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Choosing a Singapura

By: J. Anne Helgren

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Noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest breed of domestic cat, Puras, as they are affectionately called, are gaining fans for their appealing personalities and affectionate natures. While still rare, partly because of the controversy surrounding their origins, these feisty little mouse warriors are the cat's meow, say fanciers.

History & Origin

The first Singapuras were brought to America from Singapore, although debate about the breed's true origins has created disagreement over the years. As do many seaports, Singapore, a small island off the tip of the Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia, has scores of feral felines that make their meager livings off the fish industry. Small brown cats with ticked coats, disparagingly known as "drain" or "sewer" cats by the island's inhabitants, have been observed on the island of Singapore for many years.

In 1975, Tommy and Hal Meadow, the founders of the Singapura breed, returned from Singapore with three sepia-colored ticked cats named Tess, Tickle and Pusse. Tommy Meadow, a former Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF) judge and breeder of Abyssinians and Burmese, wrote a standard for the breed and began a breeding program using the three cats as the foundation. She named the breed Singapura, which is the Malaysian name for Singapore. In 1980, another breeder obtained a fourth cat from the Singapore SPCA, and this cat was added to the breeding program. In 1987, more Singapore cats were imported. As the gene pool was very small, these new bloodlines were very important to the breed.

Controversy arose in 1990 when Tommy Meadow admitted that Tess, Tickle, and Pusse had been born in America and transported to Singapore when she and her husband moved there in 1974. Tommy claimed that the cats were the grandchildren of Singapore cats that Hal had sent to Tommy in 1971 when he was in Singapore on business.

Tommy explained that after she allowed the original Singapore cats to mate, she became convinced that the cats could be the foundation of a breed unknown in America. However, because of the confidential nature of Hal's work (collecting information for his geophysical company), Hal insisted that Tommy not reveal the cats' true origin. Tommy maintains that since she did not keep records of the matings of those first three cats, for all practical purposes the breed began in 1975 as she had originally claimed.

In February 1991, the Meadows were asked to the CFA board meeting to explain the situation. Hal produced passports and visas to document his 1971 visit to Singapore, and after deliberating the CFA board found no probable cause of wrongdoing, and took no action against the Meadows. Nor did any other cat association take action or revoke recognition of the breed.

Other fanciers, however, were not so forgiving and believed that the Singapura didn't come from Singapore at all but were actually Abyssinian/Burmese crosses produced in Texas and transported to Singapore.

The controversy hasn't prevented the breed from achieving widespread acceptance, however. Today, all North American cat associations accept the Singapura, and the breed is accepted by associations in a number of European countries as well. The breed is still quite rare, however; in 2000 only 144 Singapuras were registered in CFA, up from 139 in 1999 and 143 in 1998, according to CFA's registration totals, which gives the breed a ranking of 30th out of the 40 breeds CFA recognizes.

Appearance

While the newly developed mei toi breed is smaller than the Pura, the Singapura still is the smallest of the widely accepted breeds. Males weigh about 6 pounds, while females tip the scales at about 4 pounds. Despite its size, the Singapura is a stocky, strong, muscular little cat with a short, strong neck and strong, muscular legs. The head is rounded and possesses a short, broad muzzle and a blunt nose. Large, almond-shaped eyes and large, alert, deep-cupped ears give the face a pleasantly innocent, surprised look. The tail is slender with a dark, blunt tip.

The Singapura's coat is fine and very short, and lies close to the body. Only one color and pattern is accepted -- sepia agouti. The dominant agouti (ticked tabby) gene – the same gene that gives the Abyssinian its distinctive coat – produces alternating bands of color on each hair shaft. The breed also carries the recessive Burmese gene, which results in a warm dark brown called sepia. Bands of warm old ivory alternate with the sepia bands. The muzzle, chin, chest and stomach are the color of unbleached muslin, and the face bears dark brown markings extending from the brows and the outside corners of the eyes. The forehead bears the tabby "M."

Personality

Don't let that wide-eyed innocent look fool you – these spunky felines are pesky people pleasers with a talent for tomfoolery. Singapuras love to be the center of attention and are not above getting into adorable mischief to get it. They remain active and playful well into old age. Puras are not quite as active as Abyssinians, but are plenty energetic nevertheless. They're curious and almost too intelligent when it comes to figuring out where the cat treats are kept or how to scale the tallest cupboard. Those agile paws are adept at prying into forbidden places.

If you take the time to build a strong relationship with a Pura, you'll have a devoted, trusting companion for life. Singapuras tend to bond with one or several family members, but they love most people; they don't seem to understand the word "stranger." Instead of hiding under the bed, they want to be there with you to welcome anyone who comes to the door. They are not talkers, however; their voices are quiet and unobtrusive even when something is terribly wrong, like empty food dishes.

Grooming

The Singapura requires little grooming. The coat is short and lies close to the body, so a twice monthly brushing and nail clipping is usually enough. Fanciers say Singapuras don't shed as heavily as some breeds.
Association Acceptance

  • American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE)
  • American Cat Association (ACA)
  • American Cat Fancier's Association (ACFA)
  • Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
  • Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)
  • Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF)
  • The International Cat Association (TICA)
  • Traditional Cat Association, Inc. (TCA)
  • United Feline Organization (UFO)

    Special Notes

    The gene pool of this rare breed is still quite small and no outcrosses are allowed in most associations. Some fanciers say more Singapore imports are needed to keep the breed healthy and strong. Additional Singapore stock has been imported, but the offspring of such cats must have a four-generation pedigree showing only Singapura ancestors to be registered in most associations. Be sure to get a written health guarantee.

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