Helping community cats in Malaysia

Inspired by a cat she adopted from Best Friends, one Malaysian woman cares for community cats (aka stray street cats) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By Sharon St Joan

"Your son is an emperor!" Roberta’s aunt says when she sees Sam lying upside down, sprawled out on the sofa, while Roberta is sitting on the floor beside him watching TV. Sam, of course, is a cat, and he very much enjoys the sofa and TV, which he knows have been created just for him.

Caring for cat colonies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Last spring, Roberta Fong fell in love with Sam at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and adopted him. Her love for Sam inspired her to start caring for several of the cat colonies, which are comprised of stray and feral street cats, near her home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Roberta explains that her "son" Sam doesn’t live in Malaysia, but lives in Roberta’s "second home" in Houston with her aunt.

Roberta’s cat at home in Malaysia, Lucky, who’s been with her many years, is 18 years old. When Roberta’s away, Lucky stays with her parents.

Roberta Fong from Malaysia with an orange tabby cat at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Roberta takes Gingerbread Man on a walk.

Roberta always knew she loved her own cat, Lucky. On her first visit to Best Friends, she spent 10 days volunteering, and then she adopted Sam, who, she says, changed her life. She’d never really noticed the cats on the streets before, but inspired by Sam, she went out of her way to look for them and get to know them.

Now, whenever she’s at home in Malaysia, Roberta takes care of 60 community cats (aka feral cats) in nine colonies, spending two hours every day feeding them.

While here visiting Best friends and volunteering at Cat World, just to make sure the cats back in Kuala Lumpur don’t miss her, she’s organized eight volunteers to fill in for her.

Her biggest colony has 20 cats, with six or seven orange felines. She’s especially fond of orange cats. She has just taken on this colony from a woman who had taken care of the cats faithfully, but who had become ill and could no longer care for them. Most of the cats have already been spayed or neutered, and Roberta, realizing that this is the best way to help them, is working on starting a good trap/neuter/return (TNR) program to make sure that all her community cats are spayed and neutered.

One day, seeing a couple of cats on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, she’d put out some food for them. Intrigued that they seemed to be ignoring the food, she followed them to discover 15 cats all assembled in front of a house on a nearby street. The woman who lived there was feeding them every day.

As Roberta got to know the woman, she found out that she did house cleaning for a living and was always having trouble making ends meet. Since then, every two weeks Roberta has dropped off 20 kilos (44 pounds) of cat food to the woman. They now have a partnership, with Roberta providing the food and the other woman feeding the cats.

It rains a great deal in Malaysia, especially during the monsoon season, which runs from around September to January. Sometimes Roberta has worried about the cats in her care getting wet. She watches their little faces peeking out from behind boards and from under roofs. For one of her cat colonies, she actually rented a house so the cats would have a dry place to sleep inside!

Malaysia controls 60 percent of the world’s glove market. Who knew? And Roberta is in the glove shipping business. She also buys houses and rents them out. Having studied finance for several years in the U.S., she is putting her good business head to work to make sure that she’ll have a sound financial footing to be able to continue to take care of all her cats, which she so loves doing.

Visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary


On this, her most recent trip to Best Friends, the first thing Roberta did was look up Franklin, who lives in Quincy’s, at Cat World. Franklin is gray and white, and he was one of the many cats rescued from the hoarding situation in Pahrump, Nevada. Why Franklin? Because Franklin is Sam’s friend, and Roberta wanted to be sure to give the warmest greetings to him from Sam.

She’s been at Best Friends nearly a week this time and hasn’t stopped working — she’s been socializing cats, washing the cats’ dishes, cleaning litter boxes. Roberta explains that one of the great things she’s learned at Best Friends is the importance of keeping everything "clean and tidy, so the cats don’t get sick. It’s incredible the way they wipe the shelves two or three times," she says. "It’s spotless." In each room, the brush and the rest of the cleaning equipment always stay in that room to be used only there, reducing any possibility of transporting germs around. "Even my house is not as clean as Best Friends."

Roberta’s dear Lucky, all 60 of the community cats to whom she is so dedicated, as well as Sam, her special "son, the emperor," would no doubt agree that it’s good to have humans around to provide dinner and keep everything tidy.

Help community cats in your area

Want to learn how you can get started helping community cats in your neighborhood? Find out more about TNR.