[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

[Stray Cats]
I had a most unusual case at my Bedok Reservoir Meet the People Session last night. Some ten adults from three families came to see me urgently about eight cats caught by the Town Council and sent to AVA for culling. They were very upset that these stray cats would soon be gotten rid of when they had already been sterilised (marked by snipped ears except for the eighth, an old cat, brown in colour).

When I told them that the Town Council had received a number of complaints about cats scratching cars and dirtying common corridors and void decks, they said that sterilised cats are temperamentally mild (which is why they are easily caught) and won't scratch cars. As for cat poo, they would organise themselves to clean them up. They wanted me to appeal on their behalf to save the eight cats. Apparently only I had the power to do so. Suddenly I felt a great sense of responsiblity for the lives of these cats.

I was quite unsympathetic at first until I realised that these individuals who rushed to see me were not at all dismissive of the complaints made. They were passionate but not unreasonable. When I challenged them, they agreed to help the RC explain to residents and work with complainants in a practical way to solve problems of cleanliness. I told them that if they were prepared to work with the RC, the RC would work with them and every complaint against stray cats would be dealt with individually.

It will be a lot of work but if we succeed in doing this, we will have a better neighbourhood community. But I also told them that if we were not able to do this, I would not be able to stop the Town Council from acting in the larger public interest. A number of my grassroots leaders remained highly sceptical but agreed to give this a try.

Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

37 Comments:

Blogger Dawn said...

Thank you Dr Yeo for blogging about this matter and for your timely intervention. I am sure that the residents were very thankful as are many other Singaporeans who are concerned about cats.

I think you will find that many citizens who care for cats are not unreasonable and are very responsible. Many residents who sterilise, manage and mediate just want an opportunity to work with the TC and the RC to help make the estate better for all.

Friday, February 27, 2009 2:17:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank You veri much Dr Yeo for helping the cats.

Friday, February 27, 2009 2:44:00 pm

 
Anonymous suzanna said...

Thank you, Dr Yeo, for taking time to see both sides of the coin.

Friday, February 27, 2009 2:52:00 pm

 
Blogger jules said...

Thank you, Dr Yeo, for hearing the caregivers out and helping to save the cats. It is true that i have personally met several caregivers who are painstakingly conscientious in taking care of the community cats, sterilising them out of their own pockets, helping to solve any cat-related problems and basically working in line with the TC and RC to ensure a good living environment for all.

Friday, February 27, 2009 4:12:00 pm

 
Blogger EJ. said...

Thank you Dr Yeo for helping the cats and caregivers.And for listening with an open mind and realistic options.
I believe zero cat and dog cullings are possible in Singapore if all concern work hand in hand.

Friday, February 27, 2009 5:26:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Yeo,
This is very heartwarming as I too am amongst the increasing number of people who put in their own effort, time and money to resolve the conflicts of living with cats in a humane manner that is not only effective but restore faith that we are able of applying compassion in this situation, if we choose to.
I also see that the interest in the welfare of community cats cut across all races, gender and ages. Perhaps the town councils and RCs should look into how they can harness this common platform to gel the people in HDB estates who are otherwise shut off behind closed doors.

Dr Tan Chek Wee

Friday, February 27, 2009 6:48:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PointBlank on Cat Matters (Pt1)

Friday, February 27, 2009 7:20:00 pm

 
Anonymous geraldine (Tampines) said...

With heartfelt thanks, Dr Yeo.

Friday, February 27, 2009 10:02:00 pm

 
Anonymous P said...

Dear Minister George Yeo, my heart is truly warmed by your act and your willingness to truly listen, instead of being dismissive with the cat lovers who appealed to you for help.

After all these years of hearing negative things about the struggles that some cat caregivers have with unsympathetic town council officers, your action has brought more than a breath of fresh air and warmth to many of us, cat lovers, or otherwise, or just normal folks who believe in building a more caring, compassionate society for Singapore.

To be fair, I should add that not all TC officers are unpleasant when it comes to the stray cats issue, and I am thankful that I have the good fortune to have met some reasonable and helpful TC officers who do not just "follow the book" or necessarily agree that killing strays is the only solution.

Friday, February 27, 2009 11:40:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are one in a million. Thank you so much for helping the cat caregivers. I'm sure they are working harder with the RC and Town Council now than ever in sterilising, managing and mediation.

Friday, February 27, 2009 11:43:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pleasantly surprised by the interest in this post about stray cats.

george yeo

Friday, February 27, 2009 11:49:00 pm

 
Blogger kwanxw said...

Your concern for an issue that has often been dismissed as unworthy is responsible, kind, and greatly encouraging to your constituents.

Thank you for helping the cat caregivers who give voice to our furry fellow Singapore-dwellers.

Personally, I feel more motivated to take action and change the little injustices that I see every day.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 12:09:00 am

 
Blogger cat_aunty said...

Thank you so much, sir.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 7:20:00 am

 
Anonymous K said...

Dear BG George Yeo,

Thank you very much for hearing the care-givers out and giving them a chance to continue to make a difference to the community. Indeed, they need to be given the opportunity to work with Town Councils and RCs - as not all complaints are reasonable or true, especially since many Singaporeans don't have much contact with animals nor understand the long term benefits of Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM).

As a young Singaporean also involved in caring for, sterilising and managing community cats, I'm very encouraged. I believe their efforts are an exhibition of active citizenry and the HDB Heartware that the government has been trying to cultivate for the longest time.

I'm also encouraged and heartened because it is leaders like you who are open to hearing alternatives, options and solutions - who will bring about a more compassionate Singapore in the future.

A big THANK YOU once again!

Saturday, February 28, 2009 10:06:00 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Words fail me except to say thank you, thank you and thank you again.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 10:11:00 am

 
Anonymous J said...

Hi Dr Yeo,Thank for standing up for our beloved community cats commonly known as stray cats. I am glad that u had help those poor homeless babies by giving them a second chances in life.

3 Cheers for you.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 10:16:00 am

 
Blogger eslina said...

Thank you Dr Yeo. This is very encouraging. I'm very heartened to read about this and I'm hoping more MPs will also consider hearing both sides in future before dismissing alternative humane solutions to culling.

Again, my heartfelt thanks for your compassion and understanding.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 10:57:00 am

 
Anonymous Adeline said...

Dear Minister Yeo, I know this may come a bit too late, but I am really touched by your compassion towards strays and thank you very much for saving them. As a cat-lover, I appreciate the fact that there are politicians that bother about community cats and understand that feeders can be responsible too. Your compassion in this instance, coupled with your vision towards steering groups such as Nalanda is a clear indication of receipt of good karma for now and the future. I am glad we have country leaders like you :)

Saturday, February 28, 2009 3:53:00 pm

 
Blogger Ephraim Loy 黎传志 said...

Thank you for your comments. It is good to get so much feedback here.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 5:15:00 pm

 
Anonymous Lim Heng Lip said...

I've posted a similar reply on Facebook.

Dear good people,

I am a resident of Bedok Reservoir and am one of the above-mentioned adults who met Mr. George Yeo.

I feel the need to offer our perspective.

The cats in our neighborhood are a mix of strays and abandoned house-cats. Most of these cats were sterilized. The non-sterilized ones are left as such simply because we are not able to cage them to be sent for sterilization.
Now let’s start from beginning and examine the source of these cats:

Not ALL of these cats are natural strays. Many of these, were off-springs of domestic cats kept by irresponsible owners. These people, the minority residents of Bedok Reservoir, kept unspayed felines at home and allowed them to copulate and produce offsprings. And the solution to the overpopulation of cats at their owns homes? They simply dump them in a brown box and leave it at our cat feeding corners.

Now you may ask, cat feeding corners? Yes, these are the little ‘clandestine’ spots where our team of cat lovers would religiously patronize daily to leave cat feed for these orphans. We are responsible feeders: we feed the cats at these very specific spots, wait for the cats to finish eating, then we clean up whatever mess is left behind.

The same cannot be said for other cat feeders in this area – some of them feed raw fish and raw beef. Many of them throw such feed right out of their windows. But be assured that over the years we have responded promptly to such acts by confronting these irresponsible feeders and educating them the right way to feed cats.

Up till this point in time, ask yourself this: if it is humans themselves who irresponsibly feed cats and dirty the environment, should cats be pushed the blame and punished instead?

As explained above, the 8 cats that were caught are orphans ABANDONED by some residents of Bedok Reservoir. Many of these cats are sterilized and are previously-domesticated; hence they are temperamentally mild by all standards and offer little nuisance to our residents.

But then, you may ask why did Aljuned Town Council act?

Because of complaints. Singaporeans LOVE to complain. Allegedly over 300 calls were made to complain against cats in Bedok Reservoir. The number might sound alarming, but how many of these calls were repeat calls? And as Bedok Reservoir is a densely populated HDB area I’m very sure eventually all numbers will sum up to an insignificant proportion. They accuse the cats of peeing along the void decks, scratching cars in the carpark and being a nuisance in general.

But we would love to clear these misunderstandings.

As mentioned above, these sterilized cats are temperamentally mild and especially when it comes to their bowel habits, sterilized cats only do their business in the grass patch. On many occasions, we witness residents who bring their dogs down for a jog, and dogs being dogs, love to mark their territories by peeing all over the void deck. Now, would that be a source of possible misunderstanding? Yes!

Do our neighborhood cats love to scratch cars? Maybe. That is why we didn’t do anything when Town Council came early last year to capture many cats from our carpark (possibly the source of cat scratches) for culling.

What about being a general nuisance to our residents? Are the majority of residents from Bedok Reservoir bothered by the cats? I can safely tell you the answer is no. Two weeks ago when Mr. Velu and members from his town council (along with his contractor, Rentokill, literally) came down to catch cats from our neighborhood, many of our residents whom we have never seen feeding cats before came forth to confront these ‘crusaders’ who claimed to ‘act in the interest of the neighborhood and for the majority of residents in Bedok Reservoir’. It is a common sight to see little children in my neighborhood chasing cats and playing with them after school. In a greying neighborhood like Bedok Reservoir, it is also not uncommon to see elderly Singaporeans taking a break in the shade, with a friendly sterilized non-car-scratching cat all curled up beside them.

It is also important to note that one of the ‘complainers’ from Block 709 is a serial cat abuser. Last month, he threw a cat out of the 6th floor. A police report was made. Is it justified to act on complains from him?

It is very perplexing for me as a young Singaporean to live in a society where intolerance takes firm root in our way of life and killing little animals is justified in the name of personal conveniences. Are we building a colorful society that beckons equality and love for every living thing or one that is drab-grey and wiped sterile?

While the 8 cats were saved this time round, the future of these cats remains dubious. Minister Yeo has mentioned that if we cannot keep up the education of our residents and cannot quell the complaints; these cats will have to be removed.

In conclusion, to save everyone from re-reading this lengthy article of mine: Cats that were probably responsible for scratching vehicles have already been removed a while ago. Cats remaining now are sterilized and many were previously domesticated. These cats are temperamentally mild and pose no general nuisance. In the unlikely event that they do, we have offered to join the RC to tackle such complaints. Majority of residents in Bedok Reservoir love or don’t mind cats in their area. (To Aljuned Town Council) Please respect the view of the silent majority. If you dispute this, a opinion-poll should be carried out in Bedok Reservoir. Finally, (to Aljuned Town Council) the vigilantism against our friendly neighbhordhood cats is unnecessary and please focus all your energy on the incessant mozzies in our neighborhood instead.

I would like to thank Minister George Yeo for helping us this time round (but I fear for the future), the cat feeders of Bedok Reservoir (excluding those irresponsible ones, whom we have taken action against by education) and you for your time in reading this article.

Let’s work towards a loving Singapore.

Sincerely,
Lim Heng Lip

(people who are willing to provide our strays a loving home please contact me at 81636708 or rlim1987@hotmail.com)

Saturday, February 28, 2009 6:00:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read about how a RC member, whose car has no season parking disc and road tax, tried to pressurise to the town council to remove the cats (i.e to be killed at the AVA) in the car park because he alleged the cats scratched his car.
From Dawn Kua's blog
Another scratch

Sunday, March 01, 2009 12:33:00 pm

 
Blogger Veggesaurus said...

Dear Mr Yeo,

Thank you very much for your intervention. I think it would set a great example for other MPs to help out such reasonable cases of compassion. Afterall, the caregivers are very willing to work with residents and RC to help. I believe this is a great step towards a compassionate society. People should be more tolerant and appreciate nature's creatures rather than just resort to culling as a solution. It is extremely inhumane to simply kill because they may have scratched cars or soil the common areas. We all share the same space. I hope my MP would be more like you, rather than just pandering to unreasonable residents who simply want the cats killed. If you can bring this issue up in parliament, I am certain all of us animal lovers and caregivers out there will be eternally grateful.

Thank you once again.

PJ Tan

Sunday, March 01, 2009 1:32:00 pm

 
Blogger msj said...

Dear Dr Yeo
Thank you for your kindness and generosity in helping the community cats that have become a part of the Singapore heartlands. I also take care of community cats and have done my part in sterilising them as well as sending them to hospital and clinics when they are sick and abused. They are as much a part of Singapore and the people themselves.

Sunday, March 01, 2009 7:12:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Dr Yeo for your kindness. Your timely intervention in saving the lives of these cats are a great welcome and relief in these times of financial turmoil.

Also kudos to the ressidents of Bedok Reservoir who speak up on behalf of these cats. It goes to show that we Singaporeans are capable of showing compassion to non-human beings.

As a cats caregiver myself, I understand the diffulties and
challenges faced by many of the caregivers. But believe me, in the course of caring for the community cats in my estate for these years , I have met with more kindness and acceptance from my fellow neighbours than contempt.

I agree that cats do sometimes go up the cars especially in cold weather for warmth, I wish to stress that their claws are not capable of scratching the painted coat of the cars except for the waxing. Even if cats have caused scratches to cars, they should not be killed for this reason. Just as we not not sentence someone who vandalise to a death sentence.

Thanks again Dr Yeo and I wish that we Singaporeans will learn to be more tolerant if not compassionate towards our community cats, because we share a common home.

Shirley Goh

Monday, March 02, 2009 11:29:00 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is left of Humanity? Let’s take a moment of silence…

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 6:42:00 am

 
Blogger lingcat said...

Dear Dr Yeo

Thank you for kind act toward these living beings.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 10:26:00 am

 
Blogger Barffie said...

Thank you Mr Yeo for your help! Caregivers are a hardworking bunch and they deserve to be heard :)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 3:03:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Dr Yeo for looking at the picture objectively as a whole and helping these innocent sterilised cats. It is very gracious of you and very heartening as it signals there is hope for humankind and compassion is not all lost. Thanks again.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 10:23:00 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Yeo

My heartfelt thanks to you for Standing Up for our community cats.

Their lives are already vulerable out there, be it prone to car accidents, human abuse.. All the more, we need to act as their voices and to protect them from needless harm.

I wish that our Society could progress to being a Compassionate and tolerance place to live in, together with our four-legged friends.

Of course, there should be an amiable solutions for all problems that may arised from time to time, and we should Not simply End their Precious Lives.

Kudos to You Dr Yeo

Christina

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:57:00 pm

 
Blogger xy_meowie said...

Hi Dr Yeo, thank u so much for helping us help the cats. U cannot imagine the sadness & helplessness when some caregivers find their community cats missing. Almost all cat caregivers r more than willing to cooperate & work with their relevant TC to make sure all cats in that area r sterilized. We sincerely appreciate ur thought for cats' lives. :)

Thursday, March 05, 2009 8:42:00 pm

 
Anonymous Elaine Ng said...

Mr Yeo,

Thank you very much for extending your hand of compassion. A gesture like this moves all animal lovers.

Thursday, March 05, 2009 9:06:00 pm

 
Blogger calsifer said...

Thank you, Dr Yeo, thank you for taking this pro-active and encouraging decision. I just want to reiterate Dawn's words: "many citizens who care for cats are not unreasonable and are very responsible. Many residents who sterilise, manage and mediate just want an opportunity to work with the TC and the RC to help make the estate better for all."

I am not your constituent, but I could wish I was. :)

Thank you again.

A 37 year old Singaporean who has been doing Trap-Neuter-Release-Management for 10 years.
http://tippedearclan.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/mp-got-heart-bedok-reservoir-cats-saved-from-death/

Sunday, March 08, 2009 10:01:00 pm

 
Blogger ~kittyiin~ said...

Thank you Dr Yeo!

Also,if cats can scratch any car paint off,i am sure normal human nails can too. Since every animal eg.dogs, man, mice, rabbits, rhinos have nails/claws/horns made of the same chemical component.

God bless you & everyone who help cats out.=)

Sunday, March 08, 2009 10:20:00 pm

 
Anonymous tanya said...

Dear Dr Yeo,

Thank you for your willingness to listen to and work with the residents. Thank you for your demonstration of humanity in saving the lives of the cats.

I hope that your example will serve to cause other MPs to adopt a similar response to the community cat caregivers in their estates.

As residents, we too want clean estates. That is why we take responsibility for feeding the cats and cleaning up after they eat, for example. We invest our time, efforts, passions and money into sterilising and managing the community cats in the estate, and we are always willing to work with complainants to come to a resolution of problems. In fact, isn't this what being a neighbourhood is about, and isn't the TC there to help negotiate and mediate, rather than to take drastic action from the outset?

Thus I would like to thank you for giving the residents in your estate the chance to do all this, without simply calling in pest control as the first solution. That should be the last resort.

Thank you so very much for giving the caregivers a chance, and for giving the cats their lives.

Thank you for being an example to us all, and we hope that the MPs and other TC officers will follow your lead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 6:48:00 pm

 
Blogger Ephraim Loy 黎传志 said...

I would like to make a correction. It is not Dr Yeo as mentioned. It should be Minister Yeo.

Sunday, March 22, 2009 2:12:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Minister George Yeo, thank you for listening and taking a very fair stance in this case! its great that you took a very reasonable approach and did your best to balance both sides of the coin.

I live in ang mo kio and in my particular estate, the cats are well looked after by not one, but three caregivers. In my years of living in my estate for twenty over years, the few times (being the reticent singaporean that most of us are) that i have bonded in lenghty conversation with my neighbours, the topic were always about caring for the cats cats - who was looking after which cats, which cat did what etc, and i really think its a good way to bond wih neighbours.

thank you very much!

Gracie

Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:22:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sad story of Smalley, a kitty in Singapore

A Singaporean who wonders if we will ever have our "soul" back again by the we should treat our fellow animals.

Friday, March 27, 2009 6:40:00 am

 

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