Small, furry, outlawed: Singapore torn over cat rights
Reuters – Thursday, January 29
By Gillian Murdoch
SINGAPORE, Jan 29 – Cat lovers in Singapore are campaigning for felines to have the same rights as dogs — a roof over their heads and a safe home.
For decades cats have been banned from Singapore’s high-density Housing and Development Board flats, which house more than 80 percent of the 4.6 million population.
Anyone caught breaking the rule faces a fine of Singapore $4,000 .
Khin, a healthcare worker, was forced to move homes after a housing official spotted her cat and snapped four or five photos of the feline sleeping “illegally” on her couch.
“I never dreamt I would have to move house to keep cats,” said Khin, who has no surname.
“Singapore is modern and they have rules to keep people harmonious but this is ridiculous.”
While some pet owners can afford to move to cat-friendly private housing, others cannot.
“Irresponsible owners would just dump them,” said Boon Yeong, one of a multitude of informal cat feeders who take it upon themselves to look after the estimated 60,000 strays living in Singapore’s storm drains, carparks, and alleyways.
Being thrown or born onto the streets can amount to a virtual death sentence, Yeong said.
Every year more than 10,000 strays are culled by the island’s authorities, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals .
Strays not rounded up and killed have a life expectancy of two to three years while indoor cats average about 20.
But with felines banned from the vast majority of homes, getting them off Singapore’s streets isn’t easy.
Some desperate cat lovers spend thousands of dollars to board “illegal” moggies, year-after-year, in non-profit cat shelters.
“It’s really a no-choice situation,” said Tay Sia Ping, the manager of the island’s biggest such cat shelter.
About a third of her 1,400 furry boarders were evicted from HDB apartments, she said. Few are ever adopted.
While Singapore’s cat lovers want the “cat ban” lifted, as it was for small dogs three decades ago, authorities say it is necessary to avoid cat-related spats between neighbours.
“Our principal consideration is to preserve a pleasant living environment and good neighbourly relations,” Singapore’s HDB
told Reuters in an emailed statement.
“We need to strike a balance between pet lovers and those who are more sensitive to the disturbances caused by animals.”
HDB’s website says banning cats, not dogs, is justified, as “they are nomadic in nature and are difficult to be confined”.
Some 10,000 years after felines were first domesticated, easing human-cat tensions remains a “million dollar question”, said Kate Blaszak, Asia Veterinary Programmes Manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals .
The world’s first top-level meeting of cat population management experts, organised last year, did not identify any magic bullets, Blaszak said.
“One size does not fit all. What is effective and appropriate in one situation may in another,” she said.
In the meantime, supporters of Singapore’s strays say they are waiting for the cats’ death sentences to be lifted.
“Most people who have problems don’t want the cats to be killed, nor does killing the cats usually solve the problem,” said Singaporean cat welfare advocate Dawn Kua, one of many who blog about their plight
“No one is happy with the ‘solution’ — it’s just a knee jerk reaction without solving the underlying problem.”