Monday, March 04, 2013


There are lots of cats that live around the HDB flats.

They can't live in the flats themselves, because cats are noisy and smelly, whereas dogs are reliably silent and fastidious. Many is the postman who will have bad memories of being savaged by a vicious housecat, many is the man who relives nightmares of being chased by a cat off its leash, or of seeing his flock of sheep worried to death by a cat turned loose in a field. They might appear friendly and fetch a ball when you throw it, but cats - oh, hang on, that's dogs I'm talking about. It's easy to get confused.

In Hong Kong, the situation is at least partly reversed; out in rural areas there will be packs of wild dogs wandering around, while the cats stay indoors. In Singapore though, dogs are perfect indoor pets, and cats stay outside.

Selfishly, this is good for us. Some of the cats are friendly, and that means we can stroke them and play with them and then go home, free from the responsibility of vetinarians' bills. There is Catapuss, a slightly grouchy black and white cat between Temple and Smith Street, who makes irascible little squawks if you don't show her enough affection, and more recently we've encountered, hiding under taxis in the car park, Catapino and Thinifuss, a pair of light brown tabbies thin enough that their cheekbones could be in a Korean boyband.

Catapino is shy, and won't come to you directly; she has to circle round and then sneak up behind you, while Thinifuss has yet to get brave enough to make any approach: he (or she, it's too far to tell) crouches under the tailgates of different cars, watching us with what may be hope, or hunger, or hatred, but never yet making it out of cover.

As I said, we'd like a cat, but the hard tiled floors of our apartment would be no fun for it. Neither would the concrete around the HDBs; cats need green space to stalk and hunt in. I wouldn't leave this country just to get a cat, but having seen the price of a place with a garden, you almost might have to. All I want is a fat lump, purring on my lap as I recover from a day at work. Is that too much to ask for?


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