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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Love of Animals to Career Choice

Our volunteer team members are matched to portfolios that not only interest them and play to their strengths, but also develop them personally and professionally. Passion that reaps its rewards is what makes for a sustainable volunteering career. Here is the story of one of our Foster Care Volunteers, Riley.

From a very young age, I have always loved animals. My mother used to tell me a story from when I was two years old. When I would go out with my mother, I used to love to try and pet every stray animal that I saw. It didn’t matter whether it was a cat or dog. I simply wanted to share my love with the animals I encountered. One day, a dog tried to bite my hand off, but my mother pulled me away in time. I was bit startled, but unfazed, so I continued to play around with stray animals and my love just continued onwards.
I had always wanted to have a pet, but the day did not come until I was twelve years old. My mother’s friend and I brought home a gorgeous three-year-old female Basset Hound, whom I fell in love with at first sight. My second dog came along a few years later. Having animals in the house was amazing. Their unique personalities and beautiful faces just lit up my days. When my older one passed, it was one of the most painful experiences of my life and to this day, it makes me sad to think of the day I received the awful news.
My love of animals even extended to my eating habits. When I was thirteen, I decided to stop eating meat. Giving up beef was easy because I was scared of Mad Cow Disease. Giving up the other meats came about mainly when I thought about how the animal ended up on my plate and the suffering it had endured. Then, at the age of sixteen, I gave up seafood, when I realized those animals also suffer when they are killed. Finally, several months ago, I decided to become a vegan because I had learned more about dairy and egg farms, and I just hate the idea of any animal suffering on my behalf.
When I was younger, I had played around with the idea of becoming a vet, but never taking it too seriously because I was always weak in science when I was in school. Over the years, I wanted to volunteer at animal shelters back in New York, but I was too consumed with many things in my life. When I got to Singapore, I had the urge again to volunteer, so this time around, I went ahead and volunteered.  I had had enough of spending all my time being too involved in my day job, which I didn’t like very much anyway. I needed more happiness in my life.
I began to spend my Saturdays volunteering at the kennel for Action for Singapore dogs and at Love Kuching. I had always loved dogs and had the most experience with them, so volunteering at the kennel was an easy decision to make. Before joining Love Kuching, I had heard about it from a friend that had adopted her cats from there, but I was still unsure about adding to my volunteering schedule. Then, on one fateful night, I came across an injured cat, whom you all know as Nelly. My husband and I were the couple that passed the contact details of Love Kuching to the rescuers. That night changed a lot in me. Not only did I hate the fact that I did not know how to help Nelly, but I felt slapped in the face by the reality that I should just go ahead and make my love of animals into a career. That entire weekend, I was worried sick over Nelly until Elaine reassured me that she was fine. Over the course of that weekend, I had come to the realization that I want to make rescuing animals into a career and that I wanted to also join Love Kuching in order to help cats as well.
Currently, I am a Receptionist at a GP clinic and I have pretty much been in customer service my entire working career. Customer service has never been my passion. It’s just a role I’ve found myself in as a matter of convenience and also due to a lack of vision. The night of Nelly’s attack was a real kick in the butt for me and the experiences that I’ve had with all the cats and dogs I’ve met while volunteering have also opened my eyes.  In spite of having had an unlucky start at life, each dog and cat I’ve come across has shown to me a remarkable resilience. Without a helping hand, they would not have the chance to be so strong. I want to be one of those helping hands for animals in distress instead of merely crying about the situation. A career as a veterinary nurse would provide me with such skills to truly help, which is why I have ultimately decided that it will be my career choice.  Animals are precious and we should use our knowledge and open hearts to protect them from suffering.

                                         Gary sleeping soundly after his seizure.

                                          Balloon looking at me from his cage.

                                          Playing with Sunkist and Teapot.

                                          Gorgeous dog from the kennel being sweet as always.

                              Treasure is always an inspiration. Thriving even with a permanent spinal injury.

                                          Nelly all curled up for a nice nap.

                                           My first two dogs, Sassy (left) and Honey (right).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Disinfecting Your Home

Managing a cattery setting like ours means we really need to kill all kinds of infection often. Veterinarians recommend a bleach solution of 1 unit household bleach to 32 units of water for regular disinfecting, and we also use bleach as is when washing litterboxes. Bleach literally kills everything

We recently discovered a pharmaceutical grade disinfectant called Petsep that works the same way as bleach does. Only that this doesn't sting hands or stain clothes when used! We also like it for the fact that it comes in tablet form and it is therefore an end to carting heavy bottles of household bleach from the store. So all in all kinder for humans to use. It is also safe for cats to come into contact with as it can be used as a topical wound disinfectant.

How it works, is we add 4 tablets of Petsep to 1 litre of water and fill an old used empty bottle with it. We also have it in spray form for spot cleaning and we add some to the fleece blankets and pillows that cats use. One bottle of Petsep tablets contains 100 tablets so that's 25 litres of disinfectant. Rounds off to about $5 per litre of disinfectant if you want to compare it to hospital disinfectant (generic Dettol).

For handwashing, also very important especially because we don't want our volunteers or visitors to bring home any infectious diseases, we use a surgical handwash that uses 4% chlorhexadine, Bactishield. You can buy this from pharmacies. Cheapest would probably be at Pharmex at Kaki Bukit or Kembangan Plaza.

We try to err on the side of caution and be a bit paranoid about disinfecting. Never mind the humans getting diarrhoea from kitty poop, some foster homes have had half the cat population wiped out because of infection. Thanks to our volunteers, the foster space, cat suites and litterboxes are disinfected at least 3 times a week. Want to help? Join us for play/clean volunteering on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays. Every bit of effort counts!

Stories Of Our Newest Intakes

First newest intake is Dolce, a black boy kitten who is very lovely. He is now 12 weeks old.

He was dumped in Pasir Ris Park alone and meowing away hungry. Some people even removed him from the park and dumped him at a void deck elsewhere. He is very skinny and a bit weak. He arrived on 7 July and has been vaccinated and vet checked since. He spends too much of his time sleeping and so we have been socialising him as much as possible, introducing him to play and interaction with other cats so he can be more adoptable. However, a few days ago we caught him limping and found out that he seems to have hurt his shoulder, possibly through play which he is at a disadvantage at because he is skinny and weak. He has been resting that leg and we carry him to the litterbox and to the food. Cubby seems the most keen on making friends with him, and he likes her too. When he recovers we will put his adoption blog post up!

The next intakes came in a group of three, collectively known as the Guillemard kittens. Recently someone had dumped kittens in a park there and there were reportedly more than what we eventually rescued. We could never find the others. But there were 4 in a kindle, dumped together in that park, that our Sterilisation Volunteer, LY could confirm. Unfortunately by the time we could investigate this series of kitten dumpings, one kitten died on the nearby road. It is a single lane road but motorists on that road are very reckless and the lane is narrow. One of the security guards working nearby saw the accident.

The remaining kittens are with us now. They arrived on 11 July at 7 weeks old. They had fleas, and flu', and subsequently diarrhoea. They are now on metrogyl antibiotics for their diarrhoea and will be for another week or so. They have been vet checked and vaccinated too. Now on lots of supplements to treat all their ails. They are also getting used to human contact as the Foster Care Volunteers spend time hugging them (they love it).

Here they are: Garry is the red tabby boy who is the largest, Gurly the larger tortoiseshell gal and Gale is the smallest in size.

Next up are our latest two SPCA foster cats, Cleo and Aston. Sandy and Pickle went back on 12 July and in their place we got Cleo a lovely white and lavender tabby girl and Aston a handsome red tabby. Both are neutered and sweet cats.

Cleo had an abscess that burst and created an open wound and had to be on clavulanic/amoxycillin antibiotics before the vets consulting at SPCA can review whether she needs stitches. Her wound was inflamed and had pus but is now closing up almost completely.

We irrigated and medicated her wound, and managed her pain so she would eat and function normally. She was initially very moody because of the pain so we gave her tramadol, but she is one of the many cats that drool a lot when fed tramadol orally, so we bought the injectible version for her. We also gave her cyproheptadine to boost her appetite. She has since become calmer and more receptive to human affection and communication.

Aston likely suffered from an accident and the trauma resulted in nerve damage in his hind leg. As a result he drags his leg, cannot stand fully and also does not balance very well. The initial advice we had was to give him physiotherapy by encouraging him to walk so that the leg remains useful. There is no real 'cure' for this.

Unfortunately, because most cats that suffer from central nervous system disorder also have mood disorders, Aston is having symptoms of depression. He is lethargic, has poor appetite, and is very moody unless he gets hugs and massages. So physiotherapy is challenging. Also, his general weakness resulted in him getting the flu' and this exacerbated his poor appetite and energy levels even more. We put him on vibravet antibiotics and subcutaneous fluids to treat his flu'.

The only way to cure nerve damage is through veterinary acupuncture. We brought him to Dr Oh at Mt Pleasant branch at Katong and he was very brave about it that the vet could place as many needles as was necessary and for as long as needed. Aston became more alert and lively after his first session. He will need to see Dr Oh about twice a week till he can walk again.

The next latest intake is B1, a stray cat from Choa Chu Kang who was found lethargic and anemic by two of our Foster Care Volunteers Diana and Rashid on 16 July, Tuesday. They brought him to the vet and found out he has blood parasite infection (mycoplasma haemophilus) that he contracted through flea bites. This caused his white and red blood cell count to dip, and also elevated his liver enzymes, and he had a fever. He was put on vibravet and had to stay indoors for a while till he picked up in energy. We put Revolution on him, medicated him and treated his fever.

B1 is unhappy being indoors however, and consistently messes up his cat suite and meows day and night. Now that he is stable, Diana and Rashid are bringing B1 back to Choa Chu Kang to medicate him from there and get him neutered too as he is a newly dumped cat in the area.

Watch for updates on the newbies, the current foster cats and the kitties for adoption on our Instagram (@luvkuching), Twitter (@luvkuching) and Facebook (fb.com/luvkuching)!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Goal 2014

In line with our long term goals into 2014 with includes incorporation, salaries and volunteer management, we have launched an independent crowdsourcing campaign to test the donor market to find out how to budget for employee benefits in 2014. This campaign will require actual contributions from the public in order to determine the budget for 2014.

We need your help in doing two things. First: go to the campaign page and gauge your response. If you feel it is apt to give, weigh how much you believe to be fair, and click the contribute button to give via your credit card. Second: share the campaign with your social circle using the share buttons on the campaign page. Because this is a survey of public opinion, we need this campaign to go out as wide as possible.

This will help us plan better for 2014, not only in terms of budget, but in a larger picture, how much greater we should grow in our cat rescue work, and at what pace. We appreciate you responding to this campaign!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Relieving The Euthanasia Burden Of Our Nation

Here are Sandy and Pickle, stray cats with flesh wounds undergoing rehabilitation with us. Besides their furry cuteness, their story is a spotlight on an important issue for all animal lovers.

Sandy and Pickle are from SPCA, as the first cats in our collaboration with our nation's primary animal shelter. We are helping to rehabilitate cats from the streets that need intensive care before they return or are rehomed by SPCA. While they have been here, we put them on Revolution, bathed and groomed them, apply medication for them daily and feed them supplements. Sandy is from Ang Mo Kio and Pickle from Bedok. Both of them likely suffer from wounds sustained through cat fights as they are not yet neutered. They came to us on 20 June and are returning to SPCA next week as their wounds are close to complete recovery already, Sandy a little slower at recovery because she refuses to eat her canned food with supplements and her wound is at a joint. They will be be neutered by SPCA and slots are being arranged to get either Pickle or both of them rehomed if not otherwise returned to their territories to prevent the vacuum effects caused by their absence.

Why are we doing this? To answer this means shedding light on why so many cats are euthanised at SPCA and what each and every person should do to change this statistic. Euthanasia should only be carried out if the cat is no longer able to recover to a point of basic functioning (eating, drinking, eliminating) without pain. Many sicknesses are treatable such that this condition is not applicable, but treatment requires resources.

Any rescue group or shelter can claim to be no-kill, but these are, us included, closed-admission shelters, meaning that when capacity is full, we turn away new intakes until space frees up. SPCA does not have the luxury of doing this as it is considered open-admission, meaning it cannot turn away rescues. All of us no-kill shelters have effectively shifted some of our euthanasia burdens to them. Cats euthanised unnecessarily at SPCA are our nation's euthanasia burden, shared.

You may not know it, but SPCA actively works to reduce the nation's euthanasia burden. The no-kill equation requires the following functions to be implemented in order to reduce the kill rate:

Looking at this checklist, you will see that a shelter needs to decentralise its intake load by working with external foster volunteers and rescue groups. It also needs to expend resources to rehabilitate pets so that they can be adoptable. Simply stopping or lowering the rate of putting animals to sleep will not solve anything and can in fact make for even worse outcomes. There were times when SPCA lowered its rate of euthanising animals. However, the capacity to rehabilitate them to full health, largely dependent on space - and - working with volunteer groups or individuals, could not match the shelter load. Many of these cats subsequently still died.

Because SPCA still does not have space for hospitalisation, rehabilitation of unwell but treatable cats simply must be farmed out to reduce unnecessary euthanasia. This is why they recruit foster parents which you can sign up for. Groups like us can take more than one cat to rehabilitate at a time, and for a greater range of ailments because of our specialty. When we foster a cat from SPCA, it means it doesn't have to die. This means that you helping to foster a SPCA sick cat is literally a determinant of life and death of the cat.

Next week when Sandy and Pickle return to SPCA, we will take on another two more sick or injured cats to rehabilitate. We are endeavouring to make this long term. Saving lives two at a time. Doesn't seem like much, but we hope that in doing so, we also spur people on to sign up with SPCA as foster parents. Because unnecessary euthanasia is not SPCA's burden to carry: it is the burden of all pet lovers across Singapore. Let's do this together.

External links: SPCA www.spca.org.sg No-Kill Advocacy Center: www.nokilladvocacycenter.org