November 16, 2004

Catcalls? She reacts to mews

Woman spends all her free time and $3,800 a month to run shelter for strays

By Sharlene Tan

SHE is so devoted to Metta Cattery, a shelter for stray cats, that you can find her there every day after work and all day on weekends and public holidays.


Ms Lee Siew Ying, 52, would not even mind living there, provided there was space and it was in a less remote location.

She runs the cattery at Pasir Ris Farmway 2, which she started four years ago after she had to move from her pet-filled terrace house to an HDB flat.

Although there are about 15 regular volunteers, Ms Lee spends almost all her free time tending to the animals.

“When my volunteers can’t make it down, they can call and say, “I can’t make it.’ But who am I going to call.”

“Can I tell you to open the can of food yourself?” she cooed at one of the cats purring at her feet.

Despite there being nearly 120 cats at Metta Cattery (“metta” means “loving kindness” to Buddhists), Ms Lee, who works at a Pasir Ris clinic as a billings administrator, can call all of them by name and recounted some of their sad plights.


There’s Simbal, who likes to claim the wooden stool in the backyard as his own regal perch. And Tania, the affectionate three-month-old who loves to climb onto Ms Lee’s shoulder.

Tania was one of five kittens which had been placed in plastic bags by someone out to suffocate them. Only Tania and her sister Sonia survived.

The cats are housed in a compound about the size of a three-room flat.

“There wasn’t a place to house them after sterilisation and also a place was needed for the sick ones. Metta Cattery is like a halfway house for the cats,” said Ms Lee, who has severe asthma.

She said it takes about $3,800 a month to run Metta Cattery, not including vet fees, which can sometimes go up to $500 for one animal.

As the cattery is not a registered society, it depends on donations in kind and volunteers. The cattery has its own homepage,, which has pictures of the cats for adoption.

Ms Lee’s 22-year-old son also shares her love for animals.

“He used to smuggle stray kittens home when he was in secondary school. He would wait until dark and hide the kittens under his shirt,” she said, chuckling.

He regularly helps out at the cattery, especially when animals need to be ferried to the vet.

Ms Lee’s animal rescue is not confined to cats. There are several stray dogs and Ms Lee is even nursing a pigeon back to health after she found it floundering behind the clinic.