Spotlight on cat ban after HDB notice

One of Ms Ivy Tan's three rescue cats registered under the Love Cats pilot programme in Chong Pang, where residents and shopkeepers said they have not had many cat-related nuisances in the area.
One of Ms Ivy Tan's three rescue cats registered under the Love Cats pilot programme in Chong Pang, where residents and shopkeepers said they have not had many cat-related nuisances in the area.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Buzz online after nuisance cat in Woodlands estate prompts action

The ban on pet cats in Housing Board flats has come back under the spotlight after a notice to a Woodlands resident to remove his cat from his home attracted attention online.

In the letter dated Dec 28 last year that the resident posted on Facebook, HDB said pet cats are prohibited as they are difficult to confine within flats, and can cause a nuisance in public areas.

In response to queries, HDB told The Straits Times it had received feedback that the flat owner's cat had been defecating and urinating in the common area outside the homes of other residents.

It is working with animal welfare group Cat Welfare Society (CWS) to rehome the cat, it added.

Though the authorities act only on complaints, animal welfare groups have long lobbied for the removal of the ban, which has been in place since 1989, said Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Official recognition of cat ownership in HDB flats will enable better handling of complaints and enforcement against errant pet owners, said Dr Gill.

The spotlight comes as a pilot programme for cat lovers in Chong Pang, to keep their feline companions in flats, nears the end of its four-year trial.

Under the Love Cats programme, flat dwellers must register, sterilise and microchip their pets, and restrict them from roaming outdoors.

There are currently 105 households registered under the scheme, which is managed by CWS, with the support of government agencies.

The Ministry of National Development told The Straits Times that it is in the midst of assessing future plans for the Chong Pang pilot, and CWS' proposal to expand it.

Plans to extend it to other areas such as Marine Parade had been mooted as early as in 2015, though talks have stalled on funding, said CWS spokesman Veron Lau.

Given that cat ownership is already widespread, removing the blanket ban will help education and mediation efforts, leading to fewer pets being abandoned, she added.

Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC and founder of animal welfare group Acres, said the pilot has been successful and could be rolled out to more areas.

Chong Pang residents and shopkeepers yesterday said they have not had many cat-related nuisances in the area.

Housewife Ivy Tan, who has three rescue cats registered under the programme, hopes it will be expanded.

"Cats don't bark, and they are toilet-trained - neighbours wouldn't even know they're there," said Ms Tan, who is in her 50s.

"Cats can definitely be kept indoors as long as owners are responsible - it's up to them, not the cats."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2017, with the headline 'Spotlight on cat ban after HDB notice'. Print Edition | Subscribe