The Singapore government's decision to lift a 34-year ban on cats in public housing has been praised by the animal-loving community. They said the move was a fair one, as small dog breeds had previously been allowed. However, some cat owners said they were unaware of the rule change, highlighting the lack of active enforcement.
Previously, 62 breeds of small dogs, birds, and fish were allowed in public housing, while cats were banned altogether. The decision drew criticism from animal welfare groups and cat lovers, who called it a double standard.
The reason cats are not allowed is because they are considered inquisitive and often wander. In addition, some critics say that cat owners who allow their pets to roam freely in and out of their homes interact with or attract stray animals, which can cause nuisance and hygiene problems.
The so-called Cat Management Framework, which includes licensing and microchipping for both domestic and stray cats, is expected to strike a balance between the two parties and end the long-standing polemic between cat lovers and haters.
The proposed changes will be subject to further consultation before being implemented by the end of 2024.
In response, Thenuga Vijakumar, President of the Cat Welfare Society, stated that responsible cat owners should be able to own cats without fear of being monitored, provided they adhere to the conditions of responsible ownership and licensing. He argues that this move will put them on an equal footing with dog owners, who already benefit from previous regulations.
Vijakumar stressed that for many cat owners, the move will give them "additional legitimacy" as they could face a fine of S$4,000 (US$3,000) for breaching the rules.
The ban on keeping cats in apartments, where most Singaporeans live, was introduced in 1989. According to the Housing Development Board (HDB) website, the reason for the ban is that cats are considered "difficult to contain within the flat". Other reasons include cat behavior that can annoy neighbors, such as shedding, defecating in public places, and making annoying noises.
Despite this, cats are usually left free and unattended unless there are complaints from neighbours, which can result in cat owners being fined up to S$4,000.
According to the South China Morning Post, the majority of cat owners said they were either unaware of the ban or did not care much about it due to the lack of effective enforcement.