Photos: Lin Peifen
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: our favourite Christmas songs play on loop in malls, supermarkets and cafes, the streets in town are decked in festive paraphernalia, trees and baubles of all sizes imaginable and a palpable sense of joy lingers in the air. It’s a good time to spread holiday cheer to those around us and this Christmas we’d like to bring the spotlight to a particular group of furry dwellers in the community who are in need of more love and attention -- the cats.
For this special furbulous celebrity meow series, we speak to four celebrity cat owners, Lin Peifen, Nat Ho, Felicia Chin and Priscelia Chan as they share stories about their furry felines – some of which, we learned, were picked up as abandoned and unwanted kittens and cats.
In recent years, a local radio deejay on the Hill went from being a mother of one to becoming a mother of three and - eventually - four babies and she is, according to us, MediaCorp’s very own big-hearted cat lady. That person we are talking about is YES 933 deejay Peifen who has not just one, but three cats, Mr Snuggie, Night and Mono, living together with her under one roof.
What about the fourth baby, you ask? Well, that’s her newborn son and SG50 baby, Luke, who was delivered in July this year, and he is the latest addition to her expanding brood.
In a phone interview with Toggle, Peifen shared that she first crossed paths with Mr Snuggie, her first cat, a whole decade ago, thanks to her and her then-boyfriend and now-husband’s common love for felines, which motivated the couple to adopt a cat together.
Back then, she was keen on purchasing a ragdoll (a certain breed of cat), the deejay said, “But a voice in my head went: ‘Ragdolls have great homes already - they are bred, they will go on to have beautiful homes with other people who’d buy them, and they have no trouble finding a nice place to live.
“And something in me felt it’d be nice to give a home to a stray… I found out there are so many cats out there who are strays and unwanted and I decided – one less (stray) on the street would be one more (cat) with a happy home,” she quipped.
So how did she go from being owner of one to three cats overnight?
According to Peifen, Mono and Night, who are six years old this year, are a pair of brothers who were found in a drain in a school, and she had wanted to foster them until they were big enough to be adopted. “I decided that if I wanted to give them away, they should be together too but nobody wanted two cats,” she explained.
Although her plans went awry because she couldn’t find anyone to adopt them, it led to a happy twist.
Introducing the mischief makers from L-R: Mr Snuggie, Mono and Night
“So it (the adoption of Night and Mono) just happened,” she said gushing, “And they were so cute!”
Being mum to three fur kids certainly had a hand in preparing her mentally for her next journey in life -- motherhood.
Although caring for kittens takes place over a shorter duration of time and is less emotional a journey --with no hormones wreaking havoc, you’d still need to cover the basics of catering to their needs and making sure they are clean and vaccinated.
“Having a pet helps one get ready for motherhood because you are committed to a life and taking care of a life,” she surmised.
“I cannot remember how life was like without them (the cats). I think patience is one big lesson I’ve learned from them - to have one cat will teach you a bit about it, but to have three cats really tests your patience, especially three Tom cats! They do get into fights, they are very mischievous too and they each have their own brand of mischief.”
Added Peifen with a laugh, “So I have four babies because the cats are forever babies, and now, I have one more baby (Luke)!”
How did Peifen prepare her three cats for their new sibling’s arrival and how did the three cats react to their baby brother’s homecoming? Read on to find out more!
Toggle: Did you have any cat-related concerns when you got pregnant? What did you have to take note of?
Peifen: When I first knew I was pregnant, I asked my gynecologist all the questions I had about what to take note of. She actually told me not to worry because I did a test to check if I had toxoplasmosis, which is a virus, and the results were negative so I was safe.
I also had to take note of things like the cat poop. When I was pregnant, my husband was really nice as he didn’t want me to come into contact with the cat poop and litter, so I relinquished my duties because he willingly said he’d clean the litter box. Actually he still does most of it now because I’m still breastfeeding. In a way I’ve been given a long leave at cleaning the cat litter box and he does a great job - I don’t want to spoil the fun. (Laughs)
How did you prepare the cats for the arrival of a new sibling?
I played crying noises to them periodically so they won’t be too shocked or scared when they hear the baby cry. I even went on YouTube to search for relevant videos. At first they were like ‘eh?’ and were surprised at the new sound but eventually, over a few weeks, they didn’t care about it anymore, which was what I wanted. And whenever we buy supplies and pampers home, we’d let them sniff the baby stuff and rub their faces on it and leave their pheromones on it so that the products would have their scent and they wouldn’t feel like the baby has invaded their space.
With your belly growing larger day by day, during your pregnancy, how did the cats take to your body changes?
In the beginning it was not much of a difference, but eventually one of them, Night, who likes to sleep on my tummy every night because he sleeps with us in our bed, was unable to continue this routine. I had to keep telling him ‘no’ and he’d meow and paw my stomach and try to sit on it. I had to gently shift him over to my husband and tell him: ‘I’m sorry I can’t. You can’t sit on my stomach anymore.’ I think he kind of understands although he tries every night. I think he was most affected by my pregnancy because he couldn’t get close to me anymore. I let him sleep beside me but that doesn’t satisfy him.
Baby Luke's bodyguards: Mono and Snuggie (with the tail)
How did the cats’ first meeting with baby Luke go?
I remember bringing Luke home from the hospital for the first time and the cats were a little bit confused because I was in the hospital for five days. They didn’t show much emotions or reactions to the baby although they are always very curious and always want to come inside the nursery, but they are not allowed inside so they’d sit outside and try to peer in and Mono would always try to run in the room. Sometimes going in and out of the nursery is a two-person business (chuckles).
Who do you think – out of the three cats – will be the first to approach the baby?
When I put Luke in the living room in the rocker, all Mono does is come and sniff his hand and he walks away. I think they have all showed interest in Luke except for Night Night. I guess he’s a bit jealous, maybe. Night hasn’t shown much interest, he doesn’t even go near the baby. I’m hoping that Mono will be the first to break the ice. He’s like the ambassador out of the three of them, and he’d be friendly first and the two will follow suit.
How does Mr Snuggie, Night and Mono personalities differ from each other and how do they show you they love you?
Night will use his paws to touch you. He likes to do that and he has learned to be human in that sense because he sees that we use our hands to touch them and each other and he’d use his hands to paw my leg or hand.
Mono will rub every part of his body on you and if he could, he would flip over and expose his belly. I tried to give him a belly rub but he doesn’t like it, I think he just wants to be stroked and played with. He’s the talker and would meow a lot; he’s almost like a dog - when you call him by the name he will run towards you.
Mr Snuggie is a very proud cat, if he’d even come near you and sit down that’s considered a very affectionate thing to do. When we’re alone and there are no guests with us, whenever we have dinner at the table, he’d come and sit near us on either one side of the bench. He’s a very cool cat, but when he’s feeling even friendlier he’d come near us and rub his face on us.
What do you think each cat will say to humans if they were spokespersons of a Christmas adoption drive?
I’m sure they’d say different things (laughs). Night is more like a timid but manja cat so he’d say: ‘Can I come in please? Can I join you guys please?’ and Mono will be ‘We cats are an awesome bunch to have in your lives, we’ll bring you so much joy!’ because he’s more the outgoing kind. For Mr Snuggie, well, I think he will say something like: ‘I think you can do a good job taking care of us – so you should.’ (Laughs)
Would you say the best present you’ve given the three cats is a forever home?
Definitely, I think sometimes when my husband and I hang around with them, we’d tell them, when it’s raining outside and when we hear stray cats meowing: ‘If we hadn’t taken you guys in, you guys would be out in the cold rain! So lucky you are!’ but of course, they don’t know what’s happening. (Chuckles)
Ed's note: A new law was recently passed on Nov 6 to improve animal welfare in Singapore stating that people - from pet owners to animal fosterers, animal shelters and animal-related businesses - must not only avoid cruelty to animals but also actively ensure that an animal is being cared for. Let's do our part to share the love with animals starting this Christmas season!
Share the love this Christmas, find out more here.