Beth Wong Prefers Dozens of Feral Cats Over Space for a Bed
The retired teacher lives with more than 60 stray felines in her Tuen Mun village home, fostering them until they get adopted.
Why live with so many cats? I was living in an ivory tower when I was inspired by the volunteers who feed and care for stray cats out of their own pockets. I had no idea there were so many strays out there that needed help. After retiring in 2007, I started adopting stray cats. There were about a dozen at the time, and that number just kept growing. Some of the cats were too friendly, and I was worried they would be tortured by strangers. Some were sick or injured, so I took them in to nurse them back to health. Others were helpless kittens. With a couple of friends, I formed a charitable organization, which makes it easier for us to get deals from wholesale pet product manufacturers and suppliers. We also get donations, which we distribute to volunteers along with the discounted pet products.
What’s it like living with all these kitties? I don’t have space—I sleep on whatever surface I can find. My “bed” is made of two boxes with a wooden plank on top. Those two boxes are for my books because I’ve given away all three of my bookshelves. The cats needed more space, you see, and I don’t have time to read anyway. As long as I’m awake and not in the shower, I’m taking care of the cats. There are 15 litter trays which I clean at least twice a day. I mop the floor at least four to five times a day, but no matter how many times I clean the floor there are always hairballs lying around. I refill their food and water bowls throughout the day, but it’s harder than it sounds because I have to mix supplements into their food to make sure they stay healthy. When the cats do get sick, they can be terrible to deal with. Sometimes, my volunteers and I have to ambush them to capture them just so we can take them to the vet.
Does it ever become too much? I’m tired to death, physically and mentally. But I’ve never thought of giving up. When the cats give me a hard time, I just scold them. Even when I’m ill, when I’m throwing up and everything, I always go back to caring for them right after. I think to myself, “What would happen to the cats if I’m not around?” That’s why I persevere. I try not to take in any more strays now: I’m trying to get all of the cats I have here adopted. People donate to my nonprofit organization for stray cats, but caring for the strays can still get pretty expensive: When the donations run out, I have to foot the remaining medical bills myself. Just over the past six months, I’ve spent $100,000 on medical fees for the cats.
What else have you given up for these strays? I used to love reading, watching films and travelling. I went to the Hong Kong International Film Festival every year. But all of that ended when I started adopting stray cats in 2007. The last movie I saw at the cinema was “Shaolin,” five years ago. And my trip to Langkawi about 12 years ago was the last trip I’ve been on. As a primary school teacher, I travelled pretty much every summer holiday because of the pressure at work, but that was nothing compared with the pressure I face now!
Have you ever gotten in trouble for keeping so many strays? Recently, someone complained to the authorities that I was also keeping stray cats in an industrial building unit. So my volunteers and I had to figure out how to move them and try to get people to adopt the strays—more than 40 of them. Not all of them got adopted, and we’re keeping the remaining 20-something cats at a secret location. Some people disagree with what I do, but I don’t mind. I’m content knowing that I can give these strays a future by helping them find loving homes.