Mads Lamanilao never imagined she would be the proud mama of 14 cats, all of whom she has rescued off the streets or adopted from others over the years. Though she is first and foremost a caring mother to her clowder, the Manila-based freelance producer is also an independent animal volunteer who tirelessly feeds community cats and organises cat spaying and neutering programs with her husband, Gary.
Mads chats with Waldo’s Friends and shares how some of her delightful pets came into her life.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Hi Mads! How many adopted pets do you have at the moment and how do you come up with names for them?
Mads Lamanilao (ML): At present, I have 11 rescues and three adoptees. They are Annie Cuddles La Aunor, Chako, Conchita, F1, Howl, Kiet, Ning Ning, Northwood, Prem, Som, Sharky, Sunee, Tinapa, and Yagi.
When naming them, I usually wait for a few days to observe their personalities. Some names are based on my favorite characters or street names, while others are based on their looks. For example, Annie Cuddles La Aunor was named after orphan Annie (from the musical). My husband just wanted the word Cuddles attached to her name. La Aunor was added because of her mole-looking mark, similar to that of actress Nora Aunor.
WF: Could you talk about the first pet you ever adopted?
ML: My first cat adoptees would be Chatri and Sunee—Siamese twins that I adopted from a former student around six years ago. Chatri passed away last year because of FeLV (feline leukemia virus). Sunee is still alive and doing well despite having Chronic Kidney Disease. She had kidney failure before turning one year old, and her creatinine at that time was around 20 to 22 already. She fought hard and survived, thanks to Dok Melay of The Pet Project Veterinary Hospital. I’ve been administering subcutaneous fluid to her every day since then.
WF: With so many pets in your home ranging from two to nine years old, who would you say has the most unique adoption story so far?
ML: Chako would be my most unique adoption tale. Before Chukhdi (my first rescue) came into my life, my former neighbor Tanya Guerrero’s rescue cat, Chako, stalked me. She would wait for me to get back home even late at night. When I opened the gate, I would hear her scampering down from the roof to meet me at my door. At first, I did not really pay attention to her because I am actually allergic to cats. Chako would pester me to let her in. I did not know how to respond to her attention at that time because I never had my own pet dog or cat. Shortly after, Chukhdi, Chatri, Sunee, and Yagi came into the picture. That was when Chako started staying inside my house. She never left since. My twins Chatri and Sunee were enamored with her and followed her around the house. The three formed a special bond.
I also formed a special bond with Chako. When I moved out of my former house around four years ago, Tanya let me formally adopt Chako. Chako chose me and I am forever grateful for that. She is my soulmate and best friend. She constantly grooms me and always sleeps on top of my head at night. She is also the queen bee of the clowder.
WF: You mentioned Chukhdi earlier. Could you share how you got into rescuing cats?
ML: I rescued Chukhdi the night of April 3, 2013. It was all accidental. Our paths crossed while I was driving along C5. I spotted a scrawny kitten in the middle of the highway, hunched over and scared. I was clueless on how to take care of him. Tanya, who is an animal advocate and core member of CARA (Compassion And Responsibility For Animals) welfare group, guided and mentored me. I am grateful for her patience and for entrusting Chako to me. Because I have rescues, I have to be discerning when it comes to adopting cats.
WF: Were there any challenges or hardships that came with adopting or rescuing cats?
ML: One of the challenges with a new rescue or adoptee would be trying to make them get along with the present clowder. Another one would be where to isolate or quarantine the cat.
WF: How do you create a safe space in which the cats can all live together harmoniously?
ML: When we renovated our house, we made sure that there is enough space for them to roam around. We installed window ledges so they can look out. We also installed barriers around the house to keep the cats from going outside.
WF: What would you say makes your cats unique?
ML: All of my rescues and adoptees are unique. Each of them has a unique sound, habit, and pattern. Chako has an unusual habit. She loves coffee. If she had her way, she would drink it. She likes licking the surface where we prepare our coffee, but we all know that coffee is bad for cats. We make sure to keep it out of Chako’s reach and we always wipe down the surface where we prepare our coffee.
WF: Do you have any funny stories to share about your cats?
ML: One funny anecdote would be about Prem. She has a habit of going through our cabinets and hampers, bringing the stuff inside all the way down. One time, when we got home, our clothes, socks, and underwear were scattered on the ground floor. We had to close the walk-in closet and bathroom because it reached the point in which she brought down clean clothes, socks, and underwear.
WF: What do you and your cats enjoy doing together?
ML: They enjoy hanging out with us. We noticed that they like staying close by. They also like playing with the laser light.
WF: You mentioned that you work as a freelance producer. What’s your work setup like at home?
ML: One advantage of doing freelance work is the flexible schedule. Because of the internet, I can work from home. Just so the cats won’t bother me while I am working, they are off limits in my work room. Actually, only the older ones are allowed to stay there because they usually just sleep and let me be. When things get hectic, my husband would take on my chores. He is awesome that way! He really loves our cats and even the community cats.
WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals?
ML: There are many unwanted animals. We can do our part by opening our hearts and homes to them. When you give them a chance to blossom, they will give you so much love and affection.
Through rescuing and adopting cats, our lives have changed in so many ways. We had to adjust our lifestyle. Feeding the cats, cleaning the litter boxes, and cleaning the house have all become major parts of our daily routine. Also, my husband and I need to think twice before we can go out of town or out of the country. One of us usually has to stay behind to take care of the cats. Despite that, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We also made it our advocacy to feed and spay/neuter the cats in our neighborhood.
WF: How did you come up with the idea of feeding and spaying/neutering the cats in your neighborhood? How often do you do it?
ML: My husband and I feed the community cats twice a day. They usually go into our garage during meal times. We decided to feed them there because the neighbors’ dogs would get to their food.
We were also able to spay/neuter several cats already. We seldom encounter kittens on our street unless they were left there. When there are new cats/kittens, we try to befriend them and when the right time comes, we send them to the veterinary clinic for spaying/neutering. After the procedure, we let them rest for a few days before releasing them back to the streets. We are hoping to spay/neuter more since we have some new candidates already.
WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time animal owners? What about to those with multiple pets like you?
ML: For first-time animal owners, just remember that it is a lifetime commitment to have pets. It is every pet owner’s responsibility to provide attention, nutrition, medical/health care, stimulation, and more. It’s a massive responsibility, so you need to think things over and assess your financial capabilities and lifestyle before adopting one.
For multiple pet owners, just remember to also take care of your well-being and health. You gotta be in tip-top shape for your furbabies. Also, know when to stop taking in more pets. Animal hoarding is cruelty.
WF: Speaking of taking in more cats, any chance you’ll add more to the clowder soon?
ML: Right now we do not intend to add any more cats to the clowder. Our main priority would be the well-being of our present clowder and ours as well. We don’t actively rescue or adopt. People assume that just because we have rescues and a lot of cats that we’d willingly take in another one. Honestly, we’ve reached our limit. My husband and I are the ones doing all the household chores and taking care of the cats. We also have our day jobs, so our hands are full.
WF: How do you feel about being the mother of 14 cats?
ML: I can’t imagine my life without them. They’ve opened my heart and mind to so many things. We consider them our babies and look forward to growing old with them.
Follow the adventures of cat mama Mads and her clowder on Instagram.
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