HDB should reconsider replacing ban on cats with ‘motivational’ regulations
Letter from Tan Chek Wee, Straits Times Forum 21 Jan 08
I READ with amusement the article in The Sunday Times about ‘Getting to know your neighbours” with a cartoon by Miel showing a smiling lady poking her head from her flat and a cat beside her (The Sunday Times, Jan 13). The problem we face nowadays is really ‘not knowing your neighbours”.
In my neighbourhood, I am fortunate to share a common concern with a few fellow residents on the plight of the community cats.
Cats are pushed to the brink by an increasing human population and decreasing tolerance. They are killed for reasons ranging from noise made during mating, defecation in ‘upstairs” common areas (usually caused by cat owners who let their cats roam out), residents’ phobia of cats, scratches on cars, etc.
Incensed by the ineffective killing of about 13,000 cats every year for more than two decades and at the public expense of more than half a million dollars annually, we decided to get our butts out of our flats and spent many evenings trapping the cats in our neighbourhood and brought them to the vet to be sterilised.
After about three years, we achieved a near 100 per cent sterilised colony of cats. We also work with the town council to help resolve complaints about cats.
Through this community work, we met fellow residents from all walks of life, of all ages and of all races. We also got to meet residents who complained about cats and residents who owned cats but were unaware of responsible pet ownership (that includes sterilisation and keeping them indoors).
We were touched by the fact that almost all the residents who complained about cats did not want killing as a solution. This was often not known to some town council property officers who assumed that engaging pest controllers to remove ‘downstairs” community cats was the solution. This naturally resulted in a recurrence of complaints. By identifying the right cause of the complaints, we could offer a solution that costs only a bottle of vinegar and a packet of camphor balls (to clear the smell of cat poo and to repel the cats).
However, the lack of HDB regulations on responsible cat ownership is a major setback to the success of a managed colony of cats. Irresponsible owners abandon cats and kittens for reasons ranging from moving house, spring cleaning and unwanted litters from unsterilised home cats.
Irresponsible owners let their cats roam freely, resulting in complaints from neighbours. Town Council officers are reluctant to speak to such owners about pet responsibility because they said that ‘HDB does not allow cats”. Referring such recalcitrant cat owners to their HDB colleagues will only result in the abandonment of these cats in the estate instead. This will only transfer the problem to the Town Council which may then blame the expanding population on caregivers like me and my fellow residents.
I appeal to the HDB to urgently reconsider replacing the ban on cats with regulations so that such irresponsible owners will be ‘motivated” by fines to keep their cats indoors and to have them sterilised. This is a win-win situation to residents in general, to caregivers and also to the property officers in the town council.