here’s the article for your vigorous exercise in logic

Seletar Hill residents get catty over strays
Cat lovers & trappers divided over hygiene & stench problems
By Teh Jen Lee
March 27, 2009

SELETAR Hills Estate residents are getting increasingly divided over stray cats.

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TNP ILLUSTRATION: FADZIL HAMZAH

On one side are animal activists who insist that it’s fine to keep cats in large numbers. They feed strays and take them home when they are sick.

On the other are neighbours aggrieved by problems such as the stench when too many cats are kept in one place.

Since the start of this year, three of them have resorted to trapping strays and sending them to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to be put down.

When 45 cats were found buried in the area, accusations started flying between the two camps.

The New Paper received an e-mail from a resident who accused her neighbours of animal cruelty because they were unhappy with her keeping stray cats. Two of her cats were found with their tails injured.

Another resident was fingered as the culprit for the cat burials because he is known as an avid cat trapper.

Netizens posted his address online and threatened to harm him.

We’re not naming those involved because we do not want to aggravate the situation.

Other residents who are neither cat lovers nor trappers feel caught in the fracas.

Humane

One resident told The New Paper: ‘Cats are okay but it’s more of a cleanliness and hygiene issue when there are many cats in one house.

‘I was told that NEA (National Environment Agency) officers almost puked when they entered (one such) house, so you can imagine how bad it was. The person must be an ardent cat lover to be able to withstand the smell.’

The woman, who requested anonymity, said Jalan Rengas in the estate is famous for its cat stench.

Mr Lim Kuan Zhong, 24, a marketing executive who raises money for stray cat caregivers in Seletar, said: ‘I’m not a resident but I do know there is a conflict. However, I’m for the keeping of community cats.

‘Some problems are due to residents’ intolerance or lack of understanding of what caregivers are doing. They spend money to neuter. I see this as a practical benefit, controlling stray numbers in a humane way.’

Sterilisation also decreases the likelihood of caterwauling, he said.

Caregivers also medicate strays so that disease doesn’t spread to other cats, including domestic cats, added Mr Lim.

He said when strays are adequately fed, they don’t go into people’s houses or rummage through rubbish bins. They help keep the population of rats and pests down.

But what if they are so well-fed that they don’t go after rats? ‘It’s not necessarily true. It’s in their nature to catch lizards, cockroaches, rats and moles, unless they are so overfed and obese that they are sedentary.’

What about cats that defecate indiscriminately?

Mr Lim said: ‘Actually, by natural instinct, they will dig the soil and cover up after defecating. They do this even when they have diarrhoea. However, they may not cover it that well.’

He felt that dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets cause a bigger problem.

What about too many cats in one house?

Mr Lim admitted that more than 30 cats was excessive, but said: ‘There are limited shelters and houses to keep cats in Singapore. The Housing Board should repeal the ban on keeping cats.’

Another Seletar resident, who declined to be named, said a neighbour who lives near a house at Jalan Rengas with 80 to 90 cats told him that four neighbours sold their homes and moved away.

‘The matter has gone all the way to our Member of Parliament but there’s just no solution. It has been a problem for the past five years,’ he said.

The MP, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, told The New Paper: ‘Whenever complaints about cats are received, the complaints are referred to AVA.

‘Cat lovers have also voiced their concern about the need to treat cats humanely and this has also been relayed to AVA.’

When The New Paper visited Jalan Rengas, only one resident was around and willing to speak with us.

Renovation work was going on around the house with many cats and the contractors working next door were acutely aware of the smell.

Mr Xu Shu Long, 46, said in Mandarin: ‘I’ve been working here for almost a week, it’s very bad. This is the smelliest site I’ve worked at since I came to Singapore four years ago. Even in China, such a stench is very rare.’

Mr Percy Jeyapal, chairman of the Seletar Hills Estate Residents Association, takes the position that ‘we must live and let live’.

‘Obviously, we don’t encourage stray cats all over the place as it does propagate disease and can be a nuisance.

‘We must also ensure that cats are not abandoned. Having a large number of cats is a problem but we can’t interfere with people’s lives. Those living close by need to suffer certain inconveniences.’

House visit

Mr Madhavan Kannan, head of AVA’s Centre for Animal Welfare and Control, said those troubled by strays are informed about AVA’s free loan of cat traps and free collection of trapped cats.

‘The borrower is informed to ensure that the trapped cat is not subjected to ill-treatment or injury and that it is an offence to subject an animal to cruelty,’ he said.

For complaints on a large number of cats in a house, an AVA officer will visit to check on the number of cats and their welfare, and advise the owner to confine them within the premises, sterilise them and also to reduce the number by re-homing them.

Mr Jeyapal said owners must show some responsibility on hygiene and smell issues.

He said: ‘If they can’t manage… then they have to keep cats in moderation.

‘Those with more than 30 cats, we acknowledge their love for cats, but there must be some places such as farms where cats can have a better life.’

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