by Dass, Annalisa
The Singapura Cat a.k.a. Kucinta (Kuchinta) is regarded as Singapore's Tourism Board's mascot, although claims of it having originated from Singapore remain questionable. The Cat Fanciers Association in the US gave the Singapura cat pedigree status in 1988.
The Singapura cat has a history that is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Apparently, it had its dubious beginnings as a native "drain cat". During the 1960s and 1970s, this species was the most prevalent in Singapore. With its small size, distinctive coat and unique features, it caught the attention of an expatriate couple: Hal Meadows and Tommy Meadows. They claimed to have pioneered breeding the cats in 1974, starting with three drain cats which they brought to Texas, USA.
In early 1990, a seemingly harmless move by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB) to adopt the Singapura as a tourism mascot, culminated in a furore of controversy. During checks on the historical background of the breed, records by the Primary Production Department (PPD) and the Singapore Cat Club showed that the Meadows already had the three cats when they arrived in Singapore in 1974. They were among the couple's six Burmese and Abyssinians. Investigations revealed that the wife had lied about the dates in order to conceal a secret trip that her husband had made in 1971, after which he smuggled four local cats to the USA. Elsewhere, evidence of Abyssinian and Burmese crossbreeds, which looked identical to the Singapura, threw further doubt over the feline's origins and credibility as a natural breed. The Singapura's small litter sizes, a typical of natural breeds aroused further suspicion. To compound the situation, the American-based Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) considered not acknowledging the breed as a natural one, but rather, as an established one. An inquiry was launched to clear the discrepancy. It eventually resulted in the CFA's promise to keep the breed's pedigree intact and the STPB's mascot launch in 1991.
Competition results were announced on 5 December 1990 and the first posters appeared in May of 1991. A "Name the Singapore River Cats" competition was held by the STPB, in which, Mdm Ang Lian Tin submitted the winning entry of "Kucinta". Following this, plans were made to grace the Singapore River with 15 special sculptures of the Kucinta. The sculptures have since been the prime target of vandals, with several being defaced and one stolen.
The Singapura is one of the rarest cats in the world, and is also registered as the smallest recognised breed in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is highly sought after, with offers going as high as US$10,000 for excellent specimens. Although it seems delicate, it is fairly hardy and muscular for its size. Its exceptional, richly ticked or agouti coat, is often found in wild mammals. The coat is short, fine-textured and comes in sepia brown or warm ivory colours with some barring present on the inner front legs and back knees. It has large ears and strikingly beautiful eyes, which seem to be accentuated by eyeliner. "Cheetah" lines continue down to its whisker pad and stop before its nose, which must have a clear, dark outline. It is a highly intelligent, lively and affectionate cat, which makes a gentle and loving companion.
Common name: The Singapura Cat.
Local name: Kucinta (Kuchinta) a hybrid of two Malay words: Kuching (cat) and cinta (love). Invented by Mdm Ang Lian Tin the winner of the Name the Singapore River Cats competition, held in 1990. Kucinta in Malay also means "I love" with ku being short for aku or "I" and chinta being a verb "to love".
Fogle, B. (1997). The encyclopedia of the cat. (p. 175). London: Dorling Kindersley.
(Call no.: q636.8003 FOG-[ANI])
Maggitti, P. (1995). The cat. (pp. 80-81). PLC, Twickenham: Tiger Books International.
(Call no.: 599.74428 RIC)
Kucinta best name for cats. (1990, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 25.
Singapura cat a hit with feline lovers all over the world. (1989, December 31). The Sunday Times, p. 17.
Singapura cat still a pedigree. (1990, October 12). The Straits Times, p. 2.
Storm over Singapura cat. (1990, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 20.
The Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. (1999). Breed standard: Singapura. Retrieved April 23, 1999, from http://www.cfainc.org/breeds/standards/singapura.html
Davie, S. (1991, May 5). Singapura cat used in posters to woo tourists here. The Sunday Times. p. 3.
Search for the Singapura. (1997). In, Hey Singapore. Series 3, episode 2 [Videotape]. Singapore: Television Corporation of Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 HEY)
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.