Noah's Residents

Noah's Residents

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A lonely journey of compassion

This article was written with permission from Mr T.T. Lim

Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS) has seen its fair share of animal hoarders and the condition of the animals who had become the prisoners of their love. Most of them start off with good intentions and have compassion for the animals. When they see a stray, they find it impossible to turn away. They allow their hearts to rule their heads and became addicted to the accumulation of more animals. They are overwhelmed by their well-meaning intention that their animal care is neglected or compromised.  

Take the case of Mr T.T. Lim.  His neighbors label him as the “Crazy Cat Man”.  Uncle Lim is 67 years old, a retired bachelor who lives with his street cats.  The cats are like his children and he knows each by name and their medical histories. He retreated from socializing with his friends because of his cats. His friends stopped dropping by his house because of the stench of the cats’ faeces and urine and possible health risk to themselves. Neighbours complained about the presence of cats’ waste in their gardens and infestation of parasites. Eventually, he became withdrawn and isolated.

This kind man would bring his rescues to our Noahs’ Ark Animal Birth Control (ABC) Clinic in Melaka for medical treatment and sterilization.  Uncle Raymund has shared and counseled Uncle Lim on the following:-

(a)  Management of community cats i.e. that instead of the scattered, random  approach adopted by Uncle Lim on picking up stray cats across a wide geographical area, he should concentrate on specific locations, for example, the food-court at Bukit Bruang.  This way he could get an idea of the cat population there and to sterilize as many as possible. This approach is faster and has more visible impact to curb the over-population. Furthermore he would be able to contain and manage any infection afflicting them.

(b)  Quarantine of sick animals and proper nursing protocol. Invariably the cats Uncle Lim rescued are afflicted with respiratory infection.  In order not to transmit any infection to his healthy cats, Uncle Lim should not allow them to have any contact.

(c)  Trap Neuter and Release (TNR). Cats that have been neutered must be returned to where they were first caught.  However after having nursed the sick animal to health or after sterilization, Uncle Lim forms a strong attachment to the animal and cannot bear to release them. The “R” in the TNR did not materialize. Thus, began the accumulation of cats in Uncle Lim’s household.

Sometime in May 2014, while Uncle Lim was mopping the kitchen floor in his home, he slipped and landed on his back. His injuries were so severe that he laid paralyzed and helpless for three days.  Without food and water, Uncle Lim drifted in and out of consciousness.  His shouts for help were unanswered as he lived alone.  

On the third day after the fall, a friend dropped by his house, after failing to get him on the phone. Uncle Lim knew this was his last chance to get attention from his friend, otherwise he knew that he would not make it.  He mustered all his strength and expelled an explosive shout. His friend quickly attended to him and called the ambulance.  

No one knew the exact number of cats in this multi-cat household except that the population was burgeoning.  The 30 odd cats that hung around the house were stressed, frightened and ill.  A Noah’s Ark volunteer, Shaqira did most of the heavy work – feeding and nursing the cats on daily basis. She took it upon herself to clean and mop the house because the cats, in their stressed condition, had defecated on the floor and other surfaces. 

I wished that Uncle Lim had listed the total number of cats and their respective medications, rather than us doing “a guessing game”. Due to the overcrowding and the deteriorating housing condition, more cats were falling sick. Some started to linger outside the house, becoming a nuisance to the neighbours.  Whilst we took turns to shuttle to Uncle Lim’s house daily to tend to his furry friends, we felt the strain as we had to juggle our own personal responsibilities with the added workload.

At best, we managed to find homes for some of the kittens. Sadly, there were no takers for the rest of the cats.  It is unconscionable to abandon the cats and let them fend for themselves as the street is not their home.  I kept Uncle Raymund updated of Uncle Lim’s medical condition which would require long recuperation,  the deteriorating sanitary conditions of Lim’s house and the complains from his neighbours of the nuisance  from the cats. Uncle Raymund offered the sanctuary as a permanent home for the cats on compassionate grounds.

We set out with our rescue mission to bring the cats safely to the sanctuary. However, we were met with obstacles. Cats are highly territorial creatures and those 30 felines were very suspicious and mistrustful of us.  Some tried to hide almost immediately when we entered the premises.  It was a daunting task to coax the cats into our carriers and now I understand why “herding cats” is a synonym for “chaos”.

After an exhausting “cat and mouse” chase as some of the cats were stubbornly elusive, we manage to round up all the cats without any “cat-astrophe.” The cats’ first stop was the ABC Clinic in Melaka as a temporary holding area where they were de-fleaed and de-wormed until they were re-located to the sanctuary.  We also provided food and water.

Cats getting ready for their journey from
Melaka to Noah's Ark in JB.

A mother cat nursing her kittens.
On 31 May 2014, Raymund and I visited Uncle Lim at the hospital to provide updates on his 30 furry friends and assured him that Noah's Ark will become the cats’ forever home. His eyes teared.  The grief, guilt and burden that Uncle Lim had been shouldering were lifted. I could tell that Uncle Lim is grateful to Noah's Ark. He can now focus on recovery. 

On the same evening, it took six people to hoist the carriers and secure them properly for the cats’ two hour journey to their “Purr-adise”.  45 minutes later, our rescue mission was completed.  

On 7 March 2015 ,Uncle Lim celebrated
his birthday.  He is now residing
at a nursing home.
Uncle Lim has also undergone surgery and has cervical spine disc prosthesis implanted in situ c3/c4, c4/c5 and c5/c6.  Recovery will take a longer due to his age.  Most importantly, he has a positive outlook in life and he hopes that one day he is able to continue caring for the community animals.

Instead of being appreciated for his compassion for the street cats, Uncle Lim was judged negatively, either as a hoarder, eccentric feeder or a person with mental disorder. He was ostracized.  It tells us something about our society’s treatment towards stray animals and their carers. We hope that our society is able to reach out to help those in need and support them with help such as veterinary care or placement of these animals.

By Siah Li Mei

Please do read our articles on Where there’s a pet, there is a will and The importance of including your pet in your will and a video on “The street is not their home.”

Meet Uncle Lim's cat residents at Noah's Ark.

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