After bats, cats


In Singapore, you can’t have a cat if you live in any of the HDB estates. This is because cats are noisy, and will leave droppings everywhere, and are generally dirty. (It’s ok to have a small dog, which suggests the person responsible for those rules has either never seen a dog or a cat, or else really dislikes cats for some other reason. It would’ve been easier to understand if there was a blanket ban on pets, but not everything is easy to understand in Singapore.)

Despite, or perhaps because of it, there are vast numbers of stray cats living around our building, hiding under cars or on top of some of the roofs. Since nobody can have a cat in their apartment, people take to feeding these cats instead, leaving food out for them. This in turn leads to angry notices from the local council telling people not to do this, because vermin like rats and mice will eat the cat food. I’m not sure if that means they dislike rodents even more than cats, or that they don’t realize that cats like hunting mice, or that they’ve given up on any hope of eliminating the cats but have deduced that a hungry cat is more likely to go hunting for mice than a well-fed one. (Which isn’t necessarily true, but like I said, I don’t think the person making these rules is a cat person.)

There’s one cat that patrols an alleyway near us, that demands to be stroked. I don’t mean it’s so cute that you feel you have to pet it. It actually comes up to you and yowls at the dumb humans if they fail to show it due deference and affection.

I call this cat "Catapuss", partly because it doesn’t do to name a cat you don’t own, and partly because it hurts to get too attached to a street cat that may just vanish one day. Catapuss is black and white and goes through periods when her hair falls out, usually around Chinese New Year, because maybe (just like us) all the noise stresses her out.

However, unfailingly when we’re walking past her domain, she walks out and calls to be stroked, usually writhing on the ground in delight after a bit of contact. Sometimes she’ll vanish for weeks at a time, but then show up again, as hungry for affection as ever. I always assumed she’s like this to all humans.

Today I went for a run, well, five minutes around Chinatown, hardly worthy of the name but at least better than nothing. I took a short cut back through Catapuss’ alleyway, and as I ran through it, she walked towards me, mewing.

Then it was that I realized Catapuss recognized me. Cats are quite cautious animals, not the sort to approach random men in shorts running towards them. Catapuss could see past my sweaty exterior to the cat-petting man within. Or she sensed an easy mark, I guess. I had to turn back and give her a good stroke; she walked around my feet until she found an area free of cigarette butts, then lay down and writhed for a bit.

And then she tried to bite my hand, because instincts die hard, I suppose. Maybe the government just thinks cats are a bit untrustworthy or unpredictable, whereas a dog is easier to figure out and doesn’t demand humans are both caregivers and food.

Eventually I had to stop and go home to get changed. Time and tide wait for no cat, after all. Catapuss stared at me for a while, then went off to do whatever cats do. It’s nice to be recognized.


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