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A Home for Lonesome Felines
Cat Beach Penang is the last resort for forgotten cats, as well as a place that teaches us to love our animals.
The scenic uphill drive to the district of Teluk Bahang, on the north-western tip of Penang, sits on various top ten lists of things to do in Penang. Known both for its beautiful dam and as an entry point to the Penang National Park, Teluk Bahang is also frequented by tourists for its array of seafood restaurants.
In 2014, Cat Beach founder Teviot Fairservis teamed up with a local fisherman who was caring for over 60 stray cats.
Holed up in this humble fishing village, cats have found refuge on the beach along Jalan Teluk Awak, and they were not there by chance. Hidden behind a strip of wooden houses, a “no kill” cat sanctuary is home to over 200 cats of all sorts of colours, breeds, ages and sizes. Cat Beach Penang is founded by Teviot Fairservis, an animal lover from New York, and has just entered its third year of operation.
Fairservis’s Malaysian journey began in Langkawi, where she stumbled upon the efforts of the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary Foundation (LASSie). Inspired by LASSie, she moved to Penang with eight adopted cats to set up a similar initiative with Nana Wan Chik, a local fisherman in Teluk Bahang who was caring for over 60 stray cats in the village.
At Cat Beach, there is ample space for cats to lounge in the warm sand and leap on each other for the occasional playful tussle. More than just an island paradise for free-roaming cats, the cat sanctuary also caters to the most vulnerable cats – young kittens and the sick or injured. Young abandoned kittens are nursed by foster “mother cats” or bottle-fed by volunteers while the sick or injured cats are isolated in their own cages, each with a tag describing their health condition and dietary requirements.
Eddi is one of the longest serving volunteers at Cat Beach.
“Each cat has a story. We had a miraculous case where a cat was poisoned but survived under our care,” Eddi beams. Eddi, from the UK, is one of the longest serving volunteers at the cat sanctuary and knows the name of each cat like the back of her hand. Cat Beach receives a steady stream of volunteers who come from all corners of the world such as Ukraine, Myanmar, United Kingdom, France, Brazil and many more. These volunteers dedicate a few hours each week in exchange for room and board at either the sanctuary itself or at a homestay in the fishing village.
However, it’s not all roses at Cat Beach. Without a constant flow of financial support or grants from formal organisations, the cat sanctuary is heavily dependent on its generous donors and volunteers. Each cat costs between RM2 to RM3 per day for adequate food and medical care, which could easily add up to about RM1,000 annually.
At Cat Beach, sick or injured cats are kept in separate cages while they recover.
“Financially, we are always on the edge. We frequently have to decide if we have enough funds to provide both food and adequate medical care for the cats,” Fairservis adds.
Financial struggles aside, Fairservis shows no signs of quitting. In fact, she has a grand vision for Cat Beach. Currently, she’s diligently working to register the sanctuary as a licensed animal shelter. “I want to ensure that Cat Beach meets the international standards for animal care,” she says with conviction. “Besides that, the volunteers are helping us to set up a café and a gift shop to support the operations here.”
Most of the cats here are available for adoption and visitors are always welcome to spend some time to interact with them. Fairservis also plans to upgrade the cat sanctuary into a resource centre where visitors can learn about responsible pet care.
Cats warming up to a volunteer and his dog.
With an audacious goal to raise awareness and educate the public on its responsibility to care for animals and the environment, Cat Beach plays an important role in nipping Penang’s stray cats problem in the bud. The next time you visit Teluk Bahang, why not make a stop at Cat Beach to end your purrfect day with some cuddly cats?
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