Among the scooter boys in Jalan Bukit Bintang, none stands out more than Jamil Ismail. This is because the 30-year-old bachelor, popularly known as Jamil Kucing, usually has an entourage of 15 cats riding pillion with him!Jamil says his cats have been trained to stay on the bike as he rides to Jalan Bukit Bintang from Pandan Perdana and home. And what do you know, this obedient lot are strays he rescued from the streets and not some fancy breeds.
The former bodyguard-turned-freelance photographer says he just thinks it’s a swell idea to take his cats for a ride.
“While the other riders would have their girlfriends on the pillion, I’d be carrying my cats instead. Even when I go home to my mother’s house in Taiping, I’d pack them into my car and take them with me,” says Jamil.
“You need a lot of patience when it comes to training stray cats because they have a mind of their own, but I’ve come to accept that because I love them,” says Jamil, who admits to being strict in order that his cats toe, urm, paw, the line.
“They have to follow a set routine. The moment we arrive in Bukit Bintang, they eat and go to the toilet. After that, they have to relax (sit?) on the scooter – no budging,” he says. Jamil doesn’t allow passers-by to pick his cats off the scooter either, as this will upset the routine.
“With cats, once you have set a certain rule, you cannot vary in terms of timing and manner or they will not obey you the next time. If I allow people to pick them up from the scooter, the cats may think it’s okay to jump off. And on a busy street like Jalan Bukit Bintang, I cannot chase after 15 cats!” says Jamil.
After talking at length, Jamil tells me his secret to making the cats obey him: he spits into their mouths.
It sounds bizarre but this, he believes, makes them more willing to follow his commands.
So is Jamil an eccentric bachelor with too much free time on his hands, I begin to wonder.
Jamil reveals that there is a reason behind his scooter stunt. He runs a private shelter for stray cats, and one way of funding his efforts is by collecting donations from passers-by who stop to admire his “scooterful” of cats.
“At first, everyone thought I was just trying to make some fast money but when, I explained that these were stray cats I had saved from the street, their attitudes changed,” says Jamil who has been collecting donations in this way for three years.
Though Jamil could easily hand over his stray cats to animal shelters that are better funded, he doesn’t do so because he disagrees with their policies.
“I don’t want to send them to the SPCA because they will put the unwanted cats to sleep. Or they might neuter the cat. I cannot accept that stray cats must be neutered to stop them from breeding. We should think harder on this.
“Cats do not attack humans. They are not tigers,” maintains Jamil. (??)
Not everyone takes kindly to his collection method, of course. Some think he is just using the cats to beg. Once a representative from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) accused him of the doping the cats so that they stayed on the scooter. A shouting match ensued, and the matter had to be settled at a police station!
However, Jamil is undaunted by the experience. He says he has tourists sending him monthly contributions to support his cause. Jamil and his cats are especially popular with Japanese tourists ever since his story appeared on Japanese television this year.
At his apartment, I count 38 cats, the rest he says are at the vet’s. I wonder aloud if his neighbours mind.
Jamil says so far only one resident has complained but that his neighbours mostly leave him be. “Even my mother who is in her 50s, has come to accept my cats as if they are my children,” he says.
Jamil thinks there are many stray cats because of irresponsible pet owners.
“I get very angry with people who come and ask if they can offload their kittens on me. I wonder why they cannot keep the kittens if they can have the mother in the first place. Sometimes they don’t even wait for the kittens to be weaned off the mother’s milk before giving them away,” he says.
Jamil admits that running the cat shelter takes a lot of time and effort. He has to clean up after them, give them baths, and, of course, he takes them on scooter rides as well as walks. Upkeeps are at about RM2,000 a month, and he even has an assistant. The cat-lover says his dream is to open a cat centre.
“People think I am doing this for the money but they are wrong. With this centre, I will be able to help more cats and ease their suffering,” he says. W
If you want to catch the cat-man and his pets, just keep an eye out for them in front of the Giordano store in Jalan Bukit Bintang. They are there everyday from 2pm to 6pm. Jamil Ismail can be contacted at email@example.com .
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