Chong Pang's cat project gets 2-year extension, expansion plans

Cat project may be expanded, after Chong Pang's pilot gets 2-year extension

Cat lovers in Chong Pang will get to keep felines in their Housing Board (HDB) flats for another two years under a pilot scheme which could soon make its way to Marine Parade GRC.

The Love Cats programme, which covers about 120 blocks in the area, was launched in October 2012 and was supposed to be for two years.

But the Ministry of National Development (MND) told The Sunday Times that it has been extended by another two years.

This is to give the ministry time to "monitor and assess the impact of the initiative", which allows residents to keep felines at home despite HDB's rules forbidding it.

To date, 126 households are registered under the pilot.

Most Chong Pang residents whom The Sunday Times spoke to, such as Ms Goh Chai Yoek, 58, said they had few issues with the extension as long as the pet owners are responsible.

Ms Goh, who works part-time at a Taoist temple, said: "If the cat is owned by someone, I think the owner will keep a close eye on it and not let it roam about."

But a 76-year-old Yishun resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said the cats can be quite "unhygienic".

He has lived in the area for seven years, and said cats have messed up his potted plants.

When asked, MND said the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) received a few complaints - believed to be fewer than 10 - during the pilot scheme; the complaints were of cats roaming beyond their owners' premises, for instance.

The MND spokesman said: "CWS has since worked with owners to address the concerns and ensure that their cats do not continue to inconvenience other residents."

CWS chief executive officer Joanne Ng said it investigates relevant feedback from residents.

She stressed the need for ongoing education for cat owners to understand their responsibilities, and to "promote greater awareness on integrating animals and pets into our community".

Last Friday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced in his speech during the launch of Singapore's first cat museum, a three-storey centre in Purvis Street, that the pilot could be expanded to other areas.

Mr Louis Ng, founder of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said the wildlife rescue group is exploring the possibility of expanding the pilot to Marine Parade GRC.

"We do have cat feeders in the Kembangan-Chai Chee areas, so they welcome the project.

"There are also quite a number of cat lovers in the area so the support is there," said Mr Ng, who is also a Kembangan-Chai Chee grassroots leader.

The initiative screens prospective cat owners, and requires that the animals be microchipped. There is a mediation process, run by CWS, in the case of disputes.

Madam Hannidah Hanim, who lives at an HDB block in Yishun Ring Road in Chong Pang, is glad she can keep her Siamese mixed breed, which she says has been toilet-trained and microchipped.

"I was afraid that we wouldn't be able to keep her," she said.

She added that there have been no complaints about her cat so far.

And her neighbours have taken a liking to Gujibam.

"They even offer to feed her," she said.

Madam Hannidah suggested that CWS could consider holding workshops to educate residents on cat behaviour and how to care for them.

The 51-year-old, who helps out at her husband's food business, hopes the HDB will consider lifting the ban on cats down the road.

"Cats can be very comforting." she said.

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