Cathay CEO has soft spot for cats

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

Suhaimi Rafdi, chief executive of leisure and entertainment giant Cathay Organisation Holdings, is a cat lover.

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, has even taken in stray kittens over the 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.

"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 (in case) they wander away from home," he said.

He lives in a 3½-storey terraced house in Loyang with his four children, two of whom were 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 stems from his childhood.

"My parents were animal lovers and there was not one day when there were no animals in our home," he said. "Cats, dogs, they wandered in and out of the house I grew up in."

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.

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

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

The cats would then have a loving home, while non-animal lovers would not be bothered by the mess left when feeders don't clean up, he said.

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.