Monday, November 11, 2013

Old Mr Lim and his 22 cats

How does one label someone with many animals as being a hoarder? This is argumentative but simply put, we feel that the hoarder term comes about when the caregiver is unable to appropriately care for the animals under his charge. Do you remember the Ng Brothers case ( that we very fortunately managed to get the media's help with renovating of their flat while we tended to their cats? We were thankful for all the help rendered, eventually allowing the Ng Brothers a comfortable living space as well as a better environment for the cats.

Unfortunately, such cases are still occurring. When what started out as kindness and compassion results in an inability to cope with daily living, and this does not only happen with elderly folks though most of the cases we see of now are. We were alerted to Mr Lim, an elderly 78 year old man living in a two-room rental flat. Lotus Light Charity Society ( approached us and we made a home visit to find out more about the circumstances surrounding this case.

Mr Lim greeted us at his door that evening. He looked like he was only in his fifties, a neatly dressed small built uncle who speaks English as well. Despite his age, he is mobile and still an active volunteer with Lotus Light in distributing food rations to other elderly. As we had honestly prepared ourselves to see the worst, Mr Lim’s flat was still considered to be in acceptable condition other than the ammonia stench. Mr Lim mentioned he cleans the flat whenever he can twice or thrice daily but as he is not able to afford cat litter, the cats pee into basins around the flat and he will wipe or wash up thereafter.

There are a total of twenty-two adult cats staying in his hall and kitchen, and Mr Lim has one room he sleeps in which he has to keep the cats out of. He told us every morning when he opens the room door, the cats will all be outside waiting to greet him and seeking affection from him. This is just so sweet!

We asked him about the origin of the cats and he told us he started out a decade ago with taking over ten plus cats from an old lady who passed on. The rest are subsequently rescued from the streets. To be honest, Mr Lim’s cats are surprisingly well fed. He does takes good care of the cats and we will say slightly more than half are affectionate and are used to human touch. Some of them will also come up to you and seek affection even from strangers.  Also, the cats at his place did not reproduce at all and he even spayed the cats in his neighbourhood.

Mr Lim is on public assistance of a few hundred dollars monthly and gets by with his friends chipping in occasionally to help with the expenses of the cats. Some of his friends are aware of his struggles over the years and have actually offered to help him release the cats elsewhere but he is still of sound mind to know that the cats are not able to survive outdoors having been domesticated most of their lives. He did try releasing one or two cats at his own void deck but in the end had to take them back in when they fell sick.
He also did approach other societies previously and was just told to put up adoption notices which he did at Cold Storage. A few nicer-looking/pedigree ones were adopted out at the beginning but that was it. There was unfortunately a HDB complaint last year and Mr Lim had to move the cats temporarily to a boarding place to avoid getting fined up to four thousand dollars. This move caused Mr Lim a few hundred dollars which might not be a lot to us but was more than a month’s expenditure to him at one go.
We spoke to Mr Lim matter-of-factly about the large number of cats and the course of action we are likely to take – to appeal for adopters and seek medical aid first and foremost, and plus Mr Lim’s firm promise about no further "accumulating". Mr Lim himself is also aware that he is not getting any younger and he ought to make plans should he suddenly pass on one day and his cats will be the ones suffering. His only wish for now is to relocate them appropriately and that they will be taken care of.
With so many cats in his flat, we did notice a few that were not feeling too well and we managed to bring a vet to Mr Lim’s flat for medical attention and treatment. My Family Vet was kindly enough to make a house call late at night after their clinic hours and some of the sicker cats were assessed during the first round. Overall, there was serious fur mites infestation – under the microscope, we could see eggs on the strands of fur extracted for examination. There was also another ginger cat who could not eat on his own and the vet gave a jab to alleviate the gum infection.

We hope to be able to find adopters at least for some of Mr Lim’s cats and will like to ask if any of you can kindly take in one (more) cat in your household. We are also working with the vet to slowly treat his cats and will deeply appreciate if we can get your kind help in supporting our cause. We are aware that eventually, if the cats do not get adopted after some time, we will be looking at sending the cats up to our sanctuary NANAS in Malaysia which we will have to raise funds to send them across the border too.  Within our own constraints and capacity, once we decided to take up a case, we will see to it that the animals have a place to live in for the rest of their lives, safely and with dignity.  Please email if you can help in any way, thank you!

**Photos of some of Mr Lim's cats can be viewed at our Facebook page at:

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