KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) - Ten-year-old Nur Adanee Azmi was waiting for her mother to pick her up after tuition when she noticed a group of boys kicking something.
That "something" turned out to be a litter of three kittens. Outraged at the cruelty, the girl demanded that they stop hurting the kittens. She later took the kittens home with her.
Now, 10 years later, Ms Nur Adanee still has two of them (the third one went missing a long time ago) at her house in Ampang, Selangor.
In fact, that incident 10 years ago sparked an array of other rescue missions, and she and her family now have 44 cats in their household.
All in all, this family of cat lovers has taken care of more than a hundred cats over the last decade, most of them being rescue and stray cats.
Their cat "family" also includes five pedigrees, four of which belong to the ragdoll breed, while the fifth is an American curl.
In contributing to the idea of reducing the number of stray cats in their community, all their cats are neutered.
It is heartbreaking to see a malnourished mother cat trying to feed her kittens while she herself does not get enough food, Ms Nur Adanee, now 20, told Bernama.
CAGES FOR THE CATS
Initially, the cats were allowed to roam freely all over the house, but as their population increased, it became impractical to let them loose, as Ms Nur Adanee and her family lived in a terrace house with limited space.
Ms Nur Adanee's parents then got hold of custom-made cages that were spacious and comfortable for their feline pets. They still get to roam freely for about two hours a day when Ms Nur Adanee and her mother clean the cages.
The monthly expenses incurred in taking care of all their pets come to about RM2,000 (S$665).
"Even though it is costly to take care of them, we can't just ignore the strays as they need the help of humans," said Ms Nur Adanee, adding that it was distressing to read reports of stray cats being abused or poisoned.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) encourages individuals to lend a helping hand to the strays without having to spend too much.
It offers an adoption programme for cats, where the public needs to pay only between RM50 and RM100 to adopt a cat from the society. The fees include the first vaccination, deworming and neutering.
SPCA currently has a programme called Stray Free Selangor (SFS), under which it offers spaying or neutering services for stray cats at a hugely subsidised rate of RM24.
The organisation's usual fee for spaying or neutering is RM120 per cat. Members of the public and rescuers can contact SPCA to have stray cats desexed under the SFS programme, which is funded by the Selangor royal family and the state government, and is aimed at reducing the stray cat population in the state.
SPCA education and events officer Arief Fauzy said the organisation is often invited to give talks to the community or at schools and colleges to raise awareness on the need to be compassionate and caring towards strays.
"Not everyone is compassionate towards animals. We want the public to be more tolerant and accept them as part of our biodiversity," he said.
Universiti Putra Malaysia veterinarian Puteri Azaziah Megat Abdul Rani said it was beneficial to keep cats as pets, as research has shown that these animals can understand and respond to human emotions.
The hormone oxytocin is released when people are around their pets, which can help relieve stress and lower blood pressure, she said.
Dr Puteri Azaziah, who carries out research on zoonosis or diseases transmitted to humans from animals, said it was more economical to adopt stray cats and rescues than to buy pure breeds from pet shops.
"From my experience, I find that local cats are more robust and don't fall sick easily compared to the pure breds. At the end of the day, all cats offer equal love and connection to their owners," she added.