How many of us are guilty of endlessly chasing after materialistic wants in modern society because our basic needs are so easily fulfilled that we take it for granted? We cannot decide on which new handbag to buy online or we’re busy looking through itineraries for a holiday. Though Singapore is a fast developing country, there will be always a group of disadvantaged and needy citizens struggling to make ends meet everyday.
A friend who regularly feeds strays, E, called one afternoon and asked for help to sterilize some cats in a flat. Apparently there was a population explosion and the flat owners were unable to cope with it. I hurriedly scribbled down some details and arranged a home visit with E and another volunteer to check out the situation.
Upon reaching the door of the flat, E knocked and called for some time before the flat owners finally opened the door. We were taken aback as a pungent stench of feces and urine hit us right in the face. Upon walking in, a mother cat with two kittens from separate litters lifted her head up and stared blankly at me. Her younger kitten was just a few days old with eyes unopened, lying down on some old and soiled newspapers.
The two elderly brothers who greeted us seemed worried and somewhat wary. E told them “we are here to help with the cats” and they heaved a sigh of relief. They are nearing their 70s and live together in this flat that they bought many years ago. Though the flat has been fully paid for and they at least have a roof over their heads, their financial status and living conditions were worrying. Only one of the brothers was mobile and the other had difficulty walking. The healthier brother made a living by collecting and selling cardboard boxes, but his earnings were meager.
The dimly lit house had windows which were old and rusty and the stained and soiled walls badly needed a fresh coat of paint. The floor laminate had come off in some areas, probably because it had been constantly soaked with cat urine. The house was unkempt, unhygienic and dirty.
On an old metal trolley and a rusty bread tray, there were empty cat kibble packets and wet food cans. We later asked the brothers about their expenses for the cats. They spend close to $50 weekly, which means $200 each month. With only one sole breadwinner and with so many mouths to meet, how did they land themselves in such a dire situation?
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