Generous friend of the cats

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Cat sitter Shelby Doshi, 31, and her husband set aside almost $800 per month for community cats in Bedok. She visits them twice a week, and goes to a cattery four times a week to visit the cats she has boarded.
Ms Shelby Doshi, seen here feeding Fatty the cat, returns twice a week to Bedok, where she used to live, to feed and check on the community of cats there.
Ms Shelby Doshi, seen here feeding Fatty the cat, returns twice a week to Bedok, where she used to live, to feed and check on the community of cats there. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Part-time tutor Shelby Doshi, 31, lives in Tanjong Pagar; but twice a week, she heads for her old block in Bedok to visit her feline friends.

She checks in on nine cats in Bedok North and Bedok Reservoir, giving them some food and treats, and making sure they are healthy and do not need the vet.

When they do, she takes them, pays the medical fees, and also fosters or rehomes them if needed.

She knows their names, ages, temperaments and even their siblings. Socks, for example, is at least five years old and has a brother living a few blocks away.

"I used to live here in my parents' place. Above me, there was a fat orange cat which I used to feed. And when we moved out in 2009, I kept coming back to see it and that's how it started," she said .

"I guess it's for sentimental reasons. When we started out with that first cat, I befriended others while looking after her. You build the relationship like you would with a person and that's what keeps you coming back."

The cats know her and her husband, and come towards them when they visit. One in Bedok Reservoir even recognises the sound of their car and runs towards them in the carpark.

Ms Doshi and her husband, Mr Amriq Ali, 31, have two cats of their own. Each month, they set aside nearly $800 for the cats.

Most of it goes to four cats they have housed at a cattery, which she visits four times a week, and the rest goes into a medical fund for when any of the felines fall ill.

Her cat obsession started eight years ago when she adopted one, called it Lucky and kept it at her then boyfriend Amriq's home.

"I suppose for most people when they see a cat that's sick or injured, they'll just look at it and tell themselves: 'Oh, poor thing.' But I feel that I need to do something about it, because if I don't, then who will?," she said.

There is Whitey, which has had a history of ear infections and had to be taken to the vet a few times.

"It used to be very affectionate. Each time I take it to the vet, it dislikes me more and more. Now, it just looks at me from afar and doesn't come close to me. But it's all right, so long as it gets better."

While most couples would direct $800 a month towards a car or other luxury, Mr Amriq said he is happy to spend that sum on cats as long as his wife is.

"People donate to charity, people have different expenses. It brings happiness to her, and to us, and, more importantly, to the cats. It's something that we do together," said the construction site health and safety manager. "I guess we've very unconventional date nights."

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Join Shelby Doshi on one of her trips to feed stray cats Bedok.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline Generous friend of the cats. Subscribe