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.

Finding Common Ground Through Community Cats in Singapore

It’s amazing how friendships can start over something small.

Mob Photo 10-Jan-2010 AM 01 12 00

There’s a cat that lives under a block that we pass by on our way home from the Pasir Ris MRT station.  My wife had found it one day while jogging and since the cat was very friendly she started bringing a small bit of cat food with her to give it when she passes by.  One day, she saw two girls feeding the cat as well and they struck up a conversation.

That was a few weeks ago.  Over the weekend, we met up with them for coffee and later sat around playing with the cat and feeding it while talking.  It’s amazing how well we get on with these two girls that we just met.  We became ‘friends’ on Facebook and even got invited to a wedding.  All because we all enjoy looking after a cat.

There was a survey result I saw a week or so ago saying that in Singapore, expats have an easy time making friends, but it’s often with other expats.  They don’t typically mingle with the locals.  I’m sure people could infer a lot of negative things from that fact, but I think it’s just a matter of not finding a common ground to start from.

Most of the expats in Singapore are from countries where life is tougher and they may see Singaporeans as pampered and not feel that they would have anything in common with them.  So, they might not initiate a conversation to get to know someone.  On top of that there’s the natural boundary of being from different cultures.  Singapore has a long way to go, but it’s a more watered down mix of cultures than what expat workers may be used to where they’re from.

For me, I guess I just haven’t had much interest in getting to know locals.  Well, I don’t avoid it.  I just don’t go out seeking it.  Besides the two girls we met through the cat, the only other Singaporeans I know well (that are in Singapore) are the family we live with.  They’re a great bunch of people.  I have a feeling I’m missing out on a lot by not getting to know more of the local population.

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?

The Cats of Seashell Park

A few months ago my wife and I took a walk through Seashell Park.  It’s a small park that’s located behind a hawker center in Pasir Ris.  It’s not incredibly well maintained, but it’s nice nonetheless.  One of the things I enjoy about Singapore is that despite it being a city, there are still plenty of open areas where you can try to enjoy nature a bit, manicured though it may be.

While walking through the park we were surprised at the number of cats we saw.  It seems to be a home for many of them.  There was one (not pictured below) that had a collar on, so I think that some of them must leave their houses during the day to enjoy the sunshine and then go home at night.

The problem of strays in Singapore is a pretty big one.  People don’t seem to understand the value that cats hold in pest control, but rather think of the cats themselves as pests.  I for one am all for the humane treatment of cats, even when they’re strays.  There’s a better method than culling, which is what many residents and Town Councils seem to think is the answer to everything from cat ‘nuisances’ to there being too many pigeons in the area.

That’s really a story for another blog post though. I just wanted to share a few pictures of the cats we saw up there in the park.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag!

I just wanted to say thanks to all you lovely folks who have dropped by my blog via Singapore Community Cats and Cat Welfare Society to check out my “Cats Are Good For Singapore” post. I appreciate the attention, the compliments on the article, and hope all of you enjoy it!

Also, if you’re a reader of my blog and love animals, please do take a moment to check out the Singapore Community Cats blog and the Cat Welfare Society (links are above).

Cats Are Good For Singapore

I’ve heard a lot of complaining about cats in Singapore, both first hand and second hand through friends. People seem to think they’re a nuisance and that they should all be gotten rid of.

Well, it’s true that cats can be noisy sometimes at night. They’re territorial and they like to fight. Sometimes they’re horny and they want to get laid. How can you fault them for that? It’s in their nature to do those things. It’s also true that they sometimes utilize cars as cat beds. I know from personal experience that it can be annoying to come out of the house in the morning and find a fresh set of cat tracks on the hood of a car. It doesn’t make me want to get rid of them. It certainly doesn’t make me want to do something cruel and insane like mass poisoning.

Instead of focusing on the things cats do that may annoy you, you should focus on what they do that’s good for Singapore!

First and foremost, cats are good pets. If you see a stray cat, instead of kicking it, take it home. It’s a bit costly up front, but once you get your cat used to being in your home, and fatten him or her up a bit, they’ll become lifelong companions. There’s nothing quite like having a warm cat on your lap while you watch a movie. There’s nothing quite like having all your cats waiting at the door for you because they recognize the way you walk and want to welcome you home. There’s nothing like waking up with a cat warming your head, or sleeping curled up next to you.

Every cat has its own unique personality. I never knew that before I had cats of my own.

Tangible Benefits From Cats in Singapore

Besides being great, or at least interesting, companions there are other reasons to respect cats. If you’re thinking that indoor cats are fine, but it’s the outdoor ones that are a nuisance, ask yourself this: Would you rather see stray cats or see a massive increase in huge rats in your neighborhood? Which do you think carries more disease? Heck, which carries more of the ‘gross’ factor?

Cats are natural mousers. Having cats around keeps down the rodent population. If it weren’t for cats, the rodents might overrun the neighborhoods and that would be bad, because I’ve seen rats in Singapore that were as big as a six month old cat. Also keep in mind that rats aren’t as tame as cats. The chances of your child being bitten by a cat on the playground are slim. The cat would generally run away from a human being. A rat on the other hand might be more prone to attack.

To illustrate I have some photos of a cat doing his work. I was lucky enough to see this guy cleaning up the 24 hour hawker in Pasir Ris the other night. This is in the bushes just in front of the air conditioned area of the hawker center, near where people typically park motorbikes and bicycles at night.

 

 

As you can see, cats do a good job of keeping things tidy.

A Better Option

If, however, you simply cannot stand having a lot of cats around, or think there are too many, there’s another option. Volunteer your time and money to safely and humanely treat the problem. Work with the SPCA or the Cat Welfare Society. Or, do something above and beyond. Every month, catch a cat (lure with food into a carrier) and take the cat to a vet to have it neutered or spayed. Then, care for it indoors for a week and put it back out. That will effectively reduce the cat population by potential dozens for every ‘fixed’ cat.

Summary

[Update: Just to make it clear, the pictures below are not of the same cats. The ‘bad’ pictures were taken from online news articles in Singapore. Images of similar looking cats were used to emphasize the fact that cats are cute, and shouldn’t be hurt. Thanks!]

Do Not beat up, maim, harrass, torture, or kill cats. That goes for dogs too, though it’s not so much of a problem here. Besides the fact that it’s just sick and wrong, there are stiff penalties in Singapore for that. Are cats really so horrible that you want to risk a 10,000 SGD fine and/or up to 1 year in prison? Use your head! Think of alternatives!

This:

(Source – Edit: 2016, source no longer exists)

 

 

Or this (my cute kitties):

 

 

Which Do You Want To Have On Your Conscience?