Growing up in Singapore, I’ve been told constantly by my grandmother that cats; in particularly black cats- are a sign of bad luck. If you read my previous entry here, you would have read how my fear of cats developed.
My parents (and probably a large proportion of people their generation) were not particular fans of cats either- citing that they were feral and dirty. As such, we were never allowed to go near or play with the stray cats that roamed the neighbourhood.
However like most millenniums, I have since been exposed to the wonderful world of felines and am now more a CAT>>> DOG person. Upon graduation, I seriously contemplated being a feline only veterinarian and cited to many that I would probably grow old as a “crazy cat lady”.
Cat cafes, the new trend that has colonized most parts of Asia has not left Singapore unspared. From my knowledge there are now 4 cat cafes in Singapore that individuals can pay to dine and interact with the resident cats.
I myself have never patronized any as it feels slightly ironic to pay a fee to play with the kitties when I see them every single day in my work as a veterinarian. That being said, one of the lovely cats we fostered in our clinics was adopted in 2014 by one of the cat cafes, and from what I hear- she’s the star over there (I really should go pay her a visit).
The recent hooha regarding the ownership of cats in Singapore has inspired me to pen down my thoughts about this issue. For those who do not know- owning a cat in a HDB** is banned in Singapore (this ban was set in place in 1989)
** HDB is somewhat equivalent to public housing in Australia. However majority~ approx. 80% of Singaporean reside in these HDB as housing in Singapore cost exorbitant amounts.
This essentially means that majority of the people living in Singapore are not allowed to legally keep a cat. According to HDB , “pet cats are prohibited as they are difficult to confine within flats, and can cause a nuisance in public areas.” As much as this ban is not policed strictly, the existence of this on it’s own brings about a different set of potential problems.
Let’s be real here: all living things- be it cats, dogs, mammals (humans)- will eat and defecate accordingly. Cats can be litter-trained/ toilet-trained and are naturally clean animals. They do not bark unlike their canine counterparts and can be kept solely indoors. Their independent nature means that they require a lot less time and attention of which suits the typical working Singaporean lifestyle.
Fundamentally, education and responsible pet ownership is key. Ensuring that animals are kept healthy by sterilizing them and performing routine regular checks- i.e. vaccinations. Legislations can be placed (just as how dogs owners have to adhere to)- such as microchipping and registration to ensure that owners are held liable for their own animal.
I’m aware that these things cost money. However, there are many veterinary clinics out who have very reasonable prices and provide reduced rates to low-income earners. The truth is that having a pet ultimately is a luxury and one should be aware of the costs they will be incurring if they choose to have one, be it a dog or a cat. The way I see it, an animal is a life; just as a child is a life. If you choose to have a pet then you do have to be prepared to provide YOUR best for it (just as how you would for your child).
Stray cats in Singapore are a common occurrence. Fortunately most of them are looked after by resident cat ladies. Unknown to the general public, there are actually a handful of elderly ladies who take the responsibility upon themselves to feed and provide for these cats. They purchase feed from wholesalers in bulk and they wander the streets when most are asleep to feed these vagabonds.
Some even rent semi-detached houses to ensure that those lucky felines have a roof over their heads. Theses ladies work alongside CWS (Cat welfare society Singapore), SPCA and some veterinary clinics to tend to the medical and surgical (sterilization, treatment of wounds) needs of these animals. From my understanding, majority of these kind souls dig deep in their pockets and live as frugally as possible to provide to their best abilities.
Up to this date, culling of large number of stray cats still takes place. As much as there are stray cat sterilization / trap-neuter-release plans in place, there are still a large population of cats that aren’t sterilized, aren’t looked after and these numbers are growing.
To find out more about the good work of Cat Welfare Society, click here.