SINGAPORE — A proposed move by the Government to allow Housing and Development Board (HDB) households to own up to two cats per flat, thereby reversing a 34-year ban on cat ownership in public flats, is in the works.
“To strike a balance between accommodating some residents’ desires to own cats, and maintaining a harmonious living environment for all, there will be limits on the number of pet cats that each household can keep,” said Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How today.
Under a proposed cat management framework he unveiled, pet cats will also need to undergo mandatory microchipping and licensing so as to allow authorities to respond to health outbreaks more effectively and hold “irresponsible” owners to greater account, he added.
Tan was speaking at the Pets’ Day Out event held at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, which was organised by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS).
The proposal will be available for further input for two months with the intention to implement the framework in the later part of 2024, he said.
When the framework is launched, Tan said there will be a two-year transition period would be introduced to allow pet owners “ample time” to meet the licensing conditions. During this period, all pet cat licences would be issued free-of-charge.
At present, HDB residents have not been permitted to own pet cats since 1989, and offenders may be fined up to S$4,000 if found to have a pet cat in their flat under the Housing and Development (Animals) Rules.
Over the years, cat owners have continued to advocate against the ban. In May, an AVS survey found that most respondents had expressed support for allowing cats as pets in HDB flats.
Today, AVS said in its statement that it will propose the following maximum limits:
- Two cats (and one dog of an approved breed, as per the current limit) for each HDB premises
- Three cats or dogs, or a combination of both for each private premises
Nevertheless, Tan said the authorities recognise that some households may currently have more pet cats than the proposed limit of two cats per HDB flat.
To this end, Tan said that should the proposed framework be rolled out, those with more than two cats may also apply to license and keep all existing pet cats then.
But this would be subject to AVS’ approval to ensure the pet cats’ welfare are not compromised, and that they are not causing “disamenities” to neighbours, added Tan. AVS may also conduct checks to ensure that the pet cats are being kept in good condition.
Tan added that the authorities are also looking into assisting cat fosterers that might exceed the proposed limits.
“We understand that there are cat fosterers in our community, who play an important role in caring for cats and finding forever homes for them. We are studying ways to support you,” he said.
Other licencing conditions mooted under the framework
In order for pet owners to be licenced under the proposed framework, they should ensure that their cats are “kept under control” in public and take steps to protect their cats from indoor and outdoor hazards, such as by installing window grilles, meshes or other barriers to prevent cats from roaming or falling from height, said the AVS in a statement.
All first-time cat or dog licence applicants must also complete a one-time free online pet ownership course, before they can be issued a licence.
The online course will cover basic pet care skills and responsible pet ownership and would be available in the four vernacular languages.
To stem unintended cat breeding, Tan urged owners to sterilise their cats as sterilisation brings health and behavioural benefits, since sterilised cats are also less inclined to roam and caterwaul.
Hence, for sterilised cats that are licensed during the two-year transition period, AVS will propose to issue free life-time licences, while fees may apply for new cat licences issued after the transition period for unsterilised cats.
“While we also plan to license unsterilised cats for free during the transition period, this licence will need to be renewed regularly following the transition period and at a higher fee,” he said.
Apart from pet cats, the proposed framework will involve expanding the Trap-Neuter-Rehome/Release-Manage programme for free-roaming dogs to include community cats.
The programme would build on an existing scheme to subsidise the sterilisation and microchipping of community cats since 2011. Plans are also underway to enhance funding support to include the trapping and boarding of community cats.
“This will allow us to better manage our community cat population holistically and in a humane and science-based manner, as we have done for our free-roaming dogs,” said Tan.
‘A positive development’: Cat Welfare Society
Speaking to TODAY on the sidelines of today’s event, Cat Welfare Society (CWS) president Thenuga Vijakumar said she was “very heartened to see positive development” in the areas that the group had been advocating for.
“We know that most cat owners are responsible and do not cause disamenities to others. This proposal will legitimise responsible cat owners and eradicate disamenities caused by irresponsible cat owners.”
For example, the licensing and microchipping of cats that CWS has been calling for are important moves to hold errant cat owners accountable.
As for the plan for neutering and rehoming community cats, Ms Thenuga said the move builds on the existing stray cat sterilisation programme, which is funded by donations.
“Now, the issue here is that the funds are for this have always come from donations through CWS, and donations will always be contingent on external factors that we have no control over,” she said.
“So for that reason, if there is an entrenched support programme... that would be great, because it means we could do a lot more and we could supplement the work that we are already doing.”
From today until February 1 next year, members of the public can find out more about the proposed framework and share their feedback through an online survey at go.gov.sg/cat-framework. — TODAY