Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Of Strays: We Love Them

Today, I experienced one of the most frightening things any stray feeder might face: I saw one of the strays that I feed regularly lying motionlessly and sideways on the carpark floor.

I was terrified. The first though that ran through my mind was that the stray cat had been abused and had been left there to die.

Fortunately, as I approached, the cat recognised my scent and woke up and gave a lazy yawn. At that point in time, tears almost fell from my eyes. I immediately gave it some cat kibbles to eat.

Ask any stray feeder and you will understand our reactions. These community cats and strays might not be our pets, but we feed them, embrace them and love them. And, if anything happens to them, we will be equally heartbroken.

I will like to share a quote found in Rescuing Sprite (Mark Levin):

“Pets are the essence of innocence, like babies. We end up treating pets like our children. Pets are the only creatures who give humans unconditional love. Your pet never yells at you, rejects you, tells you to go to hell or argues with you. They appear helpless and when they die you get angry you can’t save them.”

Community cats or stray dogs indeed fulfill this role. They might not be enthusiastic in showing love, but we feel their kind of warm-fuzzy-love nonetheless. We treasure our role as their guardians, and we try our best to help them and save them.

May all strays be happy, healthy and safe.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Of Dogs: Singapore Tails

As a continuation of my previous post, I will like to say the following:

When we consider why we want a dog, we must also understand what a dog wants from us. I am a strong advocate that any good and functioning relationship must be one that is mutually beneficial.

What I believe is that us humans must provide dogs with enough exercise. Cesar Millan’s fans will know that his catchphrase is “Excerice. Discipline. Affection. In that order.”.

Dogs, like humans, require a lot of exercise. The key to having a well-balanced, obedient and happy dog is to bring them out for daily walks of no less than 1 hour (I will tell you why in a later blog post).

Hence, I have decided to set up a dog walking business - something that will benefit the pooches of increasingly busy Singaporeans.

I can serve the West and North areas, but contact me at 93261040 or singaporetails@gmail.com to see if I am able to serve you or to find out more!

I await your call or email!

Here is my promotional poster:

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Of Dogs: Why People Want Dogs

People used to ask me why I want a dog. I used to be unable to answer them with an answer that I felt was reasonable or practical.

Wanting a dog just seemed to be something instinctive. Something just compels you to want a dog. One that you can call your own.

But, after some experiences, some turbulences, some incidents, I think I realise why there is sometimes no real, "practical" or "reasonable" answer. A dog is just "man's best friend" - and that is a tall order to fulfil!

I realise that a dog is fiercely loyal. You can rely it to be your forever companion. A dog will never hold grudges for long. It forgives and forgets. It protects. It loves.

A dog is also a loving companion. You slowly realise that a dog will always be there when you need to tell someone your grievances, your secrets, your wants - and the best part? You know you can trust your dog completely. Often, people will say that this is because your dog can't speak. But, I will rather like to think that your dog keeps your secrets because it loves you and it knows you have placed full trust in it.

A dog is also your friend. Many a times, when you feel lonely and sad, you realise that a physically present human friend might not turn out to be a "friend" after all. A dog, on the other hand, is  someone you know you can rely on. Someone you can just hug, just rant to. People often say that dogs have a 6th sense, and even though I do not have one yet, I do believe they know - they know when you feel sad, when you need company, and they know when you just want them to cuddle beside you, giving you the love that you need. A dog is capable of all that.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Of Cats: My Experience with Singapore Strays (Part 4)

When, us, stray cat feeders feed, we often feel very conspicuous, as if we are doing something immoral, something unethical and something bad.

Yet, time and time again, we still return to the same spot, feeding the community cats, checking their health and ensuring everything is okay.

But, there is a reason why we feel so conspicuous, and that is because, in a country like Singapore, most people feel that stray cat feeding is considered illegal. Well, in this post, I will like to tell you that community cat feeding is NOT illegal.

Minister K. Shanmugan (Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs) recently announced a stray cat feeding spot in Chong Pang, his constituency. It shows how the community can get together to tackle stray issues in Singapore, especially when supported strongly by Cabinet Minister and MPs (e.g.: Tan Chuan-Jin).

You can view the article here.

However, I must warn you of the following points when feeding community cats:

Currently, the many naysayers who vehemently oppose feeding stray cats argue on the grounds of
(1) Dirtying the environment
(2) Encouraging further breeding

Feeding community cats is NOT considered illegal. However, under Singapore's Law, littering is. Hence, it is strongly recommended that you always bring a spare plastic bag to dispose of uneaten food, as well as to use a box.

Always use a small container to store your food
As community cat feeders, taking care of the environment is essential. As mentioned, once we ensure that we are responsible feeders as well, the opponents of stray cat feeding will not have a basis to argue that we are dirtying the environment, etc.

Cat welfare organisations often have many problems in getting cats sterilise. The challenges include the lack of manpower and the lack of knowledge. 

In my experience, it is regretful to note that many community cats have yet to be spayed, but this is because they belonged to "The Wild" group (categorised in Part 1 of this series) and they know how to evade people and are extremely wary of any strangers.

Hence, it is essential that we support community efforts such as Spay Day, organised by the Cat Welfare Society. It is an annual event where the cost for sterilising community cats will be fully borne by the CWS. There are some really good (and cute) pictures taken during the event, and you can find them here.

A sterilised cat
Source: Skitch.com
A sterilised cat will always have clipped ears. If you are wondering whether it will hurt, the CWS has clarified under their FAQ that the cat's left ear is clipped while it is under anesthesia, and hence, it will not hurt. 

Anyway, having a direct physical trait is the fastest way anyone can differentiate between a sterilised community cat from an unsterilised stray cat.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Of Cats: My Experience with Singapore Strays (Part 3)

A question that had lingered in my mind before I started feeding community cats was “What should I feed stray cats in Singapore?”. Feeding stray cats should be a concerted effort from everyone in the community.

In Part 3 of this series, I will be talking about nutrition for the stray cats and what we can and should feed them.

Before I start, I will like to discuss responsible feeding. The below image is an advisory by the Cat Welfare Society, which I find very useful to all kind-hearted souls who want to feed stray cats.

Retrieved from Cat Welfare Society

As such, if you notice, I have actually committed an “error” by not using either plates or bowls in the Part 1 of my post. After I discovered the above advisory by the Cat Welfare Society, I have since started to use a plastic bowl.

 Black cat from Part 1, using tips from Part 2, I managed to get so close!
(1) Dry food / Kibble / Raw meat / Cooked meat
Dry food should be the main staple of a community cat's diet. It provides essential carbohydrates and proteins for a stray cat's daily activity.

Unlike dogs who are omnivores, cats are carnivores, meaning that their diet should contain little fibre (which are found in large quantities in vegetables).

Some people do comment that dry food is not really healthy. For example, it is a well-known fact that meat by-products, unable for human consumption, such as the beak, head, feet are used to make dry pet food. Furthermore, to make the kibbles more filling, manufacturers add in corn meal.

Hence, if you have the money, you can purchase raw or cooked meat for cats to eat. I find that some community cats like chicken, more than the commonly-perceived fish.

However, I believe that stray cats are already grateful to have food to eat, be it dry kibble or the more nutritious cooked or raw meat. As long as there are food to eat, these community cats will have a better life.

(2) Water / Milk

Like human beings, stray cats require water for survival. I have often seen stray cats licking the dew off plants for their daily water intake or drinking from the dirty drains which is definitely insufficient and unhealthy for these community cats.

Whenever I feed stray cats, I will always bring a bottle of pet's milk or fresh boiled water with me. Pet’s milk is definitely recommended as the community cats’ stomach might not be able to process the lactose, causing unnecessary pain and harm to the lives of the cats.

In the next post, I will talk about some of the misconceptions that might exist when feeding stray cats and how we can help them.

CWS Logo-Link to us!
Support the Cat Welfare Society

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Of Cats: My Experience with Singapore Strays (Part 2)

As promised, in Part 2 of this series, I will be sharing how we can approach stray cats, or pets for that matter.

The key to approaching all cats and dogs, regardless whether they are strays or not, is to treat them like you will treat any other human being, with respect. Respect can come in many forms - respecting their physical private space, respecting their social comfort zone and respecting their own characteristics and behaviour.

To put it simply, like humans, cats and dogs have their own level of comfort around others. To approach them, you must understand their characteristics and behaviour, which us why Part 1 of this series is introducing the different groups of community cats.

I have mainly adapted my points from the below poster:
(Photo Credits: Sophia Yin Blog)
Below are some tips that I find useful when I approach community cats that I have never interacted with before. I believe these tips are fairly universal and can be applied to approaching stray dogs and other pets.

(1) Recognising their boundaries
Every cats and dog has their own personal comfort zone. Once you enter it's comfort zone, they will feel that you are infringing their personal space and security and their limbic system will kick in - meaning that they will either choose to launch an attack or flee.

Recognising that each stray cat and dog has different level of comfort around people is the first step to successfully approaching a community cat or stray dog. But this also means recognising that some cats and dogs find it hard for people to approach them and there are times when it will take a long time before you will be able to approach a cat or a dog and successfully pet it. It also means recognising that you might never ever fully gain full confidence from a stray cat or dog.

Knowing the comfort zone will allow you to build trust with the stray cat or dog too. Like humans, stray cats and dogs will start to trust you when you respect their physical and social comfort zone. 

You can build this essential trust by always standing at a safe distance between the stray cat or dog and you. Let them smell you from a distance. If they don't look alarmed, then approach them slowly (more on this in the next section). This is especially so for the community cats I have categorised as "The Wild" (see Part 1) as they need more time to trust you.

(2) Approach slowly and calmly
Would you like it if a stranger runs towards you and start touching your head and your body? Definitely not! Women will start shouting "Molest!" and men will start giving punches and kicks to this rude boundaries.

However, you will most likely be cordial if a stranger approaches you slowly and calmly, looking at you from the peripheral vision (more on this later) and asking for verbal or facial recognition before proceeding to "touch" you.

Similarly, the best way to approach community cats or stray dogs will be to approach them slowly and calmly. This will not alarm them of you as a perceived threat.

(3) Using your peripheral vision
It can be a scary experience if you realise someone has been staring at you. For stray cats and dogs too, staring at them and approaching at them head-on is a very scary experience as well.

What a "stare" means to a dog
(Photo Credits: Sophia Yin Blog)

This is especially so if approach with your mouth wide open and your teeth showing. To the stray cats and dogs, they will treat the sight of teeth as a sign of aggression, so they might respond consequently with a bite or a scratch.

Using your peripheral vision means approaching the community cats and stray dogs sideways, and looking at them calmly from the side of you eyes. This lets the stray cats and dogs know you are interested in approaching them, but yet not making yourself seem like a major threat.

(4) Understanding body language
Unlike humans, stray cats and dogs do not use much verbal language to communicate. Hence, to understand the community cats and stray dogs requires a good grasp of what their body language means. 

The poster below is a good summary of how dogs in general behave.
The language that never lies - body language

Most cats behave in the same way. However, there are a few differences to how a cat behaves.

A cat that feels threatened and that is about to attack rarely "meows", like how a dog will bark. However, threatened stray cats will first move to show its whole body, then proceeds to hunching its back to increase the surface area before showing its teeth.

A threatened cat - look at the hunched back and open mouth showing teeth
(Photo Credits: Google Images - Pet Wellbeing)
In addition, a cat that feels hungry and that does not perceive you as a threat will always "meow" to you. It is a sign of attracting attention.

*Some of the above tips are adapted from Sophia Yin's "How to Greet a Dog and What to Avoid".

Otherwise, you can download her eBook from by clicking here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Of Cats: My Experience with Singapore Strays (Part 1)

To start off, I want to share a Singapore Tail - my experience with community cats. This is something rather close to my heart, so there will be quite some anecdotes. I will split this blog post into a few days, so do keep a look out!

Other than the HDB flats and skyscrapers , the only thing that can epitomise the Singaporean landscape is the stray cats. These stray cats come in all breeds, all ages and all sizes, yet one thing unites them - that is, they are often looked at with disdain, often treated with abuse and often suffer at the memories of past trauma.

They learn to evade detection, hiding behind trees, hiding in the bushes or hiding under cars. In my experiences feeding stray cats, I have identified two broad groups of community cats, the characteristics they possess and their unique behaviours.

(1) The Hungry
I label this group of cats as "the hungry", because, honestly, their hunger is the motivating factor for their actions. Once they smell something faintly nice, they will start following you. Many a times, people treat them as “aggressors”, while in actual fact, they are likely the cats that have been once domesticated before, but eventually abandoned.

Due to their over-zealousness in getting the food, they often launch forward, which will scare most people. But, from my experience, these cats will never attack you - they will often look at you with their big enduring eyes, sit in front of you and wait for you to feed them. They are never shy; they enjoy the pats on the back and the affection you show them. Ironically, it is this exact trait - their trust of human beings - that results to them being brutally assaulted and abused sometimes.

A defining characteristic of these cats is that they can be picky eaters sometimes. Once, I tried feeding such a cat with dry kibbles, but it did not like it, merely smelling it before crawling away. They often tend to eat little too, because they often think that they will be fed a next meal.

However, it is sad to see them suffer, because their prior domestication since young has made them lose most of their prey drive and instinctual feline powers to catch preys. Hence, they often rely on leftover food from dustbins for their meals.

Yummy! Enjoying some kibble.

Slurping some milk

If you look carefully, you can see that this cat has been sterilised or neutered before. Vets usually cut off part of the left ear for easy identification.

I find that this group of cats prefer canned food, or certain types of kibbles that have a more apparent fragrance. I will recommend some brands of affordable cat food in Part 3 of this series.

(2) The Wild
The only home this group of cats have known since their birth is literally “the wild”, hence the categorisation.

This group of cats are the wary ones; they understand that not all humans are nice and they likely have experienced pain and trauma when they were kittens and now, they try to evade humans by crawling away once anyone crosses into their comfort zone.

Cat crawling away at the sound and sight of me

They have heightened senses and have learnt all possible tricks of evasion. They will crawl under cars, crawl under drain covers and crawl into small crevices to hide detection.

Hiding under a car

Enjoying some kibble, yum!

I believe these cats have more capabilities as predators. I once saw a cat, which I think belong to this group, pounce on an unsuspecting crow, injuring it with a bite. This is testament to the prey drive that normal cats will have.

However, it is very difficult to feed them. It takes much more effort to connect with them. So, how did I manage to get so close to this black cat without scaring it?

I will talk about this more in Part 2 of this series tomorrow.

*This list is by no means exhaustive or exclusive. If you have something to add, you are more than welcome to!

In the next few days, I will touch on how to approach these community cats, what we can do to help these stray cats and what we can feed these stray cats.
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