Widower built room in his basement just for cats

Widower built room in his basement just for cats
CEO of Cathay Organisation Suhaimi Rafdi with his adopted cats.

Pop open the boot of his BMW and you will see cans of cat food stashed there.

Mr Suhaimi Rafdi, the chief executive officer of leisure and entertainment giant Cathay Organisation Holdings, is also a cat lover at heart.

Explaining why his car is stocked with pet food, he said: "So that when I spot stray cats along the way to and from work, I will have food for them."

More often than not, he will stop his car by the side of the road to feed the cats.

"I always wait till they are done and clean up before driving off. I don't want any complaints from the public," he added.

His love for felines does not stop there. Mr Suhaimi, 45, a widower, even took in stray kittens over several years.

"Whenever I chance upon kittens, I wait around to make sure the mother cat is around. Otherwise, they would not be able to fend for themselves. That is when I take them home," he said.

MICROCHIPPED

"Other times, residents in my neighbourhood would rescue and leave them in a box outside my gate," added the soft-spoken father of four, who does not have the heart to turn them away.

Today, he has 27 cats. The oldest is 10 years old and the youngest a year old. And the number continues to grow.

"When they are about six months old, I take them to the vet to have them sterilised and microchipped with details of my name, address and phone number should they wander away from home," he said.

He lives in a 3½-storey terrace house in Loyang, with his four children, two of whom are adopted, and two maids.

The house has a purpose-built room in the basement for cats and he plans to extend it to include half of the basement. The family moved into the house about five years ago.

Converting the basement into a feline wonderland was planned and not an afterthought, he said.

His passion for helping stray cats stemmed from his childhood.

"My parents were animal lovers and there was not one day when there were no animals in our home.

"Cats, dogs, they wandered in and out of the house I grew up in," he said.

Mr Suhaimi now wants his two younger children to grow up caring for the cats he adopted.

"I believe that children who grow up with animals around them tend to be more compassionate and responsible as adults," he said.

Mr Suhaimi, who is a strong advocate of adoption, is supportive of Love Cats, a two-year pilot project led by the Housing Board, the Ministry of National Development, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, Sembawang Town Council and animal welfare agency Cat Welfare Society, to encourage responsible cat ownership.

He wants to encourage cat lovers to adopt strays, instead of just feeding them indiscriminately.

"That way, it will give these cats a loving home and will not bother non-animal lovers with the mess made when feeders don't clean up," he said.


This article was first published on Oct 23, 2014.
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