Vet's kitty kindergarten leaves cat owners purring

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:00am

Cats, like people, have behavioural problems if they are not properly socialised when they are young. So a Glasgow-born veterinarian has done something about it.

Not only did Margaret Bradley establish Hong Kong's first cat hospital in Central, she recently set up a kitten kindergarten.

'While puppy parties are common, cats are neglected,' says the 41-year-old vet, whose practice is called Nine Lives.

Dr Bradley says that, just like people, mental happiness plays an important role in cats' lives too.

'Kittens need to be socialised at a young age or they will always be scared of new circumstances when they grow up. Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained to obey their owners too.'

Five kittens were in the first intake for the kindergarten, set up in February, and while the felines were being friendly and frisky with each other, the owners were taught cat care.

Like all new ventures, Kitten kindergarten is developing slowly, but more owners are becoming interested.

Dr Bradley says treating cats needs a holistic approach, with each animal's circumstances playing an important role. 'The differences may be subtle, but we may have to use different medicines or approaches to treat them.'

Trained at Glasgow University in Scotland, Dr Bradley worked in a veterinary clinic in London before arriving in Hong Kong in 1992.

'I saw an advertisement in a British newspaper for an animal doctor in Mongkok. So I came.

'I fell in love with Hong Kong and its people. This city is a rewarding place for vets. People here have very healthy attitudes towards animal doctors. When their pets get sick, they want to know why and what they can do to help. That's why we are much busier than our counterparts in the UK.'

Dr Bradley is impressed by her patients' owners. They are so informed that sometimes they ask her to get drugs from overseas, which they have researched on the internet.

'Some western people may think people in [Asia] do not like animals. But from my point of view, people here care as much if not more about animals than western people do.'

After completing her contract with the Mongkok clinic, Dr Bradley worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1994, but she quit in 2003 to set up her own practice. She says she left because putting down healthy animals was not good for her soul.

Making house calls are part of her busy schedule. 'Many cats are afraid of travelling. When I visit, I use my secret weapons - feline pheromone and catnip spray. I spray myself with them and the cats just love to get close to me.'

Dr Bradley and her four colleagues have treated more than 3,000 cats since November 2003.

'Some people consider cats their children. When an old animal gets sick, the whole family will be affected. I am quite upset when a cat passes away, because I get involved in the whole situation too.'

Dr Bradley has met thousands of cats in her career. Some make her laugh, some make her cry, while others really challenge her to come up with ideas on how to calm them down.

But one factor that impresses her most is their will to survive.

Ms No Name, a Kowloon cat she met last summer, illustrates this point. She had been attacked by a dog and her intestines were ruptured. Even though she was in great pain, she was still very friendly.

'We had to remove several inches of her intestines. She stayed in the clinic for several weeks and went home well. It was amazing.

'That's why people say cats have nine lives.'