KUCHING: The Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) shelter is experiencing a pre-festive leap in population of cats and dogs.
These pets are being treated like last year’s baggage when shown the door by their heartless owners.
As the number of animals grow at the shelter, so do their chances of contracting and spreading disease, caving in to the stress of a new environment, and simply pining away because they miss their home and the humans.
This was how Bambie, Bimbo and Bamboo joined the Lee’s household before Chinese New Year 2012.
Merlye Pan, 30, and her husband Geoffrey Lee, 31, took them home under an adoption drive.
Bambie was chosen as the Lees knew an adult tabby stands less chance than a younger cat of being adopted.
Merlye told The Borneo Post that she was moved by regular updates on SSPCA’s Facebook page about the number of unwanted pets going to the shelter before festivities.
After marrying Lee, settling in his hometown of Kuching, and having two children, the only box left on their list to tick off was to add pets to the household. A friend suggested they adopt. When they saw photos and read stories on the SSPCA page, they were shocked.
“It’s surprising how people can do that to their pets. It’s very sad and it’s not the animal’s fault. It’s the humans – the irresponsible owners,” said Pan, who is originally from Kuala Lumpur.
Pan, who grew up in a pet-friendly household, said she had her first dog when she was four.
“My mother wanted to teach responsibility towards a pet, and that you don’t simply go around torturing animals as such behaviour can lead to doing the same to children and others.”
As for Pan’s husband Geoffrey Lee, his parents did not like pets and neither did he until he met a cat named Angel.
He recounted how he shared a flat in New Zealand with several Kuching people and one day they brought home a cat.
“I was opposed to it at first,” Lee confessed.
When his flatmates were away, he was stuck with cat-sitting duties. That was when Angel won him over. Lee got so attached to her that he sometimes call one of his other cats ‘Angel’ by accident.
His acceptance and love for the felines did not go unrewarded. Lee had asthma, which was triggered by cat hair, but he overcame it after spending time with Angel in New Zealand.
Pan said their daughter inherited asthma from her dad, but after building resistance from regular exposure to their cats, was cured too.
“When my in-laws visited, they objected to the cats and insisted that we get rid of them,” she said.
When it comes to the topic of bathing the household pets before the festive season, the Lees pooh-poohed it.
“Cats are clean. People say they will lose fur and throw up hairballs, but it doesn’t bother us. People also have hair falls. Sweep lah!” said Pan, adding that feeding the cat properly will reduce unnecessary fur loss.
Discarding a pet simply because it has grown old sets a bad example to young family members, she pointed out.
“When you grow old do you want your kids to do the same to you?”
Bimbo and Bamboo have since moved to a neighbour’s house where there are more cats, leaving Bambie the place all to herself.
Her humans recalled some of her antics like how she would kill lizards and rats, and let them know by leaving the heads just outside one of the doors.
“She leaves about 70 per cent of her food for her boyfriend!” Pan revealed.
The adults keep a vigilant eye on their two young children, Brenda and Brandon, encouraging them to play gently with the cats. Bambie is a tolerant cat, welcoming the attention of the little ones.
Lee added that when you own a pet, the duties go beyond feeding it.
He explained how a group of dogs once squeezed in between the gate bars and cornered Bambie in their garden. This caused him to place wire netting over the lower half of their gate, which was visually unappealing but necessary.
“You have to know how to protect them,” he pointed out.
According to a recent press release from the SSPCA, hundreds of pets are dumped at their shelter, on the streets, or collected by the council in the weeks leading to a major festival.
“Many owners do this simply because they don’t want to pay boarding fees when they leave home for the holidays. They promise their children new pets for the New Year. But the pets will likely be disposed off (killed) as there is no way the thousands of animals surrendered or dumped each year can be re-homed,” said the press statement.
Challenged to explain why they dump their pets, these owners say: “Because the festive season is coming.”
In Kuching, the SSPCA is treated as a dumping ground for unwanted pets. The shelter was meant to be a temporary home for rescued animals to recover from injuries or trauma. During their recovery, the public are welcome to view them and, hopefully, give them a good home.
For updates on the shelter, visit www.facebook.com/SarawakSPCA.