There are an estimated 80,000 stray cats in Singapore. A single mating pair is capable of producing up to 324 offspring over two years, potentially leading to massive overpopulation. Cat culling is nothing new, usually averaging 10,000 to 13,000 cats a year, according to Goh Shih Yong from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
Yet, the practice has reignited passionate opposition among animal-lovers in the past few weeks in the face of intensified culling following the Sars outbreak.
While there were 680 stray cats culled in April, the figure jumped to 900 last month. As of last week, there had already been 383 cullings this month.
The culling is part of the 'Singapore's OK' campaign, aimed at cleaning up the environment and improving public hygiene in markets, hawker centres and food establishments. 'The stray cats rounded up are the ones that gather outside food establishments,' Mr Goh said.
But animal lovers have been outraged by the practice and have literally taken to the streets, rounding up the animals and finding them homes. Several have pledged large sums of money to house the cats in pet farms.
Animal activists are especially furious because, for the past five years, they have volunteered to work with town councils to control the stray cat population through sterilisation under the Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme, and now feel cheated by the authorities' decision to abandon it.
Animal welfare organisations have not only contributed their time to the scheme, but also their money. For example, the Cat Welfare Society donated S$60,000 (HK$270,000) to sterilise 5,000 cats.
But the AVA argues that the scheme does not work, as the number of complaints about stray cats is on the rise.
In a nation that usually finds it hard to organise any type of protest rally, animal-lovers have been very vociferous in the local newspapers.
Last week, 70 cat-lovers gathered at a five-star hotel to remember the culled cats with an 80-minute session of songs, floral tributes and a minute of silence.
The Remaking Singapore Committee has just recommended that the government draw up a code of consultation, which would set out guidelines and minimum standards on consulting the public before making policy changes.
Cat culling could be one of the first topics on the agenda.