The Straits Times carried an article about a cat hoarding situation in Singapore on 11 November 2021 of an elderly resident living at a cemetery was keeping numerous unsterilised cats and birds. The cats were generally in poor medical condition and kept in filthy enclosures. A kind volunteer had been assisting this caregiver in her personal basis. She subsequently flagged the situation to CWS and we assisted to provide sterilisation slots for the cats.
Both the volunteer and CWS also alerted AVS of the situation. Of grave concern to CWS specifically was the fact that the caregiver was displaying signs of hoarding of animals, a mental health matter that CWS is not equipped to handle. CWS has provided this caregiver with sterilisation assistance in the past at the caregiver’s request. It was very troubling that this caregiver had not requested the same assistance again and that she had, according to the volunteer, actually resisted sterilisation and indicated a want to breed the cats. This was a stark departure from her previous behaviour and suggested that there were more complex factors in play.
We set out below some of our experience with multi-cat households and hoarding below.
As mentioned in the article, CWS encounters numerous instances of multi-cat households. Most of these households face financial difficulties and are unable to sterilise their cats leading to an overpopulation in the home. CWS assists these households through our Pet Cat Sterilisation Programme for financially disadvantaged families.
We also encounter instances of hoarding in our work. More frequently, we deal with cases of individuals who hoard items and who happen to have cats. In such cases, the cats are usually unsterilised resulting in there being many cats in the home. These cats are usually also in poor condition due to the individual’s inability to provide them with sufficient resources. However, because the hoarding behaviour usually only extends to items and not the cats, such individuals tend to cooperate with CWS and allow the cats to be taken away for sterilisation. Combining neutering and rehoming efforts on the case, the population of cats is quickly stabilised and becomes more manageable within a shorter period of time.
In a minority of cases, smaller in number but requiring far more intense management, the individuals are hoarders of cats. Such individuals compulsively “collect” kittens and cats and fail to sterilise them. As their compulsion revolves around the cats, such individuals tend to refuse CWS’s offers of assistance. Without consent, CWS is unable to take any steps, including the most basic step of sterilisation, much less rehoming .
Even if we are able to assist the cats through sterilisation and rehomers are able to rehome cats, there is no assurance that the individual will not simply go out and get more cats. It is therefore necessary for the solution to involve some form of mental health assistance for the individuals in question as well.
STABILITY FOR CATS THROUGH STABILITY FOR THE OWNERS
As we explained in the article, “A coordinated effort is vital to create a long-term solution that benefits not just the cats, but also the human beings. Stabilising the human being means that the situation is not repeated and that offers stability to the cats.“
CWS is simply not trained or equipped to manage the human element of hoarding. We are therefore asking for assistance from the public for this.
If you are a mental health practitioner or familiar with social agencies that may be able to work together with us on a referral and/or case-by-case basis, please do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.