Bruno was a community cat who lived in Kallang Trivista. Greedy and lively, he always enjoyed multiple helpings at feeding time.
When he started going off food, I figured that something was amiss. On the recommendation of a fellow cat caregiver, my mum and I took him to Furiends Veterinary Clinic.
Alas, blood tests revealed that Bruno had a severe infection from an unknown source. He would have to be hospitalised to clear out the infection before further treatment options could be considered.
Over the next few weeks, I fretted over Bruno’s condition. Would he get better? How long would that take? Would he ever be well enough to be released back into the community?
Finding Bruno a “furever home”
There was a silver lining in the dark clouds. Happily, despite being ill, Bruno was still his affectionate self. He enjoyed attention from visitors, and would sit on the nurses’ laps.
Perhaps deeming him sociable and suitable for adoption, one of the nurses at Furiends Veterinary Clinic reached out to a long-time client, Sam, who agreed to adopt Bruno when he was discharged. That put to rest my concerns about releasing Bruno back into the outdoors.
Bruno spent six weeks at Furiends before going home with his new owner. I’m immensely grateful to Dr Kitty Huang and her team for sparing no effort in saving his life and ensuring his recovery.
Bruno, being a stray, was treated at a discount, but the care and effort they gave him was by no means on a budget. They truly have a heart for animals! Sam, too, is certainly to be commended for his noble act of kindness in offering his home to a stray.
Neighbours contribute to Bruno’s vet bills in spite of pandemic
Despite the significant subsidy, Bruno’s bill was still a hefty sum due to blood tests and other costs associated with long-term hospitalisation. I was worried. My own cat was due for hernia repair surgery next month, which would not come cheap.
A neighbour devised an idea to raise money. We offered to do group orders for a popular food outlet that did not deliver. We managed the orders, picked up the products and tacked on a couple of dollars to the original prices for the fund.
The group orders were well-received by neighbours. Some even offered help to pick up the orders so we could free up more money for the fund! Others topped up additional cash as donations.
Still, the money raised could only cover part of the bill. I decided to make a fundraising appeal on our neighbourhood Facebook page. I uploaded the bill and pictures of Bruno I’d taken at the vet.
I did not expect much. We are in the midst of a pandemic and many have had their livelihoods and incomes affected. But my neighbours rose to the occasion. I received words of appreciation and enough donations to pay off the eventual bill.
Friendship and encouragement from cat-loving neighbours
In the weeks that Bruno was hospitalised, he suffered several complications, fueling a roller coaster of emotions in me. Being an anxious person, I was quick to assume the worst and at my lowest point, I even blamed myself for taking Bruno to the vet and approving his treatment.
That was, of course, illogical, as my neighbours pointed out. Bruno would have starved to death if he did not eat. I am grateful to them for encouraging and consoling me. This is not something I could confide in my own friends, as few would truly understand and empathise, not having cared for community cats themselves.
Through the fundraising appeal, I befriended cat feeders Ana and Stella. Aunty Ana cannot speak Chinese and Aunty Stella cannot speak English, but they somehow became good friends.
The only hitch was when Aunty Stella wanted to give a medical ointment to Aunty Ana for her body aches. She had me translate the usage instructions for Aunty Ana. I could not help marveling over how a love for community cats could bring people of different races and walks of life together. Indeed, love knows no bounds!
Bruno begins life as a house cat
Since his discharge, Bruno has been adapting to life as a house cat. He sleeps in his new owner’s bedroom and has learnt to use the litter box. With the blessings of many, I’m sure Bruno and his lovely new family will lead a blissful life together.
Amidst an uptick in pet abandonment during Covid-19 and recent community cat abuse cases, I hope that sharing Bruno’s story will bring a much-needed reminder that there is kindness and love for the voiceless and vulnerable amongst us.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
I believe the same can be inferred from a community and neighbourhood, and I feel extremely blessed to live where I do.
The sad reality is, not every stray is as lucky as Bruno. Not every stray will have access to necessary help when they are ill or in distress. There is a perpetual shortage of resources for stray animals and their caregivers.
In some terrible cases, we hear of neighbourhood cats being abused. I’m glad that in at least one of these incidents, the offender has been caught and is being tried.
Every so often, we read about elderly caregivers digging into their life savings to care for their community cats, and we pile compliments and well wishes for them on social media.
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While their self-sacrificial spirit is commendable, it calls to question why they are expected to give up their basic quality of life to shoulder a responsibility that was not solely theirs to begin with.
We, especially those who profess to be animal lovers, can do our part to look out for our neighbourhood strays. We can exercise our compassion and love for animals starting in our own backyards.
There is a saying: “To judge a place, look at the stray cats. If they are friendly, bold and relaxed, you know it is a good village with good people.”
Ng Mei Yi