The author is executive assistant at Love Kuching Project.
“The cat owns the house. We only pay the mortgage.”
The sign on the door seems to be the only telltale sign that the flat inside is full of cats. Though seemingly plain and nondescript, the flat in Ubi is home to Love Kuching Project, a cat rescue group and foster home.
Strangely, it is Scotty, the Love Kuching dog, that greets visitors at the door.
You might be asking: “Kuching means cat what. Why got dog?”
Elaine Chiam, founder and president of Love Kuching Project, said: “(We wanted) to introduce foster cats to dogs so their adoptability could be increased.”
She also said: “Andy (my partner) and I always wanted a dog.”
Its presence might appear as one of the many quirks about this cat foster home, but Scotty the dog helps the cats get used to other species of animals, so that dog owners can also adopt the cats from Love Kuching.
Chiam and her partner, Andy Koh, keep three cats: Sayang, Sealy and Scooter.
There are 12 cats altogether.
Sayang is the boss cat and is often seen supervising over things.
Scooter is the fierce disciplinarian.
Sealy is the silly bolster cat.
Besides the three cats belonging to the owners, the foster space also houses cats that are waiting to be adopted.
This include a pair of playful cats, Garry and Gurly, who are inseparable.
And Lex is a recent arrival at Love Kuching.
How Love Kuching Project started
Elaine and her partner founded Love Kuching Project as Ubi Kuching Project back in 2009.
They partnered with their neighbourhood pet store, Angels Pet Shop, putting up rescued pets for adoption. Elaine and Andy also contacted the neighbourhood’s cat lovers and pooled money to begin a Trap-Neuter-Release program for the cats around Ubi.
However, the pet shop eventually had to close down and Elaine moved the operations to her home.
On why she started Love Kuching, Elaine said: “I was unwell and unable to work so I started doing cat rescue.”
Elaine has major depressive disorder, a severe form of depression. “(Cat rescue work) helped me have something to wake up to every morning… I have always wanted to be in non-profit work for humans, but I was too ill to do much. So when animal rescue came into my lap, I realised that when Love Kuching can auto pilot, I can then move on to doing non-profit for humans.”
One of the group’s first cases involved a mother cat and her three kittens, which appeared out of nowhere outside their home one day. Elaine decided to take them in and put the kittens up for adoption.
Elaine said: “We really liked the kittens. Mommy cat was always leaving them with us to go gallivanting with her boyfriend, Daddy cat, but then (Mommy cat) would come back to check on them. The kittens loved to explore and climb around the house!”
Press coverage for Love Kuching
Dane (Source: Love Kuching Project)
Love Kuching Project first came into the national spotlight, in the same year it started, when news of a Great Dane puppy rescued by the group was put up for sale online.
News reports subsequently branded Love Kuching a “cat rescue group”. The publicity led to attention from sponsors and donors.
Elaine said: “We were thrilled that The New Paper called us a rescue group,”
“(The reports) got us a lot of publicity as animal welfare cases often do… we got to know other rescue groups because of this.”
Elaine speaks with volunteers at a year-end party (Photo: Ng Yi Shu)
The group has 28 part-time “volunteers with portfolio”, who help fulfill its cat welfare objectives — rescue, adoption, cat care education and Trap-Neuter-Return projects.
There is also an Emergency Rescue Fund that was created in response to difficulties faced by cat lovers who encounter sick cats and yet do not have the means to pay for their treatment.
Often, in order to get treatment from the vet, they decide to put the cat’s medical bill on credit and try their luck fundraising via social media. Such fundraising efforts often fail.
As a result, these cat lovers often end up abandoning vet bills.
Friendly, the scar-faced cat that could use some rehabilitation
The cats often lose out as a result; one such example is the case of Friendly the cat, who recently passed away at Love Kuching.
His rescuer was not able to foot Friendly’s vet bill. The clinic could only do the bare minimum to save Friendly, who was suffering from a necrotic ear.
Love Kuching is hoping to use the Emergency Rescue Fund to prevent cases like Friendly’s from happening again.
If you are curious to find out more about Love Kuching Project, feel free to visit their blog where they have regular updates about their news and activities.
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Top photo from here