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COMMENT: Why strays deserve your love too

Patchy and Trixie earlier this year in June, the first night they were lured back from a roadside drain. (Yahoo! …

I recently fell in love. And boy, does that feeling of anxiety lend itself a sweet, sweet high when you’re in the presence of the object of your obsessions.

(What should I serve for dinner tonight? How do I make sure I’m not too generous with my affection? Do I smell all right?)

And the cause of those constant butterflies? A kitten I picked up from a drain a couple of months ago.

But of course, as with all giddy romances, it gets tiring.

What I now realise is that rehoming animals is never as easy as it seems.

Most Singaporeans want a pure-breed kitten or puppy. They would gladly pay hundreds of dollars to pet shops or worse, puppy mills, than adopt a stray.

The six-week-old furballs I had rescued -- a tortoiseshell I named ‘Patchy’ and a calico ‘Trixie’, siblings born to a cat knocked down by a car -- were not on their want list.

But really, an animal does not have to be purebred to love you wholeheartedly.

Or for you to fall deeply for it.

Stigma

Trixie, two days after the capture, would still freeze up everytime someone looked at her. (Yahoo! photo)

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with strays -- they are dirty, inferior, or unlovable, people say.

None of that is true.

But fostering is expensive. There are vaccination, transport and food costs, not to mention the effort needed to befriend these ‘wild’ creatures.

Even among animal-lovers, there may be conflict. I have witnessed how a friendship may be lost, because of the different opinions on what level of care an animal needs.

A friend who initially volunteered to take the stray kittens in abruptly pulled out. Later, another introduced a potential adopter.

Her aunt is an experienced cat owner and would bring the kittens to the vet, cat-proof the house and sterilise them upon maturity, the friend of over 20 years said. They could not be in better hands, I was assured.

Naively, I did not conduct any home visits.

About a month later, we received news that Trixie had escaped. The aunt offered to return Patchy “if you don’t think we took good care of them”, and two days later, she dropped Patchy off. She refused to disclose her address, so I never got the chance to help hunt for Trixie.

Patchy, pictured in the same bathtub, was returned to us after the first adopter lost Trixie. (Yahoo! photo)

What was most shocking was the old friend cut off all contact, though she showed no signs of being upset earlier.

This was followed by weeks of trying to find a suitable home for Patchy, which by then was used to human companionship and hungry for affection.

More hurdles

A trusted cat-owner friend tried to foster it, but one of her cats was extremely territorial. Even separated by a door, it would hiss at Patchy for ages.

Once again, the kitten arrived back on my doorstep.

Now used to human companionship, Patchy became extremely affectionate. This picture was taken after her second …

Last weekend, the tiny feline was sent to yet another new household for a trial.

Moving is very stressful for cats, which are attached to places and routines, and it broke my heart each time I had to leave her in a foreign environment. Yet, I could not keep her, as I already had a cat-hating dog, and I am allergic to cats.

Patchy shares its current accommodation with a golden retriever, and it remains to be seen if the duo will get along. At the moment, the dog spends hours barking in curiosity, and the neighbors are beginning to complain.

Trust and autonomy

There were a few responses to adoption posts placed online, but none seemed like a good match. They were mostly from teens or those still living with their parents. One, who stays in a landed property, flat out refused to cat-proof her house.

The last couple of months saw the same few questions going through my mind.

Why is it that those who offered concrete help are those who already have adopted pets? Their hands are mostly tied to the animals they already saved and thus their resources are limited.

Why are others so caught up in getting a ‘brand new’ animal to love? It may take extra effort to introduce a former-stray into your household, but as animal lovers who are committing to at least a good ten years to a pet, surely that is just a smidgen more work?

Getting a pet means changing your entire lifestyle. If one cannot be bothered with the one-time effort of making the home animal-friendly, what does that show?

Heroes

Patchy, and the many other ‘feral strays’ out there, deserve a warm and loving home. (Yahoo! photo)

With Homeless Animals’ Day approaching this weekend, it seems timely to highlight the brave individuals who engage in the exhausting business of helping to foster, rehome, and raise awareness for strays.

How Cat Welfare Society, Save Our Street Dogs, HOPE Dog Rescue and other animal welfare groups do it endlessly is beyond me.

I salute you, I really do.

When I first met Patchy, it was a nameless, feral creature, snarling and hissing every time I approached . Now, it gives slow kitty blinks and sleeps on my lap. It is amazing what a bit of time and affection can do.

I hope the day comes when more people realise that strays are just as in need of love as purebreds and that there is no such thing as a second-hand animal.

Action for Singapore Dogs is holding a tea party this weekend to raise funds for the hit-and-run cases they handle. The event is taking place this Saturday, 2 to 5pm. A seminar on how to be an effective cat owner, supported by Cat Welfare Society, is happening this Sunday, 2 to 6pm. Klapsons, The Boutique Hotel is organising a Party of Hope, for humans and their pooches, on 7 September.

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