Vocation and Duty: Community Caregivers

Community Caregivers

When you think of animal-cause volunteers, you axiomatically think of shelter volunteers.

But what about the volunteers who fly under the radar; the volunteers who are tucked away in the heartland, who look out for the strays or community animals that are often forgotten or overlooked?

This week, we dig deep into the heartlands, and give due credit to the dark horses of the animal-cause volunteer world – our community caregivers.

 

The Job

The Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Singapore manages a team of approved feeders, or “caregivers”, who are tasked with “feeding community animals responsibly”, “sterilising community animals”, “caring for the animals and monitoring their general health”, and “mediating when issues arise in relation to the community animals”.

Put simply, community caregivers take care of the community animals, feed, monitor, and intervene (for medical reasons) whenever they see necessary.

Ah Beng Pet Store uncovers the roles of community caregivers, and (in particular) their impact on the stray (or the more endearingly called) community cat population of Singapore.

Community caretakers and some of the stray cats during feeding time

(Photo credits: https://www.goingplacessingapore.sg/)

 

Proper Feeding

Feeding community cats is a responsibility that community caregivers must upkeep.

Cats don’t fare too well on their own outdoors without human intervention. Often, they eat out of garbage cans, or kill the occasional mouse/rat.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to feed stray cats in Singapore. That being said, leaving the leftover food unattended/not cleaning up after feeding strays is inconsiderate at best.

In fact, it considered to be littering (which is an actual offence).

Besides, it is not sanitary to leave food unattended.

Rodents and insects may flock to the leftover food, and bacteria can grow too. Unsuspecting felines who are too hungry to care would either get bitten by insects or ingest spoilt food.

Despite the gesture or intention (to feed strays), proper cleaning up is necessary.

This is why community caregivers’ roles are so important.

Community caregivers go to dedicated feeding spots (approved by the SPCA or CWS) that are set up in various communities not only to feed, but also to monitor, and clean up after these stray cats.

 

Trap-Neuter-Return

If you think that feeding stray cats and petting them is all that a community caregiver does, then you’re greatly misinformed.

Besides feeding strays cats, community caregivers have a role to play in ensuring the sustainability of the existing stray cat population.

Sterilisation of stray cats is “very important in order to humanely control the existing stray cat population to ensure sustainability“.

Many community caregivers employ the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) technique to capture strays, send them for sterilisation/neutering, and then return them to the same place where they were first captured.

TNR is a non-lethal strategy for reducing the number of community cats and improving the quality of life for cats, wildlife and people.

It involves:

  • Humanely trapping community cats
  • Spaying or neutering them
  • Vaccinating them against rabies
  • Surgically removing the tip of one ear (a “tipped” ear is the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been spayed or neutered)
  • Returning the cats to their home

Community caregivers can either set up traps themselves, pick up the strays and/or request for sterilisation support.

 

The Caregivers

But who are these community caregivers? Have you ever wondered which friendly neighbour of yours has been providing food and care for the community animals in your neighbourhood?

In a Coconuts Singapore article, they shone light on individuals like Michelle and Cindy who have been diligently caring for their community’s cats often fly under the radar, often because they (and what they do as community caregivers) are met with much judgment and “resistance” from the community.

Check out the Cat Welfare Society for more information on a community caregiver’s role.

A poster by the Cat Welfare Society, explaining the community caregiver’s role

(Photo credits: http://www.catwelfare.org/educationmaterials)

 

NUS Cat Cafe

Heard of NUS Cat Cafe? While it’s namesake evokes a certain stereotype (think: coffee, biscuits, entry fees to an out-of-town hipster cafe), the NUS Cat Cafe is nothing of the sort. Much like the SPCA’s team of caregivers, they’re a group of dedicated volunteers who look out for the university’s resident cats, sans the cafe-ing part.

A non-profit volunteer student organisation, the NUS Cat Cafe is dedicated to “provid[ing] population control and continu[ed] care [for] the stray cats in NUS through sterilisation, responsible feeding and proper cat management”.

Volunteers of the NUS Cat Cafe take on the roles of regular cat feeders, trap and sterilise campus cats, monitor cats for any signs of illness or injuries, identify cat clusters on campus, and educate the public on responsible feeding.

A campus cat that was trapped, to be neutered and returned

(Photo credits: http://blog.nus.edu.sg/nuscatcafe/)

Vocation and Duty

Community caregivers aren’t just the occasional feeders. It’s a full time job that demands regularity, consistency, and dedication.

If you would like to be a community caregiver, head over to the CWS’s webpage for more details.

Remember, being a community caregiver is a tough job; the animals you care for rely on you, so make sure you are able to dedicate an ample amount of time and resources before applying to become one!

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