Flashback to 1974. I am buckled into the child seat of my Dads green “Mark 1″ Cortina. We are going to collect Tibby – cat number two. I remember seeing her frightened huge eyes peering at me through the cardboard box, she was a kitten but looked pretty big to me. This was my first childhood memory. Whether in fact its a true memory or just a story that has been recited to me so many times i think its my memory i’m not sure, but it happened. I remember nothing of my first cat. Mum says i hugged her so much she scratched me to pieces so for the benefit of both our safety we re-homed her. Tibby on the other hand was my cat until she died aged 19 when i was 21. We grew up together.
My love for cats has never left me. When i first met Richard, my husband. I told him if we were going to be “an item” he must be prepared for me to go to China where i was going to rescue tigers that chewed off their own paws because they were chained inside cages and barely keep alive for the medicine trade.
Fast forward to 2016, Richard tells me he’s decided to build a cattery for the SPCA here in Sabah, he wasn’t just going to pay for it to be built, he was going to build it himself with a team of people made up of our lodge and island staff and local construction workers – i was thrilled !
Street Cats & Dogs in Kota Kinabalu
Anyone that has spent any time in Asia will have noticed the vast amount of street cats and dogs. Populations spiral out of control due to their free-roaming lifestyle and lack of veterinary care. Without a successful TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program in place cats and dogs mate and re-produce. The majority of these animals have very hard and pitiful lives. They suffer from disease, starvation and will often die a painful slow death. For people like me, coming from an animal loving nation, where cats have been part of my family since childhood is very hard to see how some cats and dogs live here in Asia.
The good news is, life can change for the cats and dogs of Sabah. Malaysia have laws against the crulety of animals which is more than can be said for some countries. Also, there are some very good people living here in Sabah that are committed to providing a better life for these beautiful animals.
SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Kota Kinabalu is a non-government organisation, approved under the register of societies Malaysia. Until now, they have been restricted in what they can offer, mainly due to their property and location which is small, temporary and subject to flooding. Despite this, with very limited resources they have established a successful adoption program and offer care for injured animals.
In 2015 a generous benefactor donated 4.5 acres of land to the SPCA for the purpose of constructing a rehabilitation and adoption centre. In 2016 plans were approved by the local council to build a large dog kennel, a cattery, a veterinary centre, a TNR centre, education centre and staff accommodation. Once completed this will be the first such facility in Sabah – its groundbreaking for animal welfare!
Richard and i, via our company have committed to building the cattery and as i write this article, its almost complete. The cattery will accommodate approximately 170 cats separated into sections depending on their ability to socialise. Each section will be designed to keep the cats engaged with climbing walls, scratch pads and play-toys. Each pen has access to an outside section so for a period of time every day individual pens will be open and the cats can roam more freely within a confined larger area, eat grass and enjoy some sunshine. With further development and awareness for the adoption program we hope the cats will not be living at the centre for too long and we will see a turnover of animals re-homed.
Downbelow Cattery at SPCA
Richard is a Platinum PADI Course Director who previously owned a construction business in the UK. He is a qualified stone-mason so with his expertise, hard word and the hard work of individuals from the Downbelow Adventure Lodge and Downbelow PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre team they have managed to build the cattery within a two month period. This weekend the Downbelow Travel Centre office girls get involved. We will help paint the building ready to move the cats from their existing temporary small shelter before the end of January 2017.
Other generous benefactors in Sabah have donated money to the SPCA to construct dog kennels and the staff accommodation building. There is still much work to be done and if anyone is reading this and wants to get involved, please contact the SPCA directly. Together we can make a difference !
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