An abandoned cat that inspired a humane TNR project

Cotton, once a stray cat has now found a forever home with Choong Koon Yean.

Cotton was an abandoned cat, left behind when a restaurant shut down about 12 years ago. As she was friendly and approachable, someone pranked her and cruelly sprayed her white fur orange.

Soon after she gave birth to four kittens on the streets but two died from accidents. At about that time, Choong Koon Yean, founder and President of IAPWA Penang decided to embark on a trap-neuter-release effort to control the growing cat population where she lived.

When the stray cat numbers grew to over 30 and abandoned ones like Cotton continued to breed and suffer on the streets, she knew something had to be done.

Strays are often subject to abuse, accidents, poisoning, diseases, injuries from fights and other life threatening conditions. To reduce their suffering, preventing the birth of unwanted kittens and puppies is key.

Cotton’s left ear is notched/cut in a ‘v’ shape, a universal sign to indicate she is already spayed.

Due to budget constraints however, Choong focused on spaying the female felines initially and managed to sterilise 15 female cats within the first year. After a few years, the number of cats in the colony that she fed reduced significantly.

Today, more than 10 years on, due to her continuous TNR effort, there is only one neutered cat left. Can you imagine the number of cats there would have been today if Choong had not embarked on a TNR project for the strays there?

Cotton is the only one of the initial 15 spayed felines that still lives, as she was eventually adopted by Choong along with her two kittens, Brownie and Bluey.

Both her kittens are also neutered, given up-to-date vaccination, medical care and have grown old with lots of love.

Brownie, 11 years old this year, has diabetes and for nearly two years now, gets insulin shots twice a day administered by Choong.

One of Cotton’s babies, Brownie, seen here as a kitten, is 11 years old today and requires two insulin shots every day to manage his diabetes.

The story of Cotton and her kittens may seem to be a common rescue-neuter-and-adopt story but it does not end here.

Inspired by the success of controlling the stray population where she lives via the Trap-Neuter-Release and rehoming of some cats, Choong has through the past decade, spayed and neutered more than 250 cats on the streets.

However she didn’t stop at felines. She left her full time job of 19 years as a senior accounting and finance lecturer in a private university to start IAPWA Penang in 2017.

The non-profit organisation collaborates with the Penang Island City Council to carry out the trap-neuter-release of stray dogs on the island where all medical, rehabilitation, releasing and rehoming costs are borne by IAPWA from donations collected.

The TNR project for dogs was officially launched in March 2018 and this has ended the killing of street dogs on Penang island, replaced by more effective and humane stray management.

Unclaimed dogs caught by the city council are taken over by IAPWA Penang to neuter and vaccinate for rabies as a pre-emptive measure to create herd immunity to protect the communities and other animals while offering rehabilitation, and subsequently the release or rehoming of the dogs.


Cotton was an injured and sickly stray before Choong Koon Yean took her off the streets and gave her a forever home.

To date, IAPWA Penang has carried out TNR for close to 1,600 dogs caught by the city council. Hundreds of dogs and puppies have found their forever homes through this project and were saved from a life as a stray.

With a strong belief that TNR does work based on her past 12 years of experience, Choong is a strong advocate of the humane way to control the stray population.

She also promotes the adoption and neutering of unwanted kittens and puppies on the streets by animal lovers, just like her.

There are simply not enough homes for every street animal but for the ones that manage to find homes like Cotton and her offspring, their world indeed has changed pawsitively.

Looking at her pampered feline family and the helpless strays on the streets reinforces Choong’s belief in the importance of working hard to ensure the success of the TNR project so that it can be a model to convince more local authorities to adopt the same humane methods; and to never give up despite the huge challenges IAPWA Penang faces in these extraordinary times.

Cotton and her two babies Brownie and Bluey.

Go here for more information on IAPWA Penang.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PET: FMT Lifestyle readers are invited to send in pictures (landscape format) and a short video (if any) of their furry, scaly or feathery friends to [email protected]. Don’t forget to include details like your pet’s name, age, breed and a short story about them.