Stray cats in Sepang living a charmed life (with picture gallery)

A cat with its litter of three kittens which in quarantine before they are placed in the main enclosure at the Cyberjaya Cat Park. – Bernama

CYBERJAYA: They say life is tough on the streets – but not a clowder of stray cats in Sepang here who have found a sanctuary in the Cyberjaya Cat Park.

Run by the Sepang Municipal Council (MPS), these fortuitous felines are provided proper care and food while awaiting adoption by a "fur-ever" family.

The park's resident felines are not only in the pink of health – but have turned into little bundles of affection, a far cry from the time when every day was a struggle for survival.

The park is the brainchild of MPS president Datuk Abd Hamid Hussain, which not only provides care and shelter for the cats but ensures public areas like food courts and hawker centres in the Sepang district are free of stray cats.

Housed in a half-walled building, several cats can be seen lounging around. Among them are the overly friendly Oyen; its sister Nur Ain, who appears to be a bit of a show-off and sprints around the enclosure whenever visitors come; and Ais Krim, who enjoys climbing trees and will sit on a branch for hours on end.

Trap, neuter and adopt

Opened in March 2023, the 0.32ha Cyberjaya Cat Park is managed by the MPS landscaping department.

Strategically nestled within Taman Tasik Cyberjaya, the park has become a huge draw for those visiting the lake garden.

According to department director Arefah Rahim about 100 stray cats have been rescued so far, with 75 adopted by the public.

She said the park practises the TNA (trap, neuter and adopt) approach, and all rescued cats are first given needed veterinary care and then neutered before they are handed over to people adopting them.

"This ensures cats we have rescued don't return to the streets. We screen the people who wish to adopt them and their data is recorded in the e-Cat system that we developed," she told Bernama.

Arefah said rescuees are first quarantined for two weeks to ensure they are free from disease that could spread to other cats.

"We treat those with conditions like mange first. Once they have recovered, they are vaccinated and neutered before they are moved to the main building (in the cat park) and put up for adoption," she said.

The cats are free to roam in the main building which is equipped with fans to keep them cool. They also have kibble to munch on all day and water to drink from a mini fountain.

"We release the cats into the park area once a week for them to play... we do this on the advice of our veterinary officer," she said, adding the cats usually return to the building by themselves after a while.

"However, there are one or two that love to climb trees and refuse to come down. It can be quite a hassle waiting for them to come down," she added with a laugh.

Expert views

Arefah said MPS sought expert opinions before establishing the cat park – in all aspects of cat care from the planning stage to the burial of cats that die.

"The cat was designed by park supervisor Munira Amuary after consulting with experts. We also appointed a panel of veterinary clinics to examine the cats twice a week," she said, adding veterinarians are on call day and night so the cats can receive immediate treatment in emergencies".

Food provided to the cats is also on the experts' recommendations.

On the burial aspect, Arefah said the park uses a "culvert" method where two culverts are placed vertically in a 3m-deep hole.

"To prevent any virus or bacteria from spreading, the site is lined with chalk and charcoal before filling it with soil. This also helps to prevent odour," she said, adding only one rescued cat had died so far, due to leukaemia.

She said all park employees are cat lovers and have no issue caring for the animals.

She added that even when the park was being planned, some MPS staff had already applied to work at the cat park.

"We screened the applicants to ensure they are true cat lovers," she said.

She said heading the cat park staff is feline "expert" Muhammad Ramdzan Johari, who is assisted by Khairul Anuar Md Rashid.

"I call Ramdzan an 'expert' because he can identify if a cat is pregnant or if they are sick and so on. In fact, his wife runs a cat grooming and hotel business," said Arefah, who has three pet cats at home.

Park only takes in strays

To ensure MPS' objectives are met, the Cyberjaya Cat Park only takes in stray cats rescued from the streets and will not accept animals handed in by people.

"We don't entertain people who want to hand over their cats to us.

"Previously, some would just leave their cats there and there were also instances of people dumping their pets here late at night.

"This forced us to put up warning signs that monitor the area with closed-circuit cameras and even fine offenders. Since then, there have been no cases of cat-dumping here," she said.

The park can accommodate up to 300 cats but has only about 30 cats currently.

On operating costs, Arefah said the park requires around RM70,000 annually.

She said for now, MPS is providing the allocation but contributions from the public are welcome.

"We've set up kiosks and also have QR codes. The public can contribute in any form – food or money," she said.

She added that the QR code has been very helpful as donations are increasing every month.

"Many donors could be people who come here (Taman Tasik Cyberjaya) to jog and when they see the cat park, they stop and contribute even if it's just a few ringgit," she said.

CSR programme

Even though the cat park's operating costs are borne by MPS, it may not be sustainable in the long term.

However, MPS is determined not to involve a third party as it may lead to commercialisation.

"We know that as soon as a third party joins us, whether as a sponsor or patron, the commercial aspect will arise, which goes against our non-profit principle.

"Fortunately, each time we hold a programme, there are always organisations willing to contribute.

"During one event, we received commitments amounting to RM70,000 in donations from corporate companies," she added.

She also said MPS' initiative has the full support of Tengku Permaisuri Hajah Norashikin, consort of the Sultan of Selangor, who is an animal lover.

"Tengku Permaisuri graciously inaugurated this park on March 18, 2023. In fact, someone wanted to adopt the cat Tengku Permaisuri was seen holding and even offered us RM10,000 for it. But we decided not to hand over the cat, named Luna, to the person concerned," she said.

Arefah said MPS also participates in corporate social responsibility programmes and open-day events to raise public awareness about the cat park.

"Over the past year, we participated in two such programmes and brought along 10 cats each time.

All were successfully adopted and we returned home with empty cages!" she said.

She added MPS' initiative has caught the attention of other local authorities including Kuala Lumpur City Hall and Klang Royal City Council, which also plans to have similar programmes.

So far, MPS has received visits from 11 agencies interested in undertaking similar projects and "I understand that some may involve property development companies", she added.

Meanwhile, asked about the cats that left a deep impact on him, Muhammad Ramdzan, 36, shared the story of a cat named Mak Tam who arrived at the cat park with a big scar on its stomach.

"There was no fur on the scar, which was probably caused by scalding with hot water or oil. "Fortunately, someone saw its beauty and adopted it. Then we have Oyen, Nur Ai and Ci Ci, who were born in this park. Their mother is Daisy who has since been adopted.

"We also have Ais Krim – we named it so because it has three colours just like some ice cream. This one is naughty and loves to climb trees. Once it managed to sneak out and we searched until night fell but couldn't find it. The next morning when I came to work, Ais Krim was waiting near the fence," he said, laughing.

Muhammad Ramdzan, who has 17 cats at home, admitted feeling anxious sometimes when handing over cats to new families.

"Once there was this man who looked like a gangster who came to adopt a cat. I felt nervous about giving him a cat but then I realised I had to set aside such feelings as we need people to create space for other strays," he said.

Munira said besides the Klang Valley, people as far as Penang and Melaka had come to adopt cats. They are charged an adoption fee of RM150 which covers the cost of vaccinating, deworming and neutering.

The Cyberjaya Cat Park is open to the public every Wednesday and Sunday as well as on public holidays. On Wednesdays, it is open from 9am to 11am; and from 2pm to 4 pm. On Sundays and public holidays, it is open from 9am to 11am; and from 4pm to 6pm. – Bernama

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