The Singapore Cat
The usual articles come to mind when you think of Singaporean icons. To some, Chicken Rice is as representative of Singapore as Katong Laksa. It may also be the tourist sights that Singapore is renowned for, like the Merlion or Sentosa Island, which are commonly found on travel guides and post cards.
To the heritage buffs, places like Bukit Brown Cemetery or Joo Chiat hold much significance in the context of our local history. Some of us may also find identity in the engineered social spaces like the ubiquitous void deck or playground. After all, more than 80% of Singaporeans live in HDB public housing.
For as long as I could remember, our feline friends have been part of the Singapore streetscape. Be it the resident cat that lurks in the same corner at your void deck or that ginger-coated gang that calls the playground home, cats have roamed our streets for the longest time.
While the Singapore Cat roams our streets, which really belong to them arguably, a few Singapura Cats have been immortalised in the heart of the business district. The Singapura Cat is an established breed that was adopted in 1990 as a tourism mascot of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, today’s Singapore Tourism Board. 15 Singapura Cat sculptures were placed along the Singapore River and three of them still stand at the edge of Cavenagh Bridge today.
The Singapura Cat is also known as the Kucinta, a hybrid of two Malay words, kuching (cat) and cinta (love). The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board held a cat-naming competition and the winning entry of Kucinta was submitted by Mdm Ang Lian Tin.
The Kucinta is a smaller than average, shorthaired cat with noticeably large eyes and ears. The Singapore River cat sculptures were designed to reflect the cat’s many moods, which may surprise some who consider sleepy the only mood cats are known for. While these bronzed Singapura Cats will enjoy the view of Singapore River for decades to come, their counterparts have gone through much more serpentine experiences.
The Primary Production Department, today’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), initiated the Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme in 1998. Before that, culling was the primary measure to contain the stray cat population in Singapore. An AVA press release dated 28 May 2003 stated that up to 13,000 stray cats were put down per year.
The AVA has recognised that sterilisation and responsible pet management are more humane and effective methods in the long term, and has worked closely with town councils, animal welfare groups like the Cat Welfare Society, and volunteers. These have helped to control the stray cat population in Singapore.
Not content with running the streets of Singapore, cats have also taken over our Internet. Olly (http://instagram.com/stacyname) and Nikka (http://instagram.com/nikka_cat), both rescued street cats in Singapore, have gained quite significant following on Instagram.
“I found Olly on a rainy evening and he was limping near my home. I brought him to the vet who diagnosed a fractured paw. We visited the vet every week for a month to change his bandage. I eventually decided to keep him after fostering him at home,” said Stacy, Olly’s rescuer and owner. “I just enjoyed taking photos of my cats, so it was a pleasant surprise when the cats started having their own Instagram following.”
With close to 2,000 followers on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SmuSoaCat, the SMU cat joins Olly and Nikka as mini cat celebrities in Singapore. Sometimes the Singapore Cat gives you a welcoming purr or rolls about in front of you beckoning a belly rub. On a bad day, they take a swipe at you with their paw or just ignore you as they sleep the day away. Perhaps it is time to give your Singapore Cat a pat.