SINGAPORE - A total of 39 cats being kept in filthy cages were removed from a fourth-floor Housing Board flat on Thursday (Feb 25).
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it was notified in September last year about a "faecal odour" from a unit at Block 207, Yishun Street 21.
Despite several attempts, AVA managed to contact the unit owner only on Wednesday night (Feb 24), and removed the cats, which were "found in poor condition", on Thursday (Feb 25), its spokesman said.
The cats are now being assessed by AVA veterinarians. It added that it is investigating the case "for failure in duty of care and possible animal cruelty".
Neighbours said the authorities arrived at 8am to take the cats away in six cages during a four-hour operation.
Many of the cats were said to be caked in faeces.
When The Straits Times visited the unit, its doors and windows were shut, but a stench still lingered in the air and cockroaches were spotted outside.
The flat is reportedly owned by Mr Roslani Ahmad, 63, who admitted to another media outlet that he kept the cats in cages but was "against cat abuse".
A neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Madam Seow, told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "The stench from the unit is unbearable. The neighbours usually keep our doors closed.
"We wanted to sell our flat for a bigger one. But as soon as the agents brought people here and they smelled the stench from that unit, they said they didn't want to buy our flat any more."
Another resident, Mrs Chong, who lives on the ground floor, said that contractors carrying out renovations at the block had told her that they saw more than 20 cats in cages.
"The workers told me that it was so smelly that they couldn't go in to renovate," she added. "Those who finally went inside said they couldn't stand it."
The Cat Welfare Society (CWS) was also alerted to the incident last September. The Society said it tried on several occasions to make contact with the family, but to no avail.
It added that it believes this is a case of hoarding and not abuse.
A CWS spokesperson who was at the scene said: "The cats looked better than expected. They are flu-stricken but the ones we saw did not look especially emaciated."
More than 20 alleged cases of cat abuse have been reported in Yishun since last September.