Stowaway cat Singa finds home in Holland

Volunteer animal ambulance worker Esther van den Berg with Singa, the cat found inside a container after a six-week sea journey from Singapore to Holland. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF ESTHER VAN DEN BERG
Volunteer animal ambulance worker Esther van den Berg with Singa, the cat found inside a container after a six-week sea journey from Singapore to Holland. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF ESTHER VAN DEN BERG

Trapped in a container for six weeks, a plucky ginger cat made his way by sea from Singapore to the Netherlands, a journey of more than 10,000km.

He arrived skinny and dehydrated but alive, and has now found a new home with volunteer animal ambulance worker Esther van den Berg.

"I think he survived by eating spiders or cockroaches and drinking his own urine and the condensation inside the container," said Ms van den Berg, 42, who lives in a two-storey terrace house in Barendrecht, a town just outside the port city Rotterdam.

"But he is a fighter and survived the long journey."

Ms van den Berg, who lives with her 13-year-old son and an 18-year-old cat named Sammy, was not the first to find Singa - although she did give him his new name.

A colleague from the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals responded to a call from the shipping company that found him and took him to an animal shelter in the nearby town of Schiedam.

Ms van den Berg met Singa a week later, when she and the colleague took him to be quarantined for four weeks to check for rabies. At that time, he weighed around 2kg and was shivering from nervousness, Ms van den Berg recalled.

After the quarantine, she asked whether anyone had adopted Singa, and found out the ship worker who had found him wanted to keep him. But he changed his mind after a week, and Ms van den Berg immediately went to the shelter to pick him up.

"I was really in love with him from when I first saw him," she told The Sunday Times. "He has been with me for eight weeks and his weight is now 5.6kg. He is a sweet cat but very shy."

Singa and Sammy took well to each other and eat the same food. Singa sometimes plays with Sammy's toys.

"I have bought him a cat tree but he doesn't like it yet," said Ms van den Berg, who became worried when Singa developed a persistent cough. A vet said it could have been lungworm or bronchitis but antibiotics have been improving his condition.

After finding him in February, Ms van den Berg found tattoos and a cut behind his left ear and was worried that his owner may have been missing him.

Singapore organisation the Cat Welfare Society said the marks indicated that he had been sterilised and also posted Singa's story on Facebook after it featured in a Dutch magazine.

The society's president Veron Lau said that so far only one person has contacted her claiming that Singa was his, but was later found to be mistaken as his missing cat was not sterilised.

"Cats are known to be quite hardy but it's still an incredible feat," said Ms Lau. "There might have been a food source because not eating or drinking for six weeks would not be possible."

Ms van den Berg said the animal shelter had originally named him Singapoes, but "poes" is the Dutch word for a female cat so she shortened it: "I thought he must be named after his fatherland, so I called him Singa."

joseow@sph.com.sg