For ‘Cats of Araneta,’ feline strays not pests but PALs in need
When the night gets deep and quiet settles on Araneta Center in Quezon City, a group of cat lovers roams the streets on a mission: Find and care for stray cats lurking in the busy district.
Luchie Diaz and Eden Walsh would visit their base at the parking lot of Shopwise Arcade in Cubao to feed and check on some of the cats they’ve rescued in the area.
In January, Diaz thought of formally organizing people interested in promoting the welfare of felines at the commercial hub—through a group now called “Cats of Araneta.”
“It’s easier to round up the cats, but it tugs at your heart when you see them eating garbage,” Diaz said.
The group intends to provide a “humane and compassionate way” of controlling the cat population at Araneta Center and to reduce unwanted disturbances attributed to the furry animals, according to her.
Part of its strategy is implementing the TNR (trap-neuter-return) or “kapon” program, a surgical procedure meant to render a cat unable to reproduce.
Cats of Araneta has successfully performed TNR on 24 cats this year, with the assistance of Cara Welfare Philippines.
The team also relies on various veterinary clinics and animal doctors and welfare groups that have offered to help in the TNR, vaccination and treatment of the cats.
“But we had to deal with limited resources. Although we get to use a van to roam around, we only have two trained catchers. So we need more volunteers and donations,” Diaz said.
“That is why we want to emphasize also that we are not a shelter and that Araneta Center is not a place where (you can) dump unwanted or homeless cats and dogs,” she added.
The group communicates mostly through its Facebook page, Cats of Araneta, where its members also post personal stories with stray cats, including those for adoption.
“I used to be hungry, dirty, thin and scared, hiding behind a cracked wall. Now I am clean, fat and loved. Now I have a home, a meowmy and 2 fur friends, Midnight and Fifi,” a post on the Facebook page said, supposedly quoting Snowball, a cat that was adopted this month.
Another post was about Jolly, a cat that had dwelled in a construction site before she was adopted just this month.
For Walsh, apathy and lack of recognition of the symbiosis between animals and humans could sometimes be a problem even in a “generally welcoming” community like Araneta Center.
“Some people—mostly men—who’d see us feeding the cats would tell us sarcastically: ‘Sana pusa na lang ako [I wish I were a cat so I can get free food],’” said Walsh, who lives near a Korean fastfood outlet in Cubao that is frequented by cats.
“We’re not doing what we’re doing for fame or whatever, but to raise awareness of how to care for stray cats,” she said.
The group seeks to promote the cats’ well-being through feeding and monitoring, providing antirabies vaccination and other treatment, and promoting adoption.
Thea Suguitan, one of the volunteers, hoped that more people would extend financial support for the cats’ sustenance, especially since they had to shell out their own money for cat food and other provisions.
The group has talked with Araneta Center management, represented by various administrative and security officers of the different properties in the area, but an agreement formalizing Cats of Araneta’s programs has yet to be signed, according to Diaz.
A new hope, however, came when the management of Farmers Market, in partnership with Cara, launched a program this year called “PalengKETS,” which aims to get roaming cats in the market spayed and neutered.
Araneta Center offers a stark contrast to other urban establishments.
Last year, for instance, Shangri-La at the Fort hotel in Bonifacio Global City was heavily criticized for taking pest control measures against the more than 20 cats living in its area.
But in Cubao’s business district, Diaz and her volunteers could tap “cat-compassionate private citizens who offer their time and resources to provide for the needs of the cats.”
Cats of Araneta also has pet-friendly security guards to thank for. In at least three fastfood outlets, the guards are known to feed the animals with whatever food scraps they have.
“Some Filipinos see cats as pests; cats are hurt (deliberately) or run over (by vehicles),” Suguitan said. “Education is part of spreading awareness so people would stop harming them.”
According to Ernest Hemingway, “a cat has absolute emotional honesty.”
Like humans, they have feelings and deserve to be loved and appreciated, Suguitan said.
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