The loyal and dedicated members of the cat patrol

By Yang Yang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-13 09:02:30

It is almost impossible to know how many cats there are in China, because there are so many strays, living a miserable existence in which they are constantly threatened not only by raw nature but also by the darker side of humanity.

Fortunately, although China has no regime to protect animals such as wildcats and dogs, there are a good many good-hearted people who care about their well-being.

Yang Jie, 30, says that when Beijing's residential bungalows were torn down at the beginning of the 21st century and most people moved into high-rises, domesticated cats were largely abandoned.

"When I was little almost every family had a cat," she says. "They were kept with relatively few restrictions, allowed to run around. I almost never saw a stray cat."

"But when people moved into high-rises they no longer wanted to raise cats, so they were abandoned in the streets."

Cats at that time were not treated as pets. Rather, their job was to catch mice, just as dogs were supposed to act as guards. Cat owners failed to sterilize their cats, so after the cats were deserted, more kittens were born very quickly.

"That may be why there are so many stray cats now," Yang says.

Eight years ago when Yang was about to graduate from university she decided to take the cat she often fed at school back home, "because she was a poor little deaf stray cat".

Since then she has kept seven grown-up cats in her parents' home and a blind baby cat she now temporarily keeps in a neighbor's empty apartment.

"Apart from the first cat and her two babies, the other four cats were picked up on the street. They all have physical problems, and no one wants a disabled cat so we look after them."

In addition to the eight cats she looks after, Yang takes care of 40 stray cats that wander around her neighborhood.

She gets up at 5 am, tends to the cats at home and then goes to feed the stray cats at 6 am. They will be waiting for her come rain, shine or freezing cold, she says.

"Originally I fed them at 7, but a lot of people are driving their children to school then, and it is easy for hungry cats that are scurrying around to be hit by cars."

Yang saw that happen twice, then changed the feeding time.

"I was so devastated seeing a cat run over that I could not work that day," she says, sobbing. "Such a lovely animal died simply because drivers don't slow down even in a residential area."

Yang has made it her mission to find people to adopt the cats. Over the past few months she has found homes in Beijing for 40 kittens. She closely questions those applying to take the cats to ensure that they go to a good home, and she is willing to drive great distances if she finds someone who may be suitable.

"I want to visit the prospective adopter's home to see what the living conditions are like," she says.

Lu, nicknamed "Maolaolao", 52, of Beijing, a retiree, has been helping stray cats for 15 years. She is publicity shy, fearing that the more well known she becomes the heavier her workload will become.

"Over the past 15 years I have not taken one single day off feeding these stray cats, come rain or snow. I have to go because they are waiting for me. If I didn't turn up the cats would take refuge somewhere and what until I finally did.

"These days stray cats cannot find much food in rubbish bins because of garbage classification. All the bins have a lid, and waste is packed in plastic bags. Now people cook little food, and not much goes into the waste. If I don't feed the cats they will starve to death."

Each month, she says, she spends all of her pension and donations from benefactors to help the cats. Cat food alone costs her 7,000 yuan ($1,060) to 8,000 yuan. But Lu says she dislikes asking for charity, fearing that people will turn her away.

"There are many who really dislike people like us. If we raise money to help animals, they will say, 'You people spend the day pleading for help for stray cats and dogs but you are the ones who need help.' As if there is something to be ashamed of in what we do."

Despite her reticence about asking people for help, if cats fall ill, expenses can be extremely high, and Lu feels she has no choice but to ask for help.

Her mother and elder sister have told her they dislike what she does, but Lu has resolved to carry on nevertheless.

"Retired people like me will eat whatever they want to eat, travel to wherever they want, and enjoy their lives. But I have to live frugally to save money for these cats and dogs. Sometimes I feel really bad, but thinking of their poor situation, I cannot stop feeding them. I will continue to try my best to help them until the day when I cannot do it anymore."

Recently in China there have been well publicized cases of dogs and cats being mistreated.

"The government needs to pass laws to protect these small, helpless animals," Lu says.

Yang says: "All lives are equal. If you don't love them, at least don't hurt them."


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