By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 16, 2008

Physical Characteristics

The Singapura is a tiny cat with large eyes and ears. It is sized from small to medium, with the male Singapura weighing in at about six to eight pounds, and the female at a mere five pounds. The hair color standard for the Singapura is sepia agouti ticking -- each individual hair has two shades. Ivory, at the base of the hair, also referred to as the ground color, and darkening brown toward the tip. This color combination gives the cat a beige tint, much like the hair of a cougar, giving it a truly attractive coat. According to the Guinness World Records, the Singapura is the smallest domestic cat worldwide.

Personality and Temperament

This is a frisky cat, full of affection and companionship. It is not a floor cat. The Singapura is an extrovert to the fullest degree, thriving on attention and seeking it constantly. In fact, the Singapura is often chosen as a show cat for circuses because of its love of performing and being with people. Curious and frisky, this breed loves to play, but does not bound around the house destroying things in its excitement. This is a calm and easy cat to live with. It also has a quiet voice and will not disturb your life at home. Everyone is a welcome friend for the Singapura, including strangers. It truly enjoys being with humans and forms close, trusting relationships.

Health and Care

There are no genetic problems or specific health concerns attached to the Singapura, It is a generally healthy cat, though breeders are concerned about the small gene pool and what must be done to widen the pool. Those breeders are in the minority; most breeders work to find other natural Singura's from around the world to increase their breeding lot. One particular health condition that this breed is prone to is uterine intertia, a pregnancy related issue. If the uterine muscles are too weak to expel the litter of kittens, your cat will need to have as cesarean section performed on it.

History and Background

Singapore, an island spanning 226 square miles (585 sq km) at the tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, has played an important role in feline history. This tiny island has hosted thousands of cats. The small brown cats with the ticked coats have been spotted on the island since 1965. Ignored by the natives, their position was relegated to sewer cats.

Officially, it first arrived in America in 1975 with Tommy and Hal Meadow, Americans who had been living in Singapore for several years. They returned to the U.S. with three ticked, sepia-colored cats by the names of Tess, Tickle, and Pusse. They called the cats Singapuras and said that the cats were common cats on the streets of Singapore, that in fact, their first Singapura, Pusse, had come from the drain right to their feet.

Tommy Meadow, a former Cat Fanciers' Federation judge and an Abyssinian and Burmese breeder, worked actively to promote this breed. He wrote a standard -- an abstract aesthetic ideal -- for the Singapura and worked to remove (breed out) any unwanted traits. Meadow also established the United Singapura Society, whose objective was to protect, preserve, and promote the Singapura. In 1979, The International Cat Association and the Cat Fanciers' Federation became the first cat registries to recognize the Singapura for championship competition. In 1982 The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) accepted the Singapura for registration in, and granted Championship status in 1988. However, the breeds true origin was fraught with controversy soon thereafter.

There are conflicting stories regarding the origination of the Singapura. One account is that Hal Meadows, in Singapore on assignment for the U.S. Government, shipped three undocumented kittens to Tommy, his then friend (they were to marry later). This was in 1971. She allowed the cats to mate, and in 1974, when Hal was restationed in Singapore, they took the cats back with them to Singapore. The original shipment of the kittens from Singapore to Texas cannot be confirmed. The first available record of the cats is a shipment of five cats from Texas to Singapore, with names for three of the cats given as Tes, Ticle, and Pusse, and their breed given as Abysinnian-Burmese. In 1975, the Meadow's returned to the U.S. with apparently the same three cats, since the names on the import papers were the same names that had been given the year before. The Meadow's insist that what seems apparent is not, that the cats that were taken to Singapore and brought back into the U.S. were the grandchildren of the original three cats.

Another account is that of Jerry (or Gerry) Mayes, a cat fancier and breeder from Georgia, ventured to Singapore in 1990 in search of the "drain cat." By this time the Singapura had been welcomed wholeheartedly into the cat community, and the Singaporean government was launching a campaign to make the Singapura cat the national mascot. Mayes had no luck finding a natural Singapura on the streets, but he did find the importation papers from 1974. Mayes enlisted the help of Lucy Koh, of the Singapore Cat Club, who felt that further investigation was warranted. Koh then contacted Sandra Davie, a Singapore reporter, and the story of the American cat that was being honored as a Singapore native was told. But if cat fanciers had hoped to have the Singapuran removed from their community, or to have its designation changed from natural to bred, it was to no avail.

The CFA settled on the matter by stating that since Abbysinians and Burmese lived side by side on the streets of Singapore, it would not have been unexpected to find a breed that was based on the two breeds. Whether the breeds had mated in Singapore or in America was of no relevance. In the same breath, another account of the Jerry Mayes trip to Singapore is that he went to find more of the breed to bring back to the U.S., in the hopes of widening the gene pool. In this version he still contacts the Singapore Cat Club, but this story ends with Mayes successfully finding more Singapura cats to take home for breeding -- which also went successfully.

For all of the controversy, there have been reports of natural Singapurans being found on the streets of Singapore. The first documented was Chiko, found in 1980 at an SPCA by Sheila Bowers and WA Brad, a Flying Tiger Captain. The two had decided to utilize their stop overs in Singapore by scouring the streets and drains for the small cat. They reported that they did see a number of these cats hiding amongst the bushes near the sewers.

As a fairly new recognized breed, the designation for the Singapura may still be changed from natural breed to hybrid, if only to allow for outcrossing in oder to improve the health and vigor of the breed. As it stands, because the Singapura is designated as natural, there are no allowable outcrosses (other breeds that are allowed to be mated with the cat in question).

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