Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Time to cull those cat myths

From TODAY, Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Time to cull those cat myths
Let's first get the facts straight before we deal with strays

Letter from Dawn Kua
Director of Operations, Cat Welfare Society

We read with great interest the many letters on cats ("Do cats belong in our HDB estates?", Jan 29).

We would like to clarify some common misconceptions. Mr Goh Kian Huat said that cats are not allowed to be kept as pets as they are nomadic in nature and they are difficult to confine in flats.

This is untrue.

Cats are the most popular apartment animals in the United States and in Europe due to their small size, the fact that they are quiet once sterilised, and are low maintenance pets especially for people who work. They are not "nomadic by nature" and we have letters from more than 30 Singaporean veterinarians to attest to this.

As for the question of diseases, cats are generally very clean animals and most diseases they spread are feline specific — only other cats can catch them.

The chances of catching a disease from another person are much higher than of catching one from a cat.

In addition, as Ms Shirley Goh pointed out, cats removed from an estate will just trigger what is known as the vacuum effect. New cats will move in. This will just result in more and more cats being killed — without a decrease in the number of cats in the estate. If it were, surely the fact that 13,000 cats have been killed annually in Singapore for more than 25 years would have eradicated the community cat population by now.

We have written to the HDB on several occasions and met with them on two separate occasions, asking them to rethink their policy on allowing cats in flats.

We are proposing that cats kept in flats must be sterilised, microchipped for easy identification of the owner, and that they must be kept indoors at all times. Current laws already protect residents in HDB estates from nuisances and these can be used against irresponsible cat owners.
Currently, the laws penalise responsible cat owners who keep their cats indoors at all times, as it does not matter how responsible an owner you are.

If you own a cat, you have broken an HDB bylaw and can be complained against, even if your cat is well kept and does not cause a nuisance.

On the other hand, it actually encourages irresponsible pet ownership. People are more likely to allow their cats to wander so that they will not be found to have a cat on the premises should the HDB come to their homes.

This causes more problems to their neighbours as the cats are then allowed to wander, causing potential problems for the neighbours, instead of being kept indoors where they do not bother others. If compliance is simple and inexpensive, by insisting that people need to register, sterilise and microchip their cats, we firmly believe that the majority of people will comply.

It will also be easier to educate people who own cats on how to be responsible pet owners.

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