Who would have imagined Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin as a cat person? He recently took to Facebook to announce his adoption of a stray kitten, much to the delight of netizens.

As cats aren’t legally allowed to be kept in HDB flats (yet), many feline-lovers like Tan often look after the stray cats that have become permanent residents in their void decks.

Some of them regularly provide food for the cats and become community feeders.

Others, like my two daughters, simply enjoy the occasional playtime with their furry friends whenever we chance upon our estate’s cats.

Although cats are often on the receiving end of kindness from residents in the neighbourhood, these community felines can also teach us a thing or two about neighbourliness.

Looking out for others

, Three lessons we can learn from cats on being a purr-fect neighbour
Image source: Facebook / Haslinda Ali

The monsoon season is upon us. This means having to face downpours and gusts of wind blowing our umbrellas inside out.

Being a community cat doesn’t save you from getting rained on. Unless you’re a cat in Jurong West.

According to a Facebook post by Haslinda Ali, during a storm last week, umbrellas were left open on the ground near a sheltered walkway where a cat was sound asleep. The umbrellas were placed by good Samaritans to protect the snoozing stray from the heavy rain.

Residents also went the extra mile – placing a pair of pliers and a small concrete slab to weigh the umbrellas down and prevent them from being blown away by the wind.

The heartwarming post was shared over 700 times by cat lovers all over Singapore.

If we can do it for a neighbourhood cat, which is perfectly capable of taking care of itself, why not extend the same concern to our neighbours?

We could collect their parcels if the delivery man drops it off while they aren’t home, move their laundry in along the corridor during a sudden storm or share an umbrella if they are stuck in the rain at the bus stop.

Coming together in difficulty and tragedy

, Three lessons we can learn from cats on being a purr-fect neighbour
Image source: MS News

Toby, a community cat in Bukit Merah, was tragically killed on Nov 4. Neighbours found its body near the road and believed that it had been hit by a car.

Since then, tributes have come pouring in. Handwritten letters and flowers were left to remember the beloved community cat at Block 125 Kim Tian Road. Someone even set up a shrine at Toby’s favourite chair, where the gentle kitty spent much of its time.

, Three lessons we can learn from cats on being a purr-fect neighbour
The chair Toby liked to sit on. Image source: MS News

One resident described Toby as a warm and friendly animal that would meow and follow people it recognised. Neighbours treated Toby as one of their own and would leave a cushion to lie on or a piece of cardboard to shelter in whenever it rained.

Reminiscing on her memories with Toby, Bukit Merah resident Nicky Hui shared in the Sayang Our Singapore’s Community Cat group:

“I used to call her SmallFace 🥺 she would always reply me whenever I spoke to her and curl herself at my feet. RIP SmallFace.”

Communities often unite in the face of tragedy. In this case, these Bukit Merah neighbours came together to pay tribute to a beloved cat. Similarly, in a time of difficulty such as Covid-19, we can also learn to be more compassionate neighbours by offering support and sharing resources, especially to the elderly and vulnerable.

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Keeping the neighbourhood clean

, Three lessons we can learn from cats on being a purr-fect neighbour
Image source: M Syazanna

It may be kind to feed stray cats, but it is not kind to litter.

According to a poster by Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), it is not wrong to feed stray cats, however, have these guidelines in mind when doing so:

  • Don’t place food directly on the floor. Use paper plates, bowls or newspapers.
  • Always clear up leftovers and do not leave a mess.
  • Feed away from areas where there is high human traffic.
  • Always feed cats downstairs. Never feed upstairs along corridors or on staircase landings, as cats would be attracted to loiter in these areas and cause inconvenience to your neighbours.
  • Never throw food out your window.

While we may have good intentions to show kindness to stray cats, we do not want to be careless when feeding them lest the unattended food attracts rats and cockroaches that can affect the health of residents living there. In fact, this applies for any food or rubbish that we intend to dispose of, including not cluttering or causing obstruction to shared corridors.

Yes, cats have quite a few lessons to offer to us humans – including learning to co-exist more peacefully. If we can show kindness to our animal friends, we can also definitely extend the same graciousness to our neighbours.

To find out more on how to be a caregiver for your community cats, visit the Cat Welfare Society website here.

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