Wednesday 2 June 2021

Deliberate acts of cruelty against community cats in Singapore

A spate of deliberate acts of cruelty against community cats in Singapore is concerning to some residents. The type of wounds inflicted clearly indicate deliberate acts of violence against these cats. These are deep slash type wounds to their bodies. And it is not the first time this has happened. In this instance violence against cats has occurred in a residential district of Singapore called Ang Mo Kio. It is abbreviated as AMK. It is situated in the north-east of Singapore and is the third most populated planning area in the North-East region and ranks eighth in terms of population in the country overall.

Ang Mo Kio cats have been slashed by abuser
Ang Mo Kio cats have been slashed by abuser. Photos: Ang Mo Kio South Caregivers and Feeders

To be perfectly frank, what is happening in Singapore happens all over the world in developed countries. It's identical. The overall scenario is absolutely typical. Society has abandoned cats through irresponsible cat ownership. These are domesticated cats. They become community cats and some of them produce offspring who become feral cats. The upshot is that you get cats without homes living on the streets and in this instance, it happens to be in a place which is known for its order and cleanliness. The authorities in Singapore like to keep the place squeaky-clean.

That attitude must filter down or it filters up from the population and so when cats 'litter the streets' of an orderly society it must irritate some people. And those people who are insensitive to animal welfare are liable to be driven to abuse against these animals. Set against that there are residents who are better-disciplined and realise that although the cats spoil the appearance of the place (in the eyes of some) they have a duty to act humanely towards them because society put them there. It is not the fault of the cats and therefore they should not be punished in any way.

They should be helped and their number should be reduced in a humane way. That is why in Singapore, as occurs elsewhere, there are volunteers who practice TNR (trap-neuter-release) programs which gradually reduces the population size. Within those programs the cats are fed in the interests of their welfare.

Some residents don't understand how TNR works or disagree with it and therefore they think that feeding street cats promotes the spread of disease and encourages more street cats. And I suspect, that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this feeling of the spread of disease. A lot of people think that street cat spread diseases to people. They don't because the diseases that cats suffer from are nearly always not zoonotic by which I mean they are particular to the species and cannot be transferred to another species i.e. humans.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 is zoonotic and therefore it can be spread from cats to people. There is no doubt therefore, in my mind, that this spate of abuses and cruelty against cats has been prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic. On a philosophical level, if people feel free to abuse cats because of fears of getting Covid from them, they should turn their abuse to people because it is people who are far more likely to give them the disease.

Research indicates that it is unlikely that domestic cats transmit the disease to people. There is no current evidence of it. Some residents are making up their own minds without reference to science. They are fearful. It is this fear which sometimes drives people to do bad things.

However, animal cruelty has no place in the society of any developed country or indeed any country developed or undeveloped. Animals are sentient beings. They feel pain and pleasure just like humans. If people feel that the street cats are a nuisance, rather than being abusive towards them, they should do something positive about it. They should join the volunteers running TNR programs to reduce the numbers. They should learn about cat behaviour and responsible cat ownership and educate people on these topics. Education reduces the abandonment of cats. It is all about education. Ignorance is the source of cruelty towards animals.

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