Monday, August 13, 2012

The Straits Times : The more, the merrier

The Straits Times
11th August 2012
By Cheryl Faith Wee

Some animal lovers keep between seven and nine pets at home

Ms Bella Koh lives with eight cats in the apartment she shares with her husband Terence Yeung -- ST PHOTOS: CAROLINE CHIA, KEVIN LIM

When it comes to furry friends, owning just one pet is not enough for some animal lovers.

A check by Life! found some keeping up to nine critters. Take Ms Bella Koh, 31, who has eight cats in the three-bedroom apartment in Tiong Bahru that she lives in with her design-lecturer husband, Mr Terence Yeung, 42.

Ms Koh, who owns vintage boutique Flea And Trees in Tiong Bahru, got her first cat in 1998 and has been adopting felines ever since. They range from neighbourhood strays to others rescued from dire straits.

She says: "There was a little black kitten we found on the expressway. We halted the car and took it back home. If we had left it there, it would probably have been run over."

Her husband also helps take care of the cats. Tasks include feeding them twice daily and letting them out of the house in the afternoon and ensuring they return safely in the evening.

The couple also bathe all the cats once a month. Ms Koh says: "We work like a factory line. I bathe them in our shower and my husband wipes them down. We get muscle aches after that."

They spend around $200 a month on food for their cats.

Another pet lover is chef Jason Ong, 42, who has four birds and three dogs. He shares a one-storey corner terrace house in Upper Thomson with programme director Kevin Neo, 36.

Mr Ong, who owns cafe Torte in Waterloo Street, says: "It is a big responsibility but it is always fun. We never get bored. I grew up around animals and my family even had a pig."

He keeps the birds in cages in the backyard. The dogs run free in the frontyard when there is no one at home.

Still, some onlookers are baffled by Mr Ong's dedication to his pets. The animal lover says jokingly: "My neighbours get very upset when they find out that I feed my birds papayas from the trees in my yard. They want the papayas, too."

He does not leash or keep the dogs in a room when guests come over during festive occasions such as Chinese New Year and Christmas. As a result, some fearful friends decline invitations to visit.

Mr Neo says: "Most of our friends like dogs but those who are afraid will most likely not come."

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority allows a maximum of three dogs per private non-HDB premises. Permission must be obtained to keep more than three dogs. For public housing, only one dog of an approved small breed is allowed. The Housing Board does not permit cats to be kept in HDB flats.

All dogs above three months old must have a licence. Cats do not have to be licensed and neither do birds and fish.

The director of the Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ms Corinne Fong, 49, says: "Good intentions aside, these individuals should be financially prepared to ensure the well-being of their pets, which means seeing to their day-to-day needs and regular vet visits."

She adds: "They should plan long- term, have a good support network and also consider what will happen if they are away or no longer capable of taking care of their pets."

Mr Marvin Ong keeps nine chinchillas in four cages in his bedroom in a flat which he shares with a flatmate. -- ST PHOTOS: CAROLINE CHIA, KEVIN LIM

Engineer Marvin Ong, 35, has nine chinchillas - rodents the size of a rabbit with a squirrel-like tail. He arranges to leave his pets with a friend when he is on holiday. They live in four cages in his bedroom in a rented three-room HDB flat which he shares with a flatmate. He divides the animals into three pairs and one trio in each of the large, spacious cages.

Mr Ong has dreamt of getting a chinchilla since he was 17. He got his first one about two years ago when he could finally afford it. It cost him around $2,000.

But he could not resist adopting more, especially those from online forums that he noticed were kept in poor conditions.

His pets' cages, with fans attached, cost more than $3,000. He spends more than $180 a month on their food.

"This amount is quite okay. After all, it is only about one-third of what it costs to feed a human every month if you spend about $10 on meals daily," says Mr Ong.