LIFE had dealt her a harsh set of cards. Yet, somehow, she managed to triumph against the odds.
Born on the streets, she had no idea who her parents were. She had no name and lived in constant uncertainty, wondering where her next meal would come from. Each time it rained, ditches and holes turned into useful shelters.
By a stroke of luck, she found refuge in a school. But she was turned out and the expectant mother had to fend for herself once more.
Then, a decision was made to abort her three babies.
All these could have crippled the toughest individual, but not her. She survived the surgery and was given the name "Pema" by a kind-hearted samaritan, 56-year-old Helga Gamp.
Now, Pema the stray cat is looking forward to a new start - and a new owner.
With World Animal Day last Saturday, it is startling to know that Pema is one of 60,000 stray cats roaming Singapore's alleys and housing estates.
Last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) impounded 3,777 felines.
But Pema escaped this fate when Ms Gamp chanced upon her last month.
The part-time catsitter told my paper: "I was cycling past Yishun MRT Station when some students asked if I would adopt her. It seems she had been staying in their school for a while."
The principal said his hands were tied: "The school doesn't have the resources to look after cats that wander in."
Pema is probably unaware of the running debate over stray cats being a nuisance. Neither does she realise there are two camps: Those who want to cull her and those in favour of sterilising her kind to control the feline population.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is firmly in favour of sterilisation.
Executive officer Deirdre Moss said: "More sterilised cats translates into fewer births and, hopefully, fewer strays."
Hence, it gives out sterilisation vouchers to volunteers like Ms Gamp, who took Pema for the surgery and is housing her for the time being.
Said Ms Moss: "Sterilised cats are healthy and deserve a shot at life."
Luckily for Pema and her mates, there are organisations like SPCA and the Cat Welfare Society that work with caregivers islandwide to trap, neuter, return and manage cats in residential areas.
The calico cat with orange, brown and black markings now sports a tipped left ear - a sign that she has been sterilised.
Head of AVA's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control, Mr Madhavan Kannan, said in an e-mail: "It would be good if those who feed stray cats could find homes for them."
That's what Ms Gamp is trying to do, and Pema is probably hoping for the same, too.
If you are interested in adopting Pema or know someone who can give the feisty feline a happy home, e-mail Ms Helga Gamp at veganmeowies @yahoo.com
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