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Executives by day, cat-women by night

Two volunteers explain why they devote their after-work hours to the Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) Programme, which they believe is a better way of controlling Singapore's stray cat population compared to culling. 

SINGAPORE: Relationship manager Sharon Tang and lawyer Thenuga Vijakumar are busy executives by day, but at night, they turn into cat-women - they trap stray cats and send them for neutering, in a bid to save them from being culled.

They are doing their part in what's known as the Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) Programme, which Ms Vijakumar describes as a long-term solution to controlling Singapore’s stray cat population. According to the Cat Welfare Society, there are about 60,000 stray cats in Singapore.

"If you do TNRM, you're talking about taking 10 cats, neutering 10 and the number stays at 10," said Ms Vijakumar. “Cats reproduce very quickly, so culling is a very short-term solution. If you could have neutered your two cats before they became 20 cats, then you are not wasting 18 lives for no reason."

Each session spent trapping stray cats for these volunteers can be as quick as 20 minutes for three cats, but that is a rarity, they say. More often, they end up waiting for hours just to get one cat.

The work they do is also frequently misunderstood. "I think the public needs to know what we're doing here. We're not taking cats away or throwing them somewhere else,” said Ms Tang. “We even have cases of people who pass by and just decide to release the cat, not knowing what we are really trying to achieve here."

Once the cats are trapped, they are sent to the veterinarian for neutering. After surgery, the cats' left ears are slightly tipped - to identify them as neutered. Recovery takes a couple of days, after which the cats are released back to where they were found.

"There is now more recognition that TNRM is actually the most humane way of managing the cat population," said Ms Vijakumar Thenuga. "I know that each cat neutered means one less cat fight, one less potential deployment of an AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) trap, one less potential cat for culling." 

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