Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a cat cafe! If you’re a cat lover, chances are you’ve been to at least one cat cafe that have popped up around the Klang Valley. Maybe you’re a proud cat owner yourself, just dying for someone to bring up cats in everyday conversation so you can start showing off photos of your beautiful felines.
Ever felt like a few cats simply aint enough? What if I told you there’s a Cat Beach in Penang with… 300 CATS?!!
I know, you’re probably screaming right now. This writer stumbled upon the Cat Beach through a travel vlog (click here if you nak tengok also) that was shared on her Facebook timeline. Some quick Googling brought us to the Cat Beach’s website and Facebook page and as a fellow animal lover, this writer was hooked!
We quickly got in touch with the founder Teviot Fairservis, an American woman who started Cat Beach in Teluk Bahang, Penang with Mr. Nana, a local fisherman, to find out more about the beach (like, when can we visit?).
Inspired by the 4Paws dog shelter in Penang, Cat Beach started with EIGHTY CATS
Teviot explained to us that the idea for Cat Beach all started with Barbara Janssen, founder of the Penang Animal Welfare Society and 4PAWS dog shelter. Teviot had previously worked at 4Paws for a year, and was introduced to Mr Nana Bin Wanchik, a fisherman who has been caring for stray cats for over a decade on the beach of Teluk Bahang. Together, they realized the need to create a sanctuary to care for less fortunate cats in Penang.
“Cat Beach is a free roaming colony of cats that we care for. But the colony just keeps getting bigger day-by-day – we started off with 100 cats in 2014, but the numbers have doubled or most probably tripled since then, so we’re looking at about 250 to 300 cats on Cat Beach today” – Teviot Fairservis told CILISOS.
She also told The Star some time ago that the Cat Beach is the last resort for many abused and abandoned cats, and many of them were rescued from life or death situations. In our interview with Teviot, she told us about the worst cases she’s ever seen where several cats were brought to their shelters with holes in their bums during Chinese New Year. After rushing them to the vet, they were told people had stuck fireworks in the poor cats’ butts – several of them survived, but a few of the cats succumbed to their injuries 🙁
The cats mainly hang out in a wooden house on the beach, and they have a cat cafe too where visitors can chill with the various kitties. But unfortunately, after a particularly big storm in January, part of the cat cafe’s platform had collapsed so they’re still in the midst of repairing it.
But, how do they make sure so many cats stay in the same area? According to Teviot, Teluk Bahang has a pretty unique geography, as it’s surrounded by mountains on all sides, with the open beach on another end so the cats don’t really go anywhere else except out on to the road.
“If any cats have disappeared, it’s most likely that they’ve went out to live within the community. Many of the neighbours there are feeding around 15 to 30 cats in and around their homes, so it’s a very cat-friendly village” – Teviot Fairservis told CILISOS
Buuut the main draw that keeps the cats within the property is of course, the food la. The cats get fed twice to three times a day by volunteers, get plenty of fresh water and an abundance of human attention from the various volunteers and visitors who come and go daily. The sanctuary also has tons of places for kitties to hide and create their own little favourite spots to hide in. Plus, cats are social creatures, so they just naturally stick together. Got a beach, so much food, water and attention… aiyo, why would any of them want to leave?
The sanctuary hopes to it can become a World Class cat shelter some day
Throughout the 4 years they’ve been operational, they have been driven by the desire to expand their shelter and take care of even more less fortunate cats in Penang. According to Teviot, the Cat Beach Sanctuary has 3 main goals:
- Achieving international level of cat care, according to international organizations like American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
- Educating the public about cats
- Introducing more tourism to the sanctuary
Their first goal is the most important one for everyone at Cat Beach, which is to give the cats the best care they can possibly receive.
“Especially in terms of the level of hygiene, sanitation and medical care in Cat Beach, according to international standards set by animal associations abroad like the ASPCA so that our cats are getting the best care we can give them” – Teviot told CILISOS
The second goal is still a long-standing mission since they begun caring for cats – to spread awareness about how cats are not a nuisance in society as they can actually help communities with pest control (aka no more rats!) and can actually bring joy to lots of people. Everyday issues like what to do if you find a lost/injured cat, how to raise a kitten and etc can help everyday Malaysians gain a little understanding into how to properly care for cats.
“We want to change the negative perception people have of stray cats, as well as ending abuse because we do see so many cases of cruelty or abuse. Mainly we just want to encourage people to start reporting any cases of abuse to the police when they see it” – Teviot told CILISOS
Cat Beach’s third goal is their plans to develop Cat Beach into a tourist destination for cat lovers (kinda like Melaka’s Huskitory Cafe). But sadly, it isn’t all sunshine and roses for the kitties at Cat Beach, as the shelter has some obstacles to overcome as well.
The sanctuary is still struggling to provide medical attention to all their cats
As of now, the cats there receive the basic healthcare like deflea-ing and deworm-ing medication once a month, but the shelter is struggling to afford more expensive and necessary treatment like vaccinations, spaying and neutering. Minor illnesses like the cat flu are often self-administered by the founders and the volunteers with medication or supplements. As an alternative, the sanctuary focuses heavily on getting good quality cat food that help build up the cats’ immune systems so they are able to avoid getting sick.
Distance is also a problem when it comes to providing treatment, as the vets in the area are an hour’s drive away. So far, they’ve been unable to find a regular vet that is willing to come to the sanctuary to provide medical attention or vaccinate all the cats.
“It’s difficult to vaccinate all the cats and part of it is the logistics, partially about the money. We don’t have a vehicle to transport all the cats to a vet, so we depend largely on volunteers to get any sick or injured animals to receive medical treatment. Ideally, we’ll love to have someone come and do a mass sterilization and vaccination of all our cats but it’s not possible quite yet.” – Teviot told CILISOS
Partly, they simply don’t have the money to send all of their cats for spaying/neutering – which costs around RM150-RM300 per cat, according to Teviot. Imagine la, the sanctuary has around 300 cats! That’s over RM75,000 if all treatments cost RM250 each. Not only that, cats need annual vaccinations that cost between RM50 to RM80 per cat. The sanctuary has to prioritise having sufficient food in the long term, so (for now) sterilizing their cats is secondary.
“On average, we need about RM3 per cat per day. Being a non-profit shelter, we depend on donations but there have been times that I have to use my own money” – Teviot, during our interview with her
If you’re ever feline lonely, you can always volunteer to help out at the beach
Currently, Cat Beach has 5 committed volunteers that care for the cats daily, but they also get a handful of part-time volunteers. But they are still welcoming more volunteers to help with tasks like cleaning their poop (they have a designated open air sandy area for the cats which they clean and disinfect twice a day), feeding all the cats, giving them their medicine as well as caring for the sick/injured ones.
Their volunteers come from all over the world, many who learn about the shelter through word-of-mouth, various online volunteer sites like HelpX and Workaway and through social media. If you wanna know how you can help, you can always message them on their Cat Beach Facebook page.
If you wanna donate to the Cat Beach, you can donate via their GoFundMe page or donate it directly into a CIMB Bank Malaysia Savings Account #7063481337 in the name of Mohd Iqbal bin Zainal (who’s the president of the Cat Lovers International Society, Penang). Oh btw, they’ll be having their Jumbo Yard Sale on April 14th and 15th on Cat Beach (their address is 778 Jalan Teluk Awak, Teluk Bahang, 11050 Pulau Pinang).
Maybe next time any of ugaiz are in Penang, why not stop by and do some good for some less fortunate kitties? Confirm you’ll get some good karma.