By Anna Tan
Many can relate to forming a deep emotional connection with the animals we meet. For some NTU students, it may be one of several cats that have called the campus grounds home. Students over the years have found comfort in our feline companions, and I for one have grown to love the familiarity of seeing these adorable cats wandering around campus.
“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” This quote by author Charles Dickens especially rings true for those who are a part of NTU’s Cat Management Network (CNM). Completely student run, CMN is “dedicated to all things cat related”. The club, which has just celebrated its 18th year in 2022, boasts individuals who carry an ardent love for these creatures.
Leading the 20 people strong team is President Nur Atikah Masturina, a Year 3 Philosophy major. Despite having underestimated how tough her role as president would be, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wanted to give back to the cat community, who is the source of my serotonin every week. Just interacting with cats, I find it very fulfilling to see the cats live a very good life,” she said.
Proud that her main committee members are constantly reaching out and engaging in work beyond their scope, Atikah describes the CMN as a “wholesome club”, emphasising that just like her, the main committee’s priority is always the welfare of the cats.
The club’s organisational structure essentially consists of two portfolios, Atikah’s main responsibilities include overseeing the outreach/education portfolio, which primarily focuses on collaterals and merchandising, and the operations side.
NTU’s most talked about community – cats! Credit: NTU Cat Management Network
Of course, every good leader always has the right people behind them. One of the two vice-presidents behind her is Su Xinhui, a Year 3 Math and Computer Science major who manages the operations side of CMN.
Xinhui’s duties on the operations side primarily revolves around the welfare of the cats – which include rescued strays and community cats. The operations side oversees the feeding of the cats, providing food or equipment, catering to their medical needs and managing a foster network when a new cat appears in NTU — an occurrence in which integration with the other cats might prove to be an issue. Interestingly enough, no one in CMN has a definitive conclusion on where these new cats pop up from.
Although Xinhui’s role is not an easy role to juggle on top of her studies, she also expresses no regret in taking on this heavy responsibility. “My reason is really quite simple; it’s because I like cats a lot,” she laughed.
“I won’t say the journey is what I expected, but I love every part of it. I have the chance to interact with the cats that I rescued. When we rescue them, they are small and tiny, but when we adopt them out, they are like beautifully grown cats. It makes me very happy; it’s like we’re giving this cat that never had a chance in this world a new chance,” she added.
Learning to expect the unexpected is definitely a big takeaway. Both members hark back to a recent incident with a rescued pregnant cat. After taking the pregnant cat to the vet, the ultrasound showed that the mother was going to have four kittens but when she gave birth, they had eight kittens on their hands instead.
“It was a very memorable moment,” Atikah recalled.
2/8 of the kitten litter – Stonky and PD, and Mother Banse. Credit: NTU Cat Management Network
It is virtually impossible for only the main committee to have eyes on all the cats, as these cats are split into four main clusters – Crespion, Nanyang Crescent, North Hill and North Spine.
Being unable to constantly be on the lookout for the emergence of new cats, CMN relies on the online NTU cat lover community on their Telegram group chat as the first point of contact. This community will assist in reporting on any community cats who seem unwell, for example.
Another big part of the CMN operations are its volunteer feeders. Citing inappropriate feeding as a huge problem for the club, those who are interested in feeding the cats simply have to sign up during the recruitment period, and everyone is welcomed to do so.
“We welcome anyone (to be a feeder), as long as you’re a cat lover or you are interested in animals,” Atikah said. In fact, both Xinhui and Atikah started out as volunteer feeders in their first year.
NTU’s community cats receive a lot of love not just from members of CMN but also from students. When the club requires it, they can look to the community as a pillar of support in ensuring the welfare of these cats.
“It’s nice we have a very supportive community in NTU. Everyone is always looking out for the cats and always fangirling about the cats,” Atikah commented.
Knowing that the NTU community has a certain attachment to these cats, some wonder if the CMN will re-home cats into NTU for the sole purpose of ensuring the presence of cats on campus grounds. Atikah’s answer to that would be a resounding no.
“We are always on the lookout for what’s best for the welfare of the cats.”
She reminisces on an old community cat named Doritos, who used to reside in the Crespion cluster.
Doritos, who has since been adopted. Credit: NTU Cat Management Network
“We believed he had environmental allergies, so we decided that it would be best for him to be in a cleaner, more controlled environment. So, we adopted him out. People always say Albus (another resident of the Crespion cluster) looks so lonely and sad; he’s got no friend to hang out with, but it is for Doritos’ own good,” she explained.
Albus. Credit: NTU Cat Management Network
The attachment to these cats is undoubtedly warranted. Many find solace in animals and in NTU, one doesn’t have to wander far to receive alleviation from their stresses in these cute cuddly animals.
“It’s goes unspoken that the cats that come into our care provide a lot of support to the students for their own struggles and challenges,” Atikah said.
Kuro. Credit: NTU Cat Management Network
After a long hard day, a cat curling up on your lap can be all that you need. Naming Kuro as her favourite cat, Atikah remembers always going to look for him when she felt sad.
“I think there’s something nice that the cats do for us that’s not quite talked about. They support us in their own ways,” she said.
Everyone can probably identify to feeling overburdened by life’s stresses and needing some kind of release. For the average overworked university student, few things might top the experience of chilling with a furry friend.
“Sometimes the smallest of things they do can bring a lot of happiness,” Atikah added.