The Alley Cats of Bangsar

30 November 2016

We check out the stray cat community of Bangsar Park and meet the residents who go out of their way to care for them.

It’s a cool morning and residents of this housing area in Bangsar Park are going about their daily rituals. Look down one of two parallel “cat alleys” and you’ll also see the stray cat community preparing for another day.

Most of the stray cats have been living in the alleys for as long as residents can remember. Although many used to send complaints to DBKL about their presence, the stray cats have since been accepted by most as part of the community. And a number of residents have even gone further by making it their silent duty to look after these cats.

Mrs. Khoo has been living in the neighbourhood for more than 30 years and has been feeding the strays for just as long. Her house is connected to a “cat alley” and she’s adopted several strays over the years. When we meet, she shares the horrors she witnessed when people were less tolerant – including pouring water over kittens and catching the cats in cages and leaving them out to starve – but assures us that now the neighbours are better.

Mrs. Khoo’s adopted stray cat, Peaches.

“The cats only become a nuisance because they’re hungry,” Mrs. Khoo remarks. For these cats, rummaging through bins and stealing food is how they get by. She wishes she could do more to help, but spaying and neutering – especially in Bangsar – is expensive. She suggests that if retired veterinary doctors could offer their services, it would be a great help.

For Mrs. Chan, another long term resident, it’s been over a decade since she began feeding the strays that come to her house, and she stocks up on cat food whenever there’s a promotion at the supermarket.

She picks up an orange-tabby kitten and introduces Goldie. Mrs. Chan then tells us about how Goldie’s mother moved her two kittens to her house, but one day came back with a bite wound.

Although Mrs. Chan initially didn’t want to adopt any strays, she now keeps one and has just decided to adopt Goldie.

“I tried to catch the mother to put medicine on her wound, but I couldn’t. She disappeared and one day I saw her on that box, head hanging over." Mrs. Chan gestures to a shaded area where she stores her belongings. "When I went to check, she was gone. So I buried her in my garden.”

Mrs. Chan has since provided several deceased strays a final resting place there. Though the strays have a better chance of survival if they are treated and released, they are still vulnerable in our manmade environment – with kittens often falling into drains – and against predators such as snakes.

Mrs. Chan feels that people need to be more understanding of the cats. According to her, there have been cases where kittens were abandoned in her garden, while there are still many reckless drivers who disregard the animals.

She knits her eyebrows and frowns, but lightens up when she remembers a neighbour who has offered to help spay the female strays if Mrs. Chan manages to catch them.

Looking at Goldie, she smiles, “You have to talk to cats so they understand.”

At the other end of the road, Yusof helps to neuter and vaccinate stray toms. He’s been doing this ever since he moved into the area five years ago, an effort he started while living in Kelana Jaya.

“There are two different camps. Those who kesian and feed the cats, and those, like me, who prefer to spay or neuter, inoculate and release.”

Yusof’s cats are free to roam in the morning but he keeps them in when they return at 6pm.

Whenever Yusof hears the call of a male cat, he brings out his cat trap – a big cage, similar to a device used to capture rats – and chains it outside his house. He uses keropok as bait and waits for the male cat to be lured in. Yusof estimates he catches one cat a month, which is down from the initial three since he started, as the number of unneutered males in the area has decreased.

One of Yusof’s cats in his garden.

He emphasises the importance of not only spaying and neutering, but also vaccinating the strays before releasing them. Yusof notes that there are four feline diseases the cats are susceptible of catching – Feline AIDS, Feline Leukaemia, Leptospirosis (a fungal infection) and mange – and they end up suffering without the proper treatment.

​“Some people might think that it’s unreligious to spay and neuter, but I’m of the thinking that it’s more unreligious to have more unwanted cats, dump them at the pasar, and then leave them out to disease.”

​Though Yusof feels the biggest pinch is in the cost of treating the cats, he remains dedicated to his cause. While most of the cats return to their normal lives as strays, some of them stay to become domesticated. Yusof has helped to re-home many of them.

Meanwhile, another resident, Nancy, has been feeding the cats that visit her house since moving here in 1988: "The cats recognise me now.”

Nancy realises that not everyone likes the strays because of the mess they cause, but believes people should work together. There have been instances where neighbours complained to her after mistaking the strays as her own, so now she tries to come up with practical solutions. At the moment, she’s thinking of making a litter box for the strays in the planter box outside her house.

Nancy points us to several other households that feed and care for strays. Since retiring, she’s discovered other residents who have taken on this duty, and through word of mouth, more people have offered to take the cats for treatment.

For the love of cats and the neighbourhood, these residents are doing whatever they can to create a healthier living environment for everyone. The alleys used to be dirty and overpopulated with sickly strays, but walk down there today and you’ll see that most of the cats appear in good shape. Only some still remain wary of humans.

Nancy smiles, “There are a lot of kind people living here.”

Story and Photos by Stacy Liu

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