There comes a point, when we search for a cat, that we end up on the verge of quitting.
Either we’ve scoured every nook and cranny, opened every shoe cupboard, looked into all the dustbins, or it’s just too late for us to continue looking. Oftentimes, we think we’ve spotted the feline, only to realise that the shadows were merely playing tricks on our eyes.
It nearly happened the night we first met Eve. Reports of a new cat – sent to our email and spotted, on occasion, on Instagram – had set the search in motion; a grey tabby was on the loose somewhere between the Art, Design and Media building (the iconic space that represents the school) and Hall 2. Someone had kindly taken care of her, not knowing of our existence, as people who care for the campus cats.
But she was missing, from her last reported spot on the fringe of Sky and Bushy’s territory.
One of our volunteers then texted us, saying she’s found Eve. “MEIN GOTT. JUST NOW,” the text reads.
She had heard a meowing sound on the way to the ADM studio, and went to take a look.
Eve was cowering next to a fenced-off portion of the lawn next to the building, meowing weakly as the blistering headlights and roar of 179 bus whizzed by.
“That’s the cat!” Another text – this time, from our Operations Manager – confirmed that yes, this was the cat that we were looking for.
Eve was our eighth new cat in six months – the latest in an epidemic of new community cats or kittens, sometimes too old to be adopted – like Teh Bing.
The number was simply too high for us – four cats had already appeared on campus just last year, and none of them were born from a mother cat on campus.
We were… peeved, to say the least. Angry, and tired. We grabbed Eve, and left her in our foster space, a shed by Nanyang Heights.
Our volunteers sent a photo – the same one we posted above – to our group chat.
“Her ear looks tipped… is it? Or is it just the angle?” our Ops Manager asks.
Eve did indeed have a tipped ear.
This was unusual. People usually abandon their cats when they have too many of them at home, because they fail to sterilise their cats; pet cats also don’t have tipped ears, and it would take a while for us to check if they do.
We brought Eve to the vet on Feb. 22, for a routine check-up – the same one we give to all new cats. This time, however, we opted for a microchip scan.
And this is where the story gets weird.
Stirfry – as Eve was known in Clementi Camp, a 16-minute drive from where she was found – was a tabby cat who was a mother to three kittens.
There were people taking care of her – NSFs, mostly, who were stationed with the units based there (2PDF and 8SIR, amongst others).
One of them, R, had a tough job – to find an adopter for Stirfry/Eve and her three kittens, two orange and one black. They had been sterilised by another caretaker, N, but R didn’t know that.
R’s boss – a Master Sergeant – had tasked R to get rid of the cats because “the cats has caused a lot of [problems]” to him, as R tells us.
“If the cat and kittens were left in my camp Feb 2, my boss would have [put] these cats to sleep because they have been hindering my boss’ work quite a lot,” R says. “She told us to get rid of the cats or adopt them.”
So R’s sister, M, swooped in to help. They decided to host their cat in their hall room, and asked another friend to post a notice for adoption on Valentines’ Day.
(We’ve kept all their names anonymous because being an NSF is a tough job, and even tougher if you’re charged for leaking classified information. Remember that NSF that was punished for leaking a video about dog abuse? As for R’s sister, she broke hall rules barring residents from keeping animals in hall.)
We found N through CWS, who said that he “heard that she was taken out from camp together with her kids.” N was under the impression that Stirfry/Eve was adopted, until CWS contacted him.
N told us that Stirfry – a name his senior had given her – was sterilised on the 25th of January, and given a microchip. She was brought back two days later. N never had any photos of Stirfry/Eve, except for a video taken while she was being fostered outside of camp.
R’s unit (or R’s seniors) gave R the green light to bring Stirfry/Eve out of camp, and R’s sister – M – took them to Hall 2 on Feb 2, the deadline R’s boss gave him.
Stirfry/Eve and her kittens were supposed to be adopted together, but M’s friends backed out at the last minute, according to M.
M then kept the kittens with Stirfry/Eve until they were no longer dependent, and then adopted them out.
We don’t know if M or the adopters had followed CWS safeguards. The group – Adopt Free Pets SG – set no rules at all for adopters; in a pinned post, the group admin said that she would “bombard” fosterers who say that adopters must follow CWS rules “with all [her] frustration” :
But M didn’t formally put Stirfry/Eve up for adoption, for various reasons: she didn’t think that Stirfry/Eve was adoptable; and Stirfry/Eve was “independent”, she says.
“We did ask around our friends whether any of them are able to take Eve, but none of them were,” she adds. “I thought: why not just keep her here, and we can all look after her together as a community?”
M emailed us on Feb 10, informing us of Eve’s existence. “By emailing you, we just wanted to make her known to the community and get her checked whether she is sterilised or not,” she adds. “We did not mean nor expect to cause any commotion, for we were just trying to rescue the cats and provide a better environment for them.”
We do believe that M and R harbour good intentions. R didn’t have much choice – the Army was definitely going to put Stirfry/Eve to sleep if it was still in the camp, and M was only trying to help.
But a better solution would have been to talk to the CWS, whose mediators would have recognised this cat as one that they had trapped under their Stray Cat Sterilisation Program. The camp could have also set up a Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage program, managed perhaps by Army staff, or by NSFs.
Instead, Stirfry/Eve ended up in NTU, wandering around the campus in a bewildered and confused state.
As much as we wish to help every single cat that comes our way, our limited resources and manpower prevent us from doing so. People don’t see that, and for too long, they have treated us like a shelter for their community cats.
When we reject them, they lash out at us.
“Two of my cats have been killed by dogs,” one told us. “Thanks.”
“I thought NTU was a big place,” says another.
We are not a shelter. Please don’t assume that because we exist – or because NUS Cat Cafe exists, or Yishun 326 Tabby Cat exists, that we can be a place where your cat can live and be safely forgotten.
Integrating cats into our community is a resource-intensive process. We have to monitor where the cat is all the time, to make sure that conflicts do not occur between cats, or even between cats and humans. We have to allocate feeders to locate the cats for daily feedings or medication.
Eve survived because we found her, because there was a community that existed that cared. But even then, there are risks.
We have had abandonment cases where the cat died in a traffic accident after an unsuccessful attempt to gain their trust. We have had cats go missing because we failed to integrate them into the cat population.
NTU is not a dumping ground for felines, or any other animals. Releasing a domesticated animal into an environment it is unfamiliar with is cruel, extremely irresponsible, and illegal.
We strive to care for all campus cats to the best of our ability, but at the end of the day, we can only do so much. We are university students with hectic schedules, and we hold commitments other than tending to the cats. We are not full-time shelter staff. We do not run a shelter.
Please, stop abandoning cats on campus. Rather – do not even consider abandonment; hold yourself responsible for your pet’s wellbeing.
If you’re interested in adopting Eve – do contact NTUCMN via email at email@example.com.
Our volunteers will assist in the necessary adopter’s questionnaire and adoption checklist, as well as perform a house visit to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
We closely follow an adoption policy similar to those of the Cat Welfare Society and other cat rescue and welfare groups in Singapore, adapted for use in a campus setting.
Rules are important, and we choose to follow them to safeguard the welfare of the cats and members of the community.