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.

So Much For A Clean Singapore

One of the things that Singapore is known for is its cleanliness, so why is it being treated so badly? Look at this mess! This is a sitting area below an HDB block. It’s regularly like this as well.

I’m sure the first thing someone will want to say is, “There are lots of foreigners! It must be the foreigners!” I don’ think so though. I think it’s kids that aren’t being properly disciplined and taught to take care of their surroundings. I see kids sitting there all the time, hanging out smoking and listening to music with their friends.

Of course there’s going to be a some litter, regardless of where you are. Even the cleanest parts of Singapore are a tad dirty, but this is just excessive. There’s really no excuse for it. It’s simple laziness and a lack of caring. Or perhaps they just don’t give a shit, because they know that some poor foreign worker will come along and clean it up?

Posted via email from Bradley’s Posterous

HDB Balcony Gardens

Singapore’s HDB housing blocks can look pretty sterile.  From the outside they all look the same.  In some areas there are whole groups of buildings that are built in the same fashion.  From what I’ve noticed, it seems like tenants have a lot of leeway with what they do to the interiors, but sometimes the hallways and corridors are just plain boring.

So, it’s nice when you’re walking down a corridor and you see that people are taking an initiative to liven the place up a bit, to make it more natural looking and more cozy.

A lot of people have personalized signs in front of their houses with their family name.  Some people get custom metal gates installed with designs in them, like birds.

Other people go to more extremes and have lots and lots of plants.  It’s very pleasant and refreshing seeing that splash of green down an otherwise drab corridor, especially considering how much extra work it has to be to maintain it all.

Some people get very creative with their plants:

I thought the fish were a really nice touch.

It also reminds me of my mom’s balcony.  She has a little garden out there where she grows tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables, which is even more impressive considering she lives in New York City and she does it with limited space.  She also sets up flowering creepers, morning glories, every year.  She attaches string so that they grow to cover the balcony from top to bottom.  When they bloom it looks really great and makes the place feel a lot more alive.

I’m looking forward to the next time I’ll be able to see these in person.  Photo courtesy of my mom!

It was really interesting to me how much people are able to modify their HDBs, because I’m used to places like this being apartments, where you’re only renting.  You can’t make any changes without approval, and who wants to improve a residence that they don’t own?  HDBs are owned though, so it makes sense to put some effort into them.

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?