The Hero Who Guards The Street Cats

In the 1950s, unwell and unwanted cats were often abandoned on the street. They reproduced uncontrollably which did not only affect their health, the overwhelming increase in the number of cats also affected the people living in the same neighbourhood. In the late 1990s, the Society took the lead in introducing the concept of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to control the number of street cats and aimed at improving their welfare in a more humane and sustainable way. After much research and many discussions, the Society officially launched the 'Cat Colony Care Programmeme' (CCCP) in August 2000 and started recruiting voluntary carers to help catch street cats in their registered colonies and bring them to the Society for neutering.

As this year marks the 22nd anniversary of the 'Cat Colony Care Programmeme', Pawprint invited three voluntary carers to share with you their unforgettable stories of humans and cats.


What drove you to become a CCCP carer?

Ah Bo :

When I was a child, my father saved a lot of cats and dogs and brought them home.

In 2015, one of my cats got very ill and passed away. I was so sad and came across a lost cat from a group of unneutered stray cats being taken care of by a woman alone. I wanted to find help and received a reply from an SPCA staff who introduced the CCCP to me. I thought it was very meaningful so I registered as a voluntary carer of the programmeme.


Tammy :

Growing up in a village, I was used to being with cats and dogs. After marriage, I wanted to raise cats again. At that time, I met a CCCP volunteer who introduced the programmeme to me. I thought it was very meaningful to help stray cats so I registered as a CCCP carer and started being a foster parent as well.


Christine :

In 2018, I helped a shelter foster two dogs during typhoon Mangkhut. When I took them for a walk, I found many weak and thin street cats in the neighbourhood, looking very unhealthy.

Although I had been afraid of cats since I was a child, I began to look out for them and learned about their eating habits, living conditions and the numbers of them from the people who fed them.

I also met the SPCA staff in charge of the CCCP who connected me with a carer from the same village. We started working together to catch street cats to neuter. Since then I have become a registered CCCP carer.


How does neutering improve the health of street cats?

Ah Bo :

After neutering, male cats will no longer fight for territory and get hurt. Skinny female cats can stop giving birth and gain some healthy weight. They will become more likable too.


Tammy :

Less cat fight for marking territory

Female cats no longer stay weak and thin due to non-stop pregnancy

Healthier coat


Christine :

Unneutered male cats will fight for mates and territory while unneutered female cats will scream continuously until they find a mate, affecting the tranquillity of the area.



What kind of benefits can be brought to the community as the number of street cats is controlled?

Ah Bo :

People are aware of the benefits of neutering the cats, e.g. 'she is so cute after gaining some weight', 'I didn't think she could be this well-behaved', 'it finally stops caterwauling for a mate so I can sleep quietly now', 'they no longer urinate at my door.'

People are more receptive to the presence of street cats after the number came under control. The CCCP clearly has helped cats and humans live peacefully together. I am very grateful for this.


Tammy :

Fewer cats urinate to mark territory thus less odour

No more noise caused by cat fighting for territory

I once heard that a cat owner living in a village house had many cats but refused to take them to be neutered. So his cats often urinated at the neighbour's door which caused conflicts between the owner and the neighbour. One day the owner found that all his cats were poisoned to death.

If the owner had been willing to take the cat to sterilise sooner, the dispute might have been avoided.


Christine :

The CCCP has greatly increased the neutering rate of stray cats, therefore reducing traffic accidents caused by cross-regional search for cat mates.


What challenges have you faced as you help the process of 'Trap-Neuter-Return' (TNR) ?

Ah Bo :

Difficulties can be resolved with experience. I always face them with a positive attitude.

But the problem I often encounter is that the cat feeder feed the cats so full just the night before catching. When the cats are full, they will not be lured by my bait and enter the cage.


Tammy :

I always tell the cat feeders not to feed the cats full the day before catching, otherwise they will not enter the cage. Quite disappointedly, some of them do not follow the instructions. If the cat is full, will it still be lured by my bait?

On the contrary, some cat-feeders feel guilty asking us to catch the cats so they frantically feed them after catching. This indirectly sends a message to the cats that delicious dinner will be served later if you don't enter the cage.


Christine :

It is not difficult to catch cats as long as I communicate with the cat-feeders in advance.

The most difficult thing to face is the feeling of being alone. There are a lot of cats in my village but the quota for surgery is limited. Often the cats will get pregnant again before it is their turn to be neutered. I feel like doing this in circles without an end….


Share your most memorable experience.

Ah Bo :

During the epidemic, volunteers from the mainland were not permitted to go across border to catch street cats in Sha Tau Kok. The number of street cats in the area doubled to more than 60 in one year.

Therefore, the Hong Kong team launched a large-scale TNR operation and caught more than 20 street cats in 4 hours. The SPCA also sent their Spay and Neuter Vehicle to perform on-site surgeries.


Tammy :

There were a few stray cats in Lau Fau Shan and I failed to convince the store owner (the cat-feeder) to neuter them. I gave her my phone number in case she changed her mind.

To my surprise, she contacted me after two years and said the number of cats had increased uncontrollably. She invited me back to Lau Fau Shan to catch the street cats for neutering and offered us some cakes and Chinese herbal tea as thank you gifts. It was quite a special day.


Christine :

It took me a lot of time and effort to finally win the trust of the street cat named 'Sun Sun'. He would wait for me to come home at my door every night and showed his belly when he saw me. I finally persuaded his cat feeder to let me bring him to the SPCA and sterilise him.

Less than a month after the surgery, 'Sun Sun' died in a traffic accident. I came across the news on social media where it also mentioned another cat that went missing with 'Sun Sun'. I claimed their bodies and cremated them and took their ashes home.



Share your most discouraging experience.

Ah Bo :

I once met a street cat named 'Bo Zi'. It had a bloated belly, skinny legs and seemed to be sick. I took him to the SPCA for sterilisation. His health improved a lot and gained some healthy weight. Just when I thought 'Bo Zi' would live a happy life after neutering, he was bitten to death by a dog. I was very heart broken.

Stray animals always encounter different accidents and I feel powerless protecting them sometimes.


Tammy :

About eight months ago, I was invited to catch street cats in a certain area but surprisingly stopped by another volunteer. In the end, the police was called to resolve this.

Later, I heard rumours that this volunteer wanted to keep the street cats for sale. I was really disheartened. She used to be a volunteer but was now making a profit out of street cats. I almost wanted to quit the CCCP because it was too discouraging.

But after some thoughts, I did not want to give up just because one or two rotten apples of the programmeme.


Christine :

Some villagers once complained to me saying, 'what am I supposed to do with the mice if you catch all of the cats?'

I wanted to quit the CCCP after hearing these blameful complaints.


What are the public misconceptions of the CCCP and what are your responses accordingly?

Ah Bo :

Misunderstanding:Are you going to euthanise the cats you caught?

Answer:: I will bring them to neuter to improve their health. I will bring them back after the surgery.

Misunderstanding:Can the neutered cats still catch mice and cockroaches?

Answer:Of course, it is their hobby, not reproductive abilities. Someone even hurtfully said to me that I couldn't get pregnant because I often caught cats to sterilise.


Tammy :

Misunderstanding:Will you bring back the cats you caught?

Answer:I will bring them back after they got neutered. I have many cats of my own too.

Misunderstanding:Don't bring back the cats. They are too noisy.

Answer:Of course I need to bring them back. It's their home here. They will behave better after getting neutered.


Christine :

People often misunderstand that we do this for money. In fact we are all volunteers!

As a true volunteer for animals, there are five major contributions that are indispensable i.e heart, money, effort, blood and sweat!



What is the role of a CCCP carer?

Ah Bo :

A mediator, mediating conflicts between street cats and the neighbourhood, explaining to residents why cats should be caught and sterilised.


Tammy :

An educator, educating citizens about the many benefits sterilisation can bring to stray cats.


Christine :

We are always put in a dilemma, can't win both sides.


Apart from catching cats, what are the other responsibilities of a CCCP carer?

Ah Bo :

You must abide by the regulations set by the CCCP and put the cat back to its original habitat after capture and sterilisation.

If you bring the mother cat home and do not return her to her habitat, her babies cannot survive without her milk.


Tammy :

After the cat is neutered, it should not be brought to your home but returned to its habitat. You should also keep track of its health condition after surgery.

Do not neuter a cat through the CCCP if it has an owner. Otherwise it will exploit the resources of the programme meant for the benefits of stray cats.


Christine :

Firstly, we need to keep well of the humane cat traps lent by the SPCA.

Secondly, take care of the stray cats in the colony that you registered for including the cat number, health and living conditions.

At the same time, maintain good communication with the villagers and promote the benefits of TNR.


What is your vision for street cats?

Ah Bo :

Stray cats and humans can share their living space peacefully.


Tammy :

To improve the health and well-being of street cats through neutering.


Christine :

I hope that more stray cats will be put to the adoption programme after carefully evaluated by the CCCP veterinarians.

Of course, some cats are used to living in the streets and will not be happy being trapped at home, so we must carefully evaluate them individually.


Title: The Achievement of the 'Cat Colony Care Programmeme' After 22 Years

  • Total numbers of cat sterilised : > 80,000
  • The number of cats euthanized has dropped by 95%
  • Total cat colonies : > 1,900
  • Active cat colonies : 1,750
  • Non-active colonies : 160 (Non-active colonies means there are no more street cats in that area!)
  • Active registered voluntary carers : > 1,100
  • Active registered helpers : 255
  • Communities, schools, property management companies and government departments involved :253
  • Stray cats life expectancy : from 2-4 years to 10 years and more