The Singapura is one of the smallest breeds of cats, noted for its large eyes and ears, brown ticked coat and blunt tail. Reportedly established from three "drain cats" imported from Singapore in the 1970s, it was later revealed that the cats were originally sent to Singapore from the US before they were exported back to the US. Investigations by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) concluded no wrongdoing and the Singapura kept its status as a natural breed.
In 1975, after a working stint in Singapore, Tommy and Hal Meadow returned to the US with what they say were three local brown-ticked cats. These three cats, a pair of male and female kittens from the same litter and another young female, were the foundation used to establish the Singapura. The breed takes its name from the traditional Malay name for Singapore. In 1981, a breeder visited Singapore and chanced upon a cat fitting the profile of the Singapura (with the exception of the tail) in the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The cat was imported to the US and adopted into the breeding program.
The Singapura was accepted for registration by the CFA in 1982 and granted championship status in 1988. In between this period, breeders found that the occasional litter would have a solid colored kitten, caused by the recessive gene for solid color. In a desire for the Singapura to breed true, many breeders chose to do test matings to pinpoint and remove from their breeding programs individuals with the recessive gene. It was discovered that two of the three foundation cats carried this gene.
In 1987, while on a cat finding trip to Singapore, American breeder Jerry Mayes discovered importation papers which revealed that the three foundation cats were actually taken into Singapore from the US in 1974. Lucy Koh, a friend of Mayes, made efforts to correct the history of the Singapura presented by the Meadows but that went relatively unnoticed until 1990, when the Singapore Tourist and Promotion Board (now Singapore Tourism Board) started a campaign to use the Singapura as a national mascot. Reporter Sandra Davie was informed of the discrepancy and published an article about it in the national broadsheet The Straits Times.
Because the cats were registered as Abyssinians in the import certificates, and because the Meadows had been breeders of Abyssinian, Burmese, and Siamese, some have speculated that the Singapura is a Burmese/Abyssinian cross and it has even been described as such by CFA Judges. The resemblance of some Burmese/Abyssinian cross to the Singapura, as well as the Singapura's small litter size, which is uncommon in natural breeds, added more doubts to the Meadows' story.
The CFA investigated the incident at the request of a Singapura breed club. In the investigation, Hal Meadow told the investigation board that the three cats were grandchildren of four local cats he sent back to the US during a previous sensitive business trip to Singapore in 1971, contradicting the Meadows' earlier claim of the foundation cats' origin. Apparently Tommy Meadow lied about it to conceal the secret trip. The CFA found no wrongdoing and kept the Singapura's status as a natural breed. CFA's Joan Miller said that "Whether they mated on the streets of Singapore or whether they mated in Michigan, it doesn't really matter." Referring to the cat picked up from the SPCA in 1981, she said that "In addition, there is at least one documented cat that is behind many Singapura pedigrees and it was picked up at the pound. Even with none of the cats the Meadows brought in we still have a legitimate cat from Singapore behind our Singapuras."
Recent studies in 2007 based on feline DNA showed that there are very few genetic differences between the Singapura and Burmese, adding support to the claim that the Singapura is not a natural breed.
The Singapore Tourist and Promotion Board (STPB) proceeded with the decision to use the breed (advertised under the name Kucinta) as a tourism mascot after CFA concluded its investigation. The name Kucinta is an amalgamation of the Malay words kucing (cat) and cinta (love) and taken from the winning entry in a naming competition. Sculptures of the Singapura can be found by the Singapore River.
While brown cats with ticked coats can occasionally be seen, few if any resembles the Singapura, with the majority of cats being bobtailed tabbies, tortoiseshells or bicolor, and the move by the STPB is seen by locals to be an advertising move based on the popularity of the breed among tourists at that time.
The Singapura is a moderately stocky and muscular small to medium-sized cat, with a very short and fine coat. A full grown female usually weighs 5-6 pounds while the male weighs 6-8 pounds. The large, slightly pointed and deep cupped ears together with the large almond shaped eyes are characteristics of the breed. The tail is slender, slightly shorter than the length of the body and has a blunt tip.
The breed's coat pattern is that of a ticked tabby. That is, individual hair strands have alternating sections of dark and light color, typically two dark bands separated by two light bands, with a dark color at the tip. The underside, including the chest, muzzle and chin, takes the color of the light bands. The Singapura is recognized by cat registries in only one color, the sepia agouti, described as "dark brown ticking on a warm old ivory ground color".
The Singapura is described by the CFA as active, curious and playful. They are affectionate and desire human interaction. They have a tendency to perch on high places, to allow them a better view of their surrounding.
In the UK, a pet-quality Singapura can cost £300-400 (US$500-600 USD) while a show specimen can cost upwards of £600.
Of concern to breeders is the condition known as uterine inertia, an inability to expel the fetus due to weak muscles. This condition was present in one of the foundation cats and appears in some Singapura females today. Individuals with uterine inertia may require deliveries to be made by Caesarean section.
There are no other known genetic health problems in the Singapura, although breeders have shown concern regarding the genetic diversity of the breed due to inbreeding caused by a small gene pool. Researchers who completed the 2007 DNA study found that the Singapura (along with the Burmese) have the least genetic diversity among the 22 breeds studied. The possibility of outcrossing with another breed to increase the genetic diversity had been raised among CFA breeders, but not many were receptive to the idea, preferring to use Singapuras from around the world that are not so closely related to the CFA line.