Take a stroll in any HDB estates and you will see them darting here and there. Community cats or sometimes referred to as “stray cats”, are found throughout Singapore and they are the heart of many of these neighborhoods. These cats are well-adjusted to humans, and some may even seek their human neighbours for a pet or scratch under the chin! Even then, with humans and cats sharing a space, there are bound to be misunderstandings. There will inevitably be human-cat conflicts. We need to understand that cats will be cats. It is up to us to take that first step in building a harmonious relationship with our community cats; become good neighbours and responsible caregivers.
Be a responsible feeder
It is not wrong to feed stray cats. It’s an act of kindness as there isn’t much room for our community cats to hunt for prey (food). Without feeders, most stray cats would resort to going through our trash bins and may unwittingly dirty the area around the bin with trash. They may even end up sick or underfed. Though the intention is good, we do not want to be careless and leave unfinished food around the neighbourhood. Unattended cat food will attract pests like ants, rats and cockroaches that can affect the health of residents living there.
The Cat Welfare Society (CWS) has set out basic guidelines on how to be a responsible feeder.
If you are wondering what to feed these stray cats, please feed them only cat food. Please do not feed table scraps as some human food can be toxic to cats. You may feed either wet or dry cat food but look for higher quality cat food that is nutritionally complete and balanced and made with real meat. Feed the best you can comfortably afford. Here are some affordable, delicious and healthy cat food options for your consideration.
The food should be placed in containers or paper plates, and not directly on the ground. Feeding your neighbourhood cats is not illegal but littering is! As such, it is recommended that feeders clean up the area after feeding and unfinished cat food shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours.
Should ants and other insects congregate at the feeding area, please clean the area before the next feeding. Remember not to use strong, chemical-based insecticides around the feeding area. Repeated exposure to insecticide can result in insecticide poisoning in cats! Use the non-poisonous Bio-X 3-in-1 Aerosol Spray (Insect Repellent + Disinfectant + Deodorizer) multi-purpose disinfectant spray or any spray that is eco-friendly and safe for all mammals and birds.
Fresh water should be provided to cats daily in clean containers. The previous day’s water should be poured out and the container wiped down to ensure no mosquito larvae stick to the sides. If possible, water bowls should be marked with when the water was last changed.
Look out for injuries or illnesses
If you notice a cat exhibiting signs of injury such as bleeding, laboured breathing, limping or being extremely weak, take the cat to the nearest veterinarian clinic or call SPCA for help. Oftentimes, local authorities like SPCA are swamped with other calls and may not be able to pick up the cat unless it is in a life-threatening situation. They may advise you to take the cat to SPCA yourself, or in less severe cases, they may ask you to monitor the cat for a few days to see if its condition improves. If you are unsure of how to care for a cat, please bring the cat to the nearby vet clinic.
Take note that an injured cat may behave unpredictably. Be careful when approaching the cat. Go low and slow. Sudden movements can startle a sick or injured animal, especially a stray one. As you approach the injured cat, talk to it in a soothing tone and always watch its body language. If the cat seems hostile to you – growling or hissing, you should stop until the cat relaxes before you continue to move closer.
Another sign to look for is the cat’s ears. If the cat’s ears have turned backwards or flattened, they are angry or fearful. It’s a warning sign telling you not to go any closer. Again, you should stop and wait until the cat relaxes before advancing.
Check if the cat is sterilised
To check if your feline neighbour is sterilised, look at the cat’s left ear. Tipping of its’ left ear shows that it has been sterilised. If the cat has not been sterilised, do contact the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) to book a sterilisation slot with participating clinics. Alternatively, you can contact SPCA as they too offer free sterilisation for stray cats. Spaying and neutering our community cats offer population control. Behaviours like fighting and marking are also reduced in sterilised cats. If you do come across cat markings around the neighbourhood, there are plenty of enzyme cleaners for cat urine available in the market today. Here’s the Simple Solution Stain & Odor Remover For Cats & Dogs. This is a powerful solution that will break down, neutralize, and permanently eliminate stains and odours, including urine, faeces, and vomit.
The Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme (SCSP) is an initiative to help with stray cat management responsibly and humanely. This was co-funded by the Cat Welfare Society and the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, with the support of Town Councils. This programme has been expanded to cover all cats in all HDB, industrial, private, and commercial estates. In this Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programme, community cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped (the universal sign that a cat is part of a TNR program), and then returned to their homes. TNR improves cats’ lives and provides an effective way for communities to coexist with cats.
Steps for humanely deterring cats
Finally, here are some tips on what you can do if you are bothered by stray cats.
Place wire or plastic meshes on gates and other entrances to prevent cats from entering your premise.
Should you need to stop a cat from defecating on your premise, use non-poisonous deterrents like citrus peels or white vinegar spray.
Use rubber spiked mats around your garden to deter the cat from digging up your garden.
Put a tight lid on your trash can to deter cats from going through your trash can.
If the community cat loves to lounge on your car, use a car cover or place carpet runners on top of your car to avoid paw prints.
Whatever you do, do not relocate the community cat! Removing a healthy community cat creates a ‘vacuum effect’, inviting other cats to come and occupy that area instead. It will not solve your problem, but it might put the cat in danger. Cats are territorial creatures. Your community cat has already made this area its’ home. If you remove it from its home, it might try to find its way back, travelling across the island. This will put the cat in much more danger than if it were just lounging around the neighbourhood. Relocate community cats only as a last resort and only if they are in imminent danger.
We all need to understand that these community cats are here to stay. They are members of the community., thus the term "community cats". We need to learn to accommodate these neighbourhood cats and live in harmony together. If you find yourself in a disagreement regarding the feeding and caring of your community cats, the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) offers mediation services to help with disagreements. Do contact CWS for assistance should the need arises.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.