A stray feeder friend, E, called one afternoon a few days back and asked for help to sterilize some cats in a HDB flat. A HDB complaint had already been made and apparently, there has been a population explosion and the flat owners are unable to cope with it. I hurriedly scribbled down some details and arranged a home visit with E and another volunteer to check out the situation.
Upon reaching the door of the flat there were no shoes at the doorstep. We initially thought they wanted to create the impression that no one is at home, so that the HDB officers will go away when no one answered the door. E knocked and called for some time before the flat owners finally opened the door. We were taken aback as a pungent stench of feces and urine hit us right in the face. Upon walking in, a mother cat with two kittens from separate litters lifted her head up and stared blankly at me. Her younger kitten was just a few days old with eyes unopened lying down on some old and soiled newspapers.
The two elderly brothers who greeted us seemed worried and somewhat wary. E told them we are here to help with the cats and they heaved a sigh of relief. They are nearing their seventies and live together in this flat bought many years ago. Though the flat has been fully paid for and they at least have a roof over their heads, their financial status and living conditions were worrying. Only one of the brothers was mobile and the other had difficulty walking. The healthier brother made a living by collecting and selling cardboard boxes, but earnings were meager.
The dimly lit house had windows which were old and rusty and the stained and soiled walls badly need a fresh coat of paint. The floor laminate had come off in some areas, believed to be caused by the constant soaking of cat urine. The house was unkempt, unhygienic and dirty.
On an old metal trolley and a rusty bread tray there were empty cat kibble packets and wet food cans on them. We later asked the brothers about their expenses for the cats. They spend close to $50 weekly which means $200 monthly. With only one sole breadwinner and with so many mouths to meet, how did they land themselves in such a dire situation?
This was their story. It all started with only three stray cats they took pity on. Unfortunately, the cats were not sterilized and the population started to grow. The brothers got increasingly helpless and did not know who to approach for help. They were unable to upkeep the cats and also could not manage basic cleanliness of the flat given their health conditions. The complaint from the neighbours came along with a HDB warning and they finally decided to bring the cats to SPCA for rehoming but upon learning that the cats might be put to sleep, they could not bear to do so. As luck will have it, the brothers bumped into E’s friend at SPCA and this was how E got to learn about them.
Many would question: Why take in pets when you can’t even feed yourselves? Are you doing the cats more harm than good? Some might even ask, why do such hoarders deserve our help even?
We as volunteers have also raised such questions among ourselves, but we could evidently see how selflessly the brothers provided for these cats and loved them. Even though the brothers could barely make ends meet, they refused to just simply abandon the kittens when others might have taken this easier route. The brothers ended up buying more and more food to feed the cats and this only weighed them further down financially. Some of us have picked up newborn kittens ourselves before – do the people who leave them in cardboard boxes at void decks think that the kittens with eyes still unopened can survive by themselves? Won’t sterilization be a more humane and kinder way out?
There were cats in every room, accompanied by dried up patches of cat pee and excrement strewn all over the place. We did a brief count and the total number of cats came up to about 25 – 30, including 13 kittens. Thankfully, some of the cats did not look extremely emaciated or sickly, but there were a few of the other cats needing medical attention. One extremely wary mother cat seemed to be have a bad fungal skin infection and had worsened her own condition by constantly scratching herself.
We then asked the brothers where they slept and they pointed to an old and worn out mattress. Sadly, we saw some cat poo on the mattress too. They will just dust and sweep everything off before they rest for the night.
This is going to be a much bigger project than was initially expected, but nevertheless, Noah’s Ark will not leave the needy brothers in the lurch. We have separated out the tasks to be done with the key issues being sterilization of the cats, cleaning of the flat and liaising with HDB.
We are appealing to all our friends and supporters to help out in whatever way you can, to turn the lives of these two brothers around so that they can live out their twilight years in comfort. As we were talking to the brothers, we saw one of them sweating and realized that the only fan in the flat was spoilt. A volunteer has kindly bought a fan for them but there’s definitely much more to be done.
Would you like to chip in to help these cats with their sterilization and vet bills? Are you a skilled contractor/worker to help revamp the flat like do painting and/or cleaning? Do you have some old but still usable furniture to donate? Or will you like to at least buy them a new mattress?
What we can do for the brothers lies largely on the amount of funds we can raise. To contribute in any way big or small, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org. For furniture or bulky item/s donation, we will like to seek your kind understanding that we might need a bit of time to arrange transport for picking up of the necessary item/s. Do drop us a note to link up with us. We thank you in advance for transforming the lives of the brothers and the cats.
And remember, sometimes, the animals become victims of our love for them. Sterilization is key and only take in pets when you can provide for them for life.