Indoor cats do not know how to avoid the roads, hide from rain or kill for food. When they are dumped out in the open, they are confused, lost, starving and afraid. They may hide in drains, meow at passers-by for scraps, run across the road at peak hour, and suffer kicks or thrown objects from people attempting to chase them away.
The lifespan of a stray cat is 3-8 years while an indoor cat can live up to 20 years or more. When rescued, stray cats are often undernourished and in poor condition. Only in few exceptions where there is a responsible caretaker do strays get well fed.
The rise in abandonment also increases the burden on cat caregivers and rescuers with an increase in the community cat population.
In addition, it leads to more resident complaints of nuisance to the Town Council, Animal and Veterinary Services (AVS, formerly known as the AVA), or SPCA. If a cat is impounded, it is likely to be culled if unclaimed for a certain period of time even if it is healthy. This is simply because pounds do not have the resources to care for animals for an indefinite amount of time.
Where Do Stray Cats Come From? Why Do People Abandon Their Cats?
Stray cats come from abandoned cats, and especially unsterilised abandoned cats (or roaming pet cats) that then go on to reproduce more stray kittens. Some stray kittens are abandoned kittens from owners who could not afford to sterilise their pet cat or raise the kittens, and chose the “easy way out”. Casual owners may abandon their pet when they move, have a baby, or find that their pet is too much trouble for them. However, it is a cruel act, and there are plenty of options like giving away the cat to a new responsible owner.
Another source of abandoned cats are unlicensed home breeders who breed kittens at home and illegally sell them for profit. Some low-income households turn to backyard breeding as a way to make a quick buck. They then dump unsellable, sick or “ugly” cats out onto the streets.
Shelters and rescuers continue to work tirelessly to rehome abandoned cats. But the abandonment numbers, added with the number of kittens reproduced from unsterilised cats, far outweigh the resources available to get the cats to good homes.
2019 Cases of Cat Abandonment
An independent study of reported cat abandonment on Facebook revealed that in Singapore, there were at least 132 abandoned cats in May 2019 that were reported by Facebook users.
Reports on Facebook by users also revealed at least 3 major abandonment cases in 2019.
16 ABANDONED IN DILAPIDATED CAGES AT SUMANG WALK
On 1 Mar 2019, 16 cats were found in dilapidated cages at neighbouring residential blocks along Sumang Walk, at different spots like the void deck and carpark. Some cats are believed to have escaped as the cages were left open. Other reports on the Sumang case claimed that there may have been at least 23 cats initially abandoned.
7 ABANDONED AT EUNOS CRESCENT
On 22 May 2019, 7 cats were found abandoned at a HDB block at Eunos Crescent. The cats were fearfully huddled together, curled up, and sticking close to walls.
11 ABANDONED AT HENDERSON ROAD
On 26 May 2019, 5 cats were found abandoned at Henderson Road, together with a cage with an open door. A lady who claimed to be the owner said her family member abandoned them when she was not home and there were a total of 11 cats.
In 2017, a netizen made a compilation of all the abandoned kittens he encountered in reports on Facebook in that year alone.
The figures presented above represent only the reported numbers on the Facebook platform. There are many more abandonment cases that go unnoticed and unreported.
Abandonment is a major root cause of cat issues in Singapore. It is a crime, yet it is rampant and only a small ratio of abandoners get caught due to the lack of evidence.
6 were sentenced in 2017 and 2018 for cat abandonment.
- 21 JUN 2017: Natassia Bte Abdul Manaf
- 23 AUG 2017: Noorfazanah Bte Abdul Salam
- 11 APR 2018: Suriati Binte Misran
- 17 OCT 2018: Muhammad Firdaus Bin Samsudin
- 14 NOV 2018: Kamelia Binte Mohd Amir
- 5 DEC 2018: Siti Afza Binte Nooriani
AVA links below:
(Links are broken as the AVA site has been restructured to fall under the NPARKS site since early 2019, but a quick Google search will point you to media archives of the prosecuted crimes.)
A miserly number of prosecuted abandoners when there are at least over 100 cats reported to be abandoned per month on social media.
It is impossible to completely stop abandonment, but we could greatly reduce the abandonment rate with the following measures.
- Enforcement of the abandonment law could be strengthened, with more efficient investigation using CCTV footages to identify abandoners, as in the case of Suriati Binte Misran (11 APR 2018) where CCTV footages revealed the identity of the abandoner.
- We propose first a change in the HDB cat ban ruling, so that pet cats are legalised in HDB homes.
- The lifting of the cat ban in HDB homes must come with regulations.
- A cat-proof home (Meshed windows and gates, where applicable).
- Pet cats must be kept indoors, not allowed to roam in public areas.
- Pet cats must be microchipped. (See reasons below.)
- Pet cats must be sterilised. (See reasons below.)
Lifting the HDB cat ban
Positive outcomes from lifting of the HDB cat ban with regulations:
- Less homeless cats, leading to less nuisance complaints, less abuse cases and car accidents.
- Existing HDB cat owners are more likely to microchip their cats, as keeping cats in their residential address is now legalised.
Unavoidably, there would be negative outcomes if some cat owners do not abide strictly by the regulations. This can be eliminated by strict enforcement and undesirable consequences for cat owners who do not comply.
Regulating the microchipping of pet cats
Positive outcomes from microchipped pet cats:
- Easier identification of owners in the case of lost pet cats
- Easier identification of cat abandoners, deters abandonment
Regulating the sterilisation of pet cats
Positive outcomes from sterilised pet cats:
- Cat population is under control.
- No cat caterwauling, no undesirable urinating or defecating from instinctive behavior to attract a mate. This leads to less resident complaints.
- Less aggression in cats.
- Eliminates cancer of reproductive organs in pet cats, less financial strain on pet owners.
- In the event of lost, roaming, or abandoned pet cats, there will be no reproduction of new stray kitten litters.
What Can I Do Right Here, Right Now?
Shelters and rescuers are doing their best to rehome as many abandoned cats as possible, but resources are limited and many are still forced to accept their fate of stray life or facing the prospect of death.
However, as it takes time to implement policies and for mindsets to change, there are some ways we as residents and cat lovers can help.
- Sterilise every untipped stray cat you encounter.
- Foster an abandoned home cat while it is being re-homed.
- If you drive, you can help transport for rescue work.
- Donate to rescue missions to keep them sustainable.
- Stand up against abandonment.