|Rebecca: Now kitty you better cooperate and come with me!|
For our latest "Le Chat" column, we tracked down cat whisperer, Rebecca Ho of Lingcat Feline Services, and owner of celebrity kitty, Scarface on how she got started in cat rescue and how she is using her 15 years of experience to benefit cat owners with feline care. Find out more about her services and online store on www.lingcat.sg
Rebecca, we know you have been working with cats for a long time from rescue to cat sitting and boarding, and congrats now that you are a certified cat behaviourist! Tell us when and how did you start working with cats?
An article on kitten abuse angered me many years ago. Because of that, I started feeding the community cats in my estate when I was 14. I wasn’t able to sterilize those cats that I was feeding as it was too costly at private vet practices. The price was about three times of what we are currently paying. In 2000, I started trapping cats then neutered and released them with the blessing of Cat Welfare Society.
What's a typical day at work like? Is there even a typical day?
I’ve moved on to doing cat behaviour consultation from mid of this year. As cat behaviourist is still a relatively new idea, I have spent a lot of time doing research on various studies and school of thoughts, and picking out ideas that are relevant and can be implemented in our local context. On days when I need to do consultation, I will visit my client’s home and spend an hour to assess the home environment. After which, I will send them a detailed email on my recommendations. Otherwise, I will also be generating ideas on how to educate cat owners to give their cats a better home environment. I am also meeting industry partners to organize educational workshops and talks.
How did you gain knowledge and seek training in the field of cats? We know you have an advanced certificate in feline behaviour from the Centre Of Applied Pet Ethology in Sheffield, UK.
I have always been passionate about cat rescue since I was a teenager. With the blessing of my family, I am able to travel around the world and visited quite a few animal shelters, which gave me a very different view in which how rescue work should be done. My inspiration came during the World Feline Veterinary Congress at Barcelona in 2013. For the first time in my life, I found people who share the same vision as me with regards to rescue. I got quite emotional when I heard their speeches. I decided there and then that I want to be standing on the stage and inspire people to rescue cats humanely. This is one of the reasons why I switched my trade to be a cat behaviourist. I can educate people with tested methods and advice on how cats should be treated, rather than depending on unproven myths.
Cesar Millan has his way of working with dogs and his famous tip to dog owners is to be the pack leader. How do you approach cats? Are there specific guidelines to understanding feline behaviour?
Cats need to be in control. In order to rectify feline behaviour problems, we need to work at a pace the cat is happy with. Behaviour problems are actually normal cat behaviours which are unacceptable to people in a home environment. The underlying cause needs to be identified and redirected to an appropriate channel. This is done by changing the environment, human-cat interaction and cat-cat interaction.
What's on your wish list with regards to cat welfare in Singapore?
I wish there is no need for cat shelters eventually; when humans and cats can live in harmony, with cats being treasured family pets or well-loved community cats.
|Rebecca with Scarface|
I have four cats - two are with my parents and two are with me, including Scarface. I have a dog and my relationship with her is best described as an accidental child. The dog and cats tolerated each other.
Why are you drawn to cats?
I used to live with my grandmother when I was a child. My grandma’s neighbour had three toy breed dogs and a cat. The dogs love to bark when people passed by their door. The cat was very sweet and allowed me to pat and play with her. Hence my liking for cats developed from there.
If you were a cat, what kind would you be and why?
A big black Tom that roams the streets! When I was trapping cats professionally, big entire Toms are the most challenging cats. I think they are really cool and attractive.