PETALING JAYA: There are many sick and old stray cats who struggle to keep alive on the city’s tough streets. And while most go unnoticed, others are often regarded as pests and shooed away.
Suraya and Shariza Sabbaruddin, however, are making a difference in the lives of these cats. Rather than turn a blind eye, the sisters rescue these sick cats and help nurse them back to life.
So passionate are these two about their mission that they founded Katzen Cat Sanctuary over ten years ago.
What marked the beginning of this NGO, though, was a sad incident.
“My sister and her fiancé had a few cats back then, and they were kept at his place. But he passed away in an accident and his family asked her to give them away,” Suraya told FMT Lifestyle during a recent visit to the sanctuary.
But instead of giving them away, Shariza, now 46, found an alternative place for the cats and continued caring for them, while recovering from her own grief.
This “alternative place” became Katzen Cat Sanctuary.
While they rescued stray kittens and abandoned cats initially, the sisters have shifted their focus to caring primarily for senior cats as well as those with incurable diseases and special needs.
“We wanted to stay true to our name and be a full-fledged sanctuary for cats, giving them the palliative and end-of-life care that they deserve,” the 44-year-old said.
The pair care for a total of 78 cats at the moment and cannot take in more due to budget and manpower constraints.
The feline residents here require a lot of time and attention as most of them either suffer from incurable diseases such as epilepsy, FIV, FeLV and kidney failure; or are special needs cats who are amputees, blind or deaf.
While the sisters do their best to care for these cats, monetary issues remain their biggest challenge as rental, medical supplies and cat food are costly.
One thing the sisters stressed however, is that they aren’t looking to rehome their cats.
“Previously when we did that, we’ve had people with very specific requests, such as asking for a particular pedigree, coat or eye colour. Or just a handsome un-neutered male to mate with their female cats,” Suraya said.
Other than that, most were reluctant to pay the adoption fees, which were used to settle veterinarian bills such as vaccinations, neutering and deworming.
“After we shifted to providing end-of-life palliative care, we stopped doing that, since the cats are not meant for adoption anyway,” she said.
Nowadays, the NGO survives on private funding, with the money coming out of the sisters’ own pockets. Their cat hotel business, consisting of seven rooms, helps generate some extra income.
Although the sanctuary and hotel are located in the same shop lot, the “hotel guests” are separated from the rescue cats. And no litter boxes or beds are shared between them. Each hotel room is also thoroughly disinfected when a cat “checks out”.
The sisters are now on the lookout for a 0.5- to 1-hectare plot of land to set up a larger sanctuary with a cat hotel in a separate building.