Singapore’s Native Cat Breed

Meet the Singapura:

CC-BY-SA-2.0; CC-BY-SA-2.5 squeezeweasel

Singapura is the original name of Singapore, and is also the name still used for Singapore in the Malay language.

But… did you know that there’s also a cat breed called the Singapura?  This cat breed was discovered here in Singapore in the 70s and originated from cross-breeding between community cats.  The cats were exported to the US were the breed was refined, with undesirable traits being bred out until we have the Singapura of today.

At the time, the Singapura became a popular icon for tourists and the Singapore Tourism and Promotion Board (now Singapore Tourism Board) decided to use the cat breed as an iconic Singapore mascot.  The name “kucinta” (kucing + cinta) was chosen for the cats after a naming competition and statues of these cats can be found along the Singapore River.

Singapore community cats, or strays, produced a recognized breed of cats that are valued the world over, sometimes pulling upwards of 600 GBP each.  When they became popular and could be monetized, they were recognized and made into a mascot to attract tourists.

So… why is it that these days community cats are rounded up by Town Councils and executed at the slightest provocation?

Smart and Contemporary Cat

Meet the Smart and Contemporary Cat:

This cat used to hang out in the business area in Tampines and he looks sort of like he’s wearing a black suit.  We don’t know if he had a name and we didn’t really give him one.  We just always called him Smart and Contemporary Cat.  My wife would see him on her way to work every day.  I saw him myself a few times.  He was laying around by the entrance to a parking garage.

He seems to have disappeared.  We haven’t seen him lately.  Hopefully someone decided to take him home and he wasn’t run over by a car entering or exiting the car park.

Cats and Singapore HDBs

In Singapore, most housing is government subsidized and have been nicknamed HDBs by locals.  Since these units are government subsidized housing, there are a lot of rules and regulations regarding them.  Those rules extend to pet ownership beyond the laws that already exist in Singapore regarding what types of pets are legal to own.  I’ll go into that in another post.  For now I just wanted to draw attention to one particular issue.

Cats aren’t allowed to be pets inside HDB housing.  Some of the reasons for this is that cats are supposedly noisy and dirty.  Really that just boggles my mind.  Cats are required to be spayed or neutered in Singapore at around six months of age.  If this is done then house cats rarely make any noise at all.  The majority of the noise a neutered or spayed cat will make is when it’s confronting another cat in its territory.  That’s not likely to happen inside of a home, is it?  Unless you’re just in the habit of letting random cats come in and out at their leisure.  Dogs, which are allowed in HDBs, will often bark very VERY loudly for little to no reason at any given hour of the day or night.  Also, cats are not dirty.  Well, not any dirtier than dogs anyway.

It all comes down to responsible pet ownership.  Bathing your cat and cleaning its litterbox regularly are just something that a person should do, and if it’s being done the house won’t be any dirtier than a house without cats, or a house with a dog.  In fact, cats always use a litterbox.  Dogs on the other will crap and pee all over the floor if not let out and that will sit there all day if no one is home.  To me, a pile of crap on the floor, with a breeze blowing the odor to other homes, is a lot filthier than a covered litterbox.  That’s just me though.

This weird obsession with cat persecution extends to outside of the HDBs as well.  One complaint is that cats rifle through garbage and make a mess.  I don’t see how.  The HDBs use a garbage chute system, where the garbage winds up behind a locked door on the ground floor for collection.  There are a few regular trash cans under the buildings but they rarely have food waste thrown into them to start with, and I’ve never seen a cat in or even near one.  I suppose part of that is that even outdoor cats in Singapore are well cared for by people in the community.

The animals that do make a mess of the ground floor of HDB estates are actually people.  It’s insane how disrespectful and prone to littering people are here lately.  When I first moved to Singapore it was usually spotless, but over the last year and a half or so it’s been getting progressively worse.  I’ve posted a photo of the mess people typically leave behind before.  It’s usually kids and young people doing it, but even still you have to wonder what their parents are teaching them that make them feel it’s ok to make this sort of mess.  There are very poorly paid foreign workers that go through the HDB estates every night, cleaning the areas, but is that an excuse to simply toss your garbage on the ground?  Especially when you’re right next to a trash can?

Anyway, what made me think about all this is that I was downstairs and saw this disaster below where I live:

Mob Photo 26-Jan-2010 AM 12 31 50

It’s like this on a nightly basis, and usually worse.  I’m pretty sure it’s not cats that are doing it.  The difference here is that this goes unremarked, while cats are rounded up and killed at the slightest provocation.

It seems to me that the HDB rules need to be revised to allow cats into the buildings. There’s no logical reason why they shouldn’t be there.  And instead of fixating on rounding up and routinely killing cats, they should focus on rounding up and routinely fining people that are actually ruining the cleanliness of HDB estates.

There are groups here in Singapore, like Cat Welfare Society, that regularly take the time to try to educate people and Town Councils about real cat behavior and that’s great.  I, like other bloggers who like cats, am just doing my part in pointing out an ongoing issue.

Kuala Lumpur Trip: Hostel Cosmopolitan Review

Hostel Cosmopolitan is located near the Chow Kit monorail station.  It’s a bit hard to find when you first get to Chow Kit, so make sure you take a map with you!  Also, don’t be put off by the outside of the building.  It’s a bit rough looking, but the interior is very clean and comfortable.  Hostel Cosmopolitan is one of the best places I’ve stayed, guest house or not.

I was a bit worried at first that the hostel was too far away from anything, but it’s actually within walking distance of quite a few eating establishments.  Not to mention the street out front gets filled with stalls selling everything from satay to stuffed animals.  That’s kinda fun, especially since the sellers aren’t over-aggressive like the ones on Jalan Petaling in Chinatown.  Also, the monorail is a pretty quick and fun means of transportation.  It takes about 20 minutes to get from KL Sentral (where you can switch to the RapidKL line) to Chow Kit and I think you can get off at Bukit Nanas and walk to the Petronas Towers.  There’s also a bus stop a few streets over where you can get a ride to the Batu Caves for roughly 2 ringgit.  So, don’t worry about the location.  It’s not bad at all.

One of the best parts about staying at Hostel Cosmopolitan was how many great people we met, starting with the staff.  The guy that greeted us and checked us in, named Mohammad Abdullah, was very friendly and very helpful.  He even let us have a real free meal when we showed up early and couldn’t check-in yet, but were starving because we’d missed breakfast.  The other guests were also very cool and some had some interesting stories to tell and tips to share.  Hostels tend to draw a fairly well traveled crowd.  We met people from the US, the UK, Australia, Pakistan, Greece and Italy (just to name a few) who had traveled all over Asia and South America.  During the mornings when everyone was getting ready to head out the door, they almost all stopped in at the kitchen area to grab a bite of the free breakfast.  We had some great conversations with the other guests there.

The amenities are also very good at Hostel Cosmopolitan.

I can’t comment much on the mixed dorms, since we stayed in a private room, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about them and they looked fairly comfortable when I glanced in on my way down the hall.  Our bedroom was average sized.  It wasn’t very big, but it didn’t feel small either.  It had a place to hang our clothes, a set of shelves and a bed.  Sheets and towels are also provided.  The air conditioning was so cold at night that I woke up shivering and had to turn it off.  The only complaint I had with the room was that the air from the air conditioner didn’t smell very fresh.  It smelled a bit sour.  I don’t think it was just our room unit either because we could smell it in the hallway as well.  It wasn’t unbearable but hopefully it won’t be there the next time we go for a visit.

The community area has a lot of shelves with books to read, in case you get bored.  It also has a TV with cable.  I think it has a few movie channels on it too, but we didn’t spend much time watching it.  What little time we spent in the community room was usually spent in front of one of the desktop computers available for internet access.  The hostel also has wi-fi which I was able to use with my iPhone.  The internet service is all completely free to guests.  There is no hourly charge.  The TV hours in the community room are 8 AM to 11 PM.  The TV was usually on later than that, but Mohammad Abdullah let us know that if it was bothering us we could ask that it be turned off.  We never had a problem with noise there.  Everyone was considerate of each other.  Also, there’s no drinking allowed on the premises.  That probably helped.  There’s also no smoking allowed, but there is a ‘smoker’s corner’ in the stairwell just outside the hostel.

Interesting side note: Notice the guy with the long hair in the second photo in the above set.  He played Baldur’s Gate on his laptop non-stop for the three days we were there.  That must be a damn good game.

The kitchen area has a small range, a sink, and a storage area for dry goods.  There is a microwave, two toasters and a radio.  There’s no refrigerator available to guests.  I’m guessing that there might have been one before, but people probably didn’t keep up with what they put in it and it became too much of a hassle for the staff.  There is no refrigerator for guest use at all in Hostel Cosmopolitan but there is a 7-11 directly downstairs.  I think it’s open all night long.  Like I mentioned before, there’s a free breakfast set out in the kitchen area in the mornings between 9 am and 11 am.  It consists of toast and a choice of jam or margarine.  Each guest is allotted up to six pieces, but we never had more than 3 each.  I have to wonder at what happened to cause the management to have to put up a sign limiting the amount of bread a person could have.  Was someone snagging whole loaves and hoarding them?!

The toilet area was clean and ventilated.  The plumbing all worked well and the showers had warm to hot water.  The toilet area and shower area is all mixed, but the shower stalls have locking doors and are large enough to change in.  It’s also very well lit.  The hostel had a LOT of female guests while I was there and none of them seemed to have any issues with the arrangements.  The whole place felt pretty safe.

Speaking of security, there are wall lockers that can be used.  I’m not sure if locks are provided.

Also in the hallway are bulletin boards full of information.  If you’re ever at a loss for something to do, all you have to do is read the boards!  There are also warnings posted there, like information about taxi and gambling scams, like in the first photo.  In that particular case women, believed to be Filipinas, would lure lone tourists to their home, get them to gamble and then cheat the person out of their money.

And last but not least, Hostel Cosmopolitan has three cat residents.  My wife and I have two cats at home so this didn’t bother us.  It was, in fact, one of the reasons we selected the hostel from the list of potentials.  They really added to the atmosphere of the place.  It’s fun to sit and have breakfast while watching two cats chasing each other up and down the hallway, or to have a cat taking a nap on the table next to you while you use the desktop computer.

Naughty Nutty

Winnie

Mr. Jinja

Overall, the place is a great choice for a hostel to stay at in Kuala Lumpur.  It’s very affordable and more than that we both felt very comfortable and welcome there.  We had a lot more fun on this trip and I think that Hostel Cosmopolitan played a big part in it.  Mohammad Abdullah and Muhammad have really gone out of their way to make sure the place is as comfortable as possible for the guests and because of that, I’m looking forward to the next time we’ll have the chance to stay there.

Dapper’s Little Twin

Yesterday when I was heading to Tampines I noticed this cat hanging out on the sidewalk.  I was shocked, because I thought it was my cat and that she had somehow escaped and gotten ahead of me.  It didn’t make sense, because she’s usually a scaredy cat, but… well, see the photos for yourself.

The cat I saw:

And here’s my cat:

Dapper

Well, when I got a better look at the cat outside I realized that it could be Dapper’s twin.  It even had a bobbed tail, just like Dapper.  The cat was smaller though.  It looked like it was about 7 months old.

I wonder how Thumper would react if I had brought that cat upstairs, washed it and set it loose?  Would she have been able to tell the difference?

Thais Love Animals

The first time my wife and I walked around Patong looking for a place to eat we happened on a nice restaurant on a side street.  There’ll be more on that later, but when we were seated we looked around and realized that we were surrounded by cats.  It was kind of funny that the first place we would eat would be owned by a cat lover, given my wife’s love of cats.

Ya, the cat in the last photo hopped up onto our table and had a look around.  She seemed particularly interested in the plastic bag we had carried bottled drinks around in.  The cat was very friendly so I didn’t shoo it away until it was almost time for our food to arrive.

After seeing all of those cats we kept our eyes peeled and we saw quite few more pets and strays in the area.  Strangely, I never saw another cat.  I don’t want to make any guesses as to why that might be, but there were plenty of dogs around.  It seems like dogs are much more popular in Patong and you can see them alone or in groups roaming the streets.

I can’t say they were the cleanest looking animals, but not a one of them was in danger of starving.  We saw places where food was put out for them and, like the guy in the last photo shows, they were given attention not just from tourists with cameras, but by locals as well.  Not a one of them ever so much as growled at us, even as we stepped around or over them, or dashed across the road behind them.

More than anything, these dogs (and the cats from the restaurant) added flavor and liveliness to the scenery of Patong and were sometimes even a cause for a good laugh, like with the first dog pictured.  His balls are huge!

Not all of the dogs we saw were strays, though.  There was a booth with a girl who had her dog sitting on the counter.  I don’t remember what she was trying to sell, because I wasn’t interested.  I just stopped to look at her dog.  It was friendly, and I guess very obedient.  It wasn’t leashed.  It could’ve hopped down and ran off, but it was perfectly content to just sit there and watch the tourists.

I kinda want one for myself now.  Maybe in a few years!

Lots of Cats, and Some Dogs Too!

My wife really really loves cats. She loves all sorts of pets, but she has a particular weakness for cats.  From what I can tell, she always had cats of her own when she lived in the Philippines and now we have cats in Singapore.

I know where my wife got her love of cats from now: her dad. On my last few trips to the Philippines we didn’t have the time to go to Pampanga to visit her parents at their apartment. We only saw her family’s house in Antipolo, in Rizal province. That’s not to say they don’t have pets there, because they do. There are quite a few cats running around and there are even two dogs as well. That’s different though, because the cats all belong to different members of her family. It doesn’t seem unusual for a person to have one or two cats.

On the other hand, the only person that really lives out of the apartment in Porac, Pampanga is my father-in-law. My mother-in-law is there sometimes, but she usually lives out of her free apartment next to the school where she teaches. So, all of the animals there can be attributed to him. Walking through the yard and the apartments there is like walking through an animal shelter.

The first animals you’ll notice are the three dogs in the yard. One of them is named Happy (the brownish one) and one of the others is named Mayumi (one of the white ones). I can’t recall the name of the other white dog, and I couldn’t tell them apart anyways. Once you get past the dogs and into the apartments you’ll find cats everywhere.

The apartments don’t have air conditioning, so the windows are open all the time. Surprisingly, they’re not screened in either. This is going a bit off topic, but I never understood why window screens aren’t in common usage in Singapore or the Philippines. With high levels of mosquito borne illnesses, like dengue for example, which can be fatal, you’d think window screens would be in high demand. That doesn’t appear to be the case though. Anyways, like I was saying, the windows are always open and they aren’t screened so the cats go in and out at their leisure. They seem to get along well enough with the dogs too, so you might see the cats hanging out in the yard. There must have been about 11 cats and kittens running around. I only took pictures of a few of them.

One cat in particular caught my attention. Her name is Samsung. She’s incredibly friendly and purrs so hard she nearly chokes herself when you put her on your lap and pet her. What’s especially strange about this cat, though, is that when you pet her, she crawls up towards your shoulder, starts kneading against you, and then starts licking/sucking/slobbering on your shirt. My father-in-law says it’s because he found her when she was really young and she never had the chance to do much nursing. When he took her in, he kept her wrapped up in blankets and she would try to nurse on the blankets when she was hungry. Apparently she never lost the habit. Great cat, but you can’t hold her when you’re wearing a nice, clean shirt that you want to go out in, or you’ll wind up having spots of cat drool on yourself.

Another interesting cat is named Jumong. I called her Captain Hook because she only has one eye. According to my father-in-law, some kid in the neighborhood shot out her other eye with a pellet gun.

Jailbird Cats

So, I’ve been living with my cats for about 5 months now. These are my first pair of cats as pets. It’s been quite a learning experience. They both have very different personalities, which was surprising to me. Dapper is outgoing, tries to be cute all the time, and wants attention. Bouncy would just as soon not do anything but lay around all the time. She gets mad and tries to run away more often than not when I want to pet her. When she does want to be petted she goes at it retard style. I’ll go more into that another time.

These cats are weird. Both of them. They seem spoiled and snobby. They even come off as arrogant sometimes. My wife says that Bouncy and Dapper are spoiled and out of control. She said her cats in the Philippines weren’t like this. I’ve done my best to train the two of them over the months but they still seem to do whatever they want to do, just when I’m not looking.

One thing I’ve been adamant about is that they not climb up into the windows. I know my mom’s cats like to lay on the windowsill in the sun sometimes. The windows we have don’t have sills though, and they don’t look out onto a balcony like my mom’s. These windows have a sort of grill over them that the cats like to climb, but outside the window is a 13 floor drop to hard pavement. The holes in the grill are big enough for them to climb through easily too. At one time I had hoped that we would be able to open the windows sometimes for fresh air, but I guess that’s not going to happen. The cats would run straight through them thinking there was something to jump onto on the other side. I’ve seen them try to run through the glass before. No amount of yelling or spanking has persuaded them to give up on the windows either.

Another issue has been my computer desk. I do not want them on it. I don’t want to run the risk of them knocking over my laptop or bluetooth keyboard or mouse. Not to mention the external hard drives I have set up. Dapper doesn’t really bother with my desk too much that I’ve seen, but from the start Bouncy has had a retard fascination with jumping up onto it. I say retard because I’ve really laid into her verbally and later physically to try to convince her that nothing can come of being on my desk but heartache and pain. It doesn’t register with her though. One time, I came home from being out and walked through the bedroom door just in time to see Bouncy finishing up a long pee on the notebook beside my laptop. I suppose she was determined to convince me that the desk was her territory, not mine. She had a very hard lesson that day and it wasn’t long after that I purchased a cage for them.

Now, whenever we go out, even if only briefly, they get put in the cage. I would have to say that the cage is probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve bought concerning them. Of course, they don’t like it much but it has provided me with a lot of peace of mind. Every so often I’ll leave them out when I go out, to test them and see if they’ll behave. Invariably they screw it up. I’ll come back to find things knocked over everywhere. Clothes will be pulled out of drawers onto floors, the curtains will be thrown around from them playing in the windows, and all other manner of disaster. So, the cage is still getting quite a bit of use.

Another thing that cage has been good for is getting a good night’s rest. When we first got these two, they would play all day and then at night they would want to sleep in the bed with us, usually on the pillows wrapped around our heads, or under the blankets by our feet. That was perfectly fine with me. Over time though they developed the habit of sleeping all day and then going nuts during the night when we are trying to sleep. They run into things, making lots of noise, and they’ll climb over us on the bed at full speed, scratching us and waking us up. Not to mention that me being asleep counts as one of those times when I’m not looking, so they go up on the desk and in the windows. I thought that putting them in the cage and forcing them to sleep at night would cause them to play during the day and then keep quiet during the night. That hasn’t worked though. They lay awake in the cage all night, doing nothing, then sleep all day and right about the time for bed, they go nuts and I have to catch them and put them up for the night.

I’ve slowly come to the realization that training these cats may be an impossible task. They will probably keep doing whatever they like, when they like, if they think they can get away with it. That really pisses me off when I think about it. They’re just cats. They should do what they’re told. That doesn’t seem to register with them though. So, when we’re out and about it’s the cage for them! Hopefully they’ll grow out of this. I’d hate to have to keep locking them up every time we leave and every night. There’s also the issue of having to leave them caged all day and all night too when I start working again. I don’t want to have to come home to a disaster area after a long day at work. If that’s what it comes to though, then these two will be jailbird cats for life!