She gave up job, survives on one small meal a day and gets by on donations to care for a total of 150 cats
For months, Ms Lily Low went without food for two days at a time just to make sure that more than 80 rescue cats ate enough.
Eight years later, she is still struggling to feed herself and 150 or so cats, although things are a little better now.
The 46-year-old survives on just one meal a day and gets by with the support of family, friends and donations from other animal lovers from around the world who learn of her private cat shelter through social media.
“Before I went into being a full-time rescuer, I had money to do what I wanted and buy clothes that I didn’t need,” said Ms Low, who once worked as a personal assistant in an advertising company.
“But ever since I gave up these things and went into rescue work, I’ve found life to be more fulfilling.”
Despite not being a “cat person”, she took in her first rescued cat about 17 years ago. One became two, and soon she had around 80 cats or so in a three-room flat in Tampines, where she lived with her brother. She started pawning her personal items for the cash she needed to feed her cats.
After receiving complaints for keeping so many cats there, she moved and eventually wound up in the basement of a shop-house.
Currently, she keeps the cats in a shelter in Pasir Ris Farmway, where there are other private shelters.
Her work took a toll not only on her finances, but also on her relationships with people.
“When my late mother came to see where I was (spending my days), she was heartbroken,” said Ms Low. “It took many years for my family to accept what I’m doing.”
They finally started supporting her a few years ago with a small allowance and her elder sister, who lives in Malaysia, started doing similar rescue work there as well.
Ms Low’s work has not gone for the most part unrecognized. She is a familiar face to the animal rescue community and she seldom turns away any appeal for rescue.
“When rescuers ask me for help, most of the time, I don’t turn them down although it’s more work for me,” she said. “My priority is the safety of the cats.”
Besides helping to re-home rescued kittens, she also takes in older cats as well, many of which have trouble finding new homes as most people prefer kittens.
She starts each day in the shelter before the sun comes up, disinfecting the cats’ living quarters for hours, cleaning their drinking bowls and making sure they are fed. happy and healthy. In the afternoons, she cycles out to a nearby supermarket to buy food and supplies.
On social media, she shares her work and appeals for donations in the form of cat food, litter and money to pay for rent and the vet’s bills. This can sometimes amount to around $8,000 in total.
“Sometimes, (donations for) the food do not come in. Many times, I owe my supplier up to $2,000 just for dry food,” she said.
One of her suppliers is Mr Chan Chow Wah, 42, owner of pet supplies shop Animal Human Alliance, who allows people to donate cat food and supplies to Ms Low by buying them through the store he has online.
When Ms Low receives food donations, she acknowledges the donors on her page.
“That’s how people come to know her, trust her and help her in different ways,” said Mr Chan, who has worked with her for over a year and is also involved with animal rescue.
People often share stories of abandoned or abused cats online and rejoice when they are taken in by shelters that exist like hers, he said.
“But people like Lily have to walk the whole journey with the cat when taking it in. It can be very lonely and emotionally demanding.”
Ms Low has absolutely no regrets about the life she has chosen for herself and she intends to run the shelter for as long as she can.
“It is fulfilling to be able to save lives,” Ms Low said.
Ms Lily Low, 46, starts each day in the shelter before the sun is up, disinfecting the cats’ living quarters, cleaning their drinking bowls and making sure they are fed and healthy.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
Follow Ms. Low on Facebook: Lily Low Shelter