Residents try to stop cat lovers from trapping strays

By Amanda Phua

ARMED with nets and traps, they stalk the neighbourhood cats.

Some residents think they are out to harm the animals and throw water on them. Others call the cops.

But these professional cat trappers, such as Mr Vincent Ng and Miss Rebecca Ho, are just trying to catch the cats to sterilise them.

Miss Ho, 25, said that when the police arrive, they explain this and are usually allowed to continue.

She even has a sign that says: "Cat trapping for sterilisation. Please keep clear."

Mr Ng said residents jump to conclusions. "Sometimes, people throw water on us from upstairs," he said. "If you don't know, come down and ask us."

He and Miss Ho work with the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) and caregivers to catch strays without a tipped ear. A tipped ear indicates that the cat has been sterilised.

Miss Fareena Mehr Omar, 33, the president of CWS, said stray cats could be better managed by sterilisation rather than culling.

About 5,100 cats were put down by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) last year, and about 5,400 in 2009. In 2008, it was 6,800, reported The Straits Times earlier this month.

Miss Fareena estimated that there are about 60,000 stray cats today, down from 150,000 cats in 1998. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan wrote in his blog on June 3 about the war between people bothered by stray cats and those who love and seek to protect them.

His stand: Culling of cats in HDB estates is not the way to go, and AVA needs to review the practice.

Mr Khaw said on his blog: "The right thing is for cat lovers to own the problem, eliminate the nuisance created by irresponsible behaviour, and sterilise the cats to control their population.

Where there are enough cat-lovers out there willing to own this problem, we can avoid culling in those estates."

One constituency is ready to change. The Chong Pang Animal Welfare Programme, which promises to end the culling of cats in the constituency, will be launched by Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam on June 18.

Reinstate scheme

CWS said cat owners have rejoiced. And they would like the AVA to reinstate a scheme, terminated in 2003, under which it funded the sterilisation of stray cats.

Miss Fareena explained that the scheme was terminated during the Sars outbreak.

She said the cat trappers are usually accompanied by one or two CWS volunteers.

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