The Pura is a small cat with large eyes and ears. The Pura’s body is moderately stocky and muscular with a firm midsection. The legs are heavy and muscled at the body, tapering down to small, short, oval feet. The tail length is short of the shoulder when laid alongside the torso. It tends toward slender but is not whippy and has a blunt tip. Adult males weigh 6 to 7 pounds; adult females weight 4 to 5 pounds. No outcrosses are allowed.
The skull is rounded from front to back and from side to side, with rounded width at the outer eye narrowing to a definite whisker break and a medium-short, broad muzzle with a blunt nose. In profile, the rounded skull has a slight curve well below eye level. The chin is well developed and the neck is short and thick. The ears are large, slightly pointed, wide open at the base and have a deep cup. The ear-set is medium. The outer lines of the ear extend upward at a slightly wide angle. The eyes are large, neither protruding nor recessed, almond shaped, wide open but showing a slant. The eyes are not less than one eye width apart. Acceptable colors are hazel, green and yellow, with brilliance preferred.
The coat is fine and very short with a silky texture, lying close to the body. Only one color, sepia, and one pattern, agouti (also called ticked tabby), is accepted. The color is dark brown ticking on a warm, old ivory ground color. Each hair must be long enough to have at least two bands of dark ticking separated by light bands. The first light band is next to the skin and the last dark band is at the tip of the hairs. The muzzle, chin, chest and underside are the color of unbleached muslin. The cat shows some barring on the inner front legs and the back knees only. The fur between the toes is dark brown. Facial markings with dark brown lines extend from the brows and outside corners of the eyes, and downward alongside the nose bridge from the inner corners of the eyes. Cheekbone shading is desirable.
The Singapura took its name from the Malay word for the Republic of Singapore, Singapura, which means “lion city.” Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Singapuras are known as little lions of love. Located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the island city-state of Singapore is only 263 square miles, the smallest country in Southeast Asia. Because Singapore is located at a focal point of international shipping, the island has its share of feral felines who prowl the fishing docks, hoping to grab a much-needed meal. These cats vary in color, body type and tail length.
In some pocket areas, small brown cats with ticked coats fought for their share of fish, and these cats are thought to be the foundation of the Singapura breed. These cats were disdainfully called “drain cats” because they often took refuge in the city’s storm drains. Feral cats were treated as nuisances and efforts were made to exterminate them, until an American breeder discovered the ticked felines and promoted them as a new breed. In the 1990s when the Singapura became popular in America, the breed became the official mascot of Singapore. An ad campaign featuring the breed beckoned tourists, and two statues were positioned on the Singapore River in the area where the breed was said to have originated. Interestingly, the Singapuras used as models for the statues were imported from the United States.
These former drain cats came to the attention of American cat fanciers in 1975. Tommy Meadow, a former allbreed judge for CFF and breeder of Abyssinians and Burmese, lived for a time in Singapore with her husband, Hal. In 1975, they returned to the United States with three ticked, sepia-colored cats named Tess, Tickle and Puss, whom Tommy said she had found on the streets of Singapore. These cats became the foundation for the breed she named the Singapura. A fourth cat was obtained from the Singapore SPCA by Brad and Sheila Bowers in 1980, and this cat was also used in the breed’s bloodlines.
Other breeders soon joined the Meadows in their efforts to promote their new breed, and in 1982 the breed was accepted for CFA registration. In 1984, Tommy Meadow founded the United Singapura Society (USS) to bring together Singapura fanciers. In 1988, CFA accepted the breed for championship status. Tommy established guidelines for USS members to follow, which included a test mating program to eliminate the undesirable solid color gene from the bloodlines and a consolidated waiting list to distribute the limited number of kittens to the large number of expectant owners. The USS treasury kept 10 percent of the purchase price of each kitten sold.
As can happen when groups of humans feel passionately about something, disagreements over the USS’s policies began to divide the Singapura fanciers in the mid 1980s. Some breeders were concerned about the small gene pool and the small litter sizes, since the breed was developed from only four cats. Because of this and other disputes, Singapura breeders broke away from the USS and formed other groups. In the late 1980s, breeders formed the International Singapura Alliance (ISA). One of their main goals was to persuade CFA to allow the registration of additional cats from Singapore to expand the limited gene pool, since no outcrosses were allowed.
More controversy arose in 1987, when breeder Jerry Mayes made a cat-gathering trip to Singapore. With the help of the Singapore Cat Club, Mayes brought back a dozen or so Singapore cats, and some startling news: that when Hal and Tommy Meadow entered Singapore in 1974, they already had three cats named Tess, Tickle and Puss. Mayes alerted Singapore reporter Sandra Davie, and in August 1990 Davie interviewed Tommy Meadow for an article in Singapore’s The Straits Times. Tommy admitted to a reporter that these three cats, which she originally claimed she found in Singapore in 1974, were really the grandchildren of four cats Hal Meadow sent home to Tommy when he was in Singapore in 1971.
In 1991, the CFA board of directors asked Tommy and Hal Meadow to explain the discrepancy. The Meadows said that in 1971 Hal had gathered four cats from the docks of Singapore and sent them to Tommy. Because of the politically sensitive nature of Hal’s work, Hal had asked Tommy not to tell anyone about the cats’ true origins. Hal produced passports and visas to document his 1971 visits to Singapore, but explained that no papers were filed for the cats since they were transported aboard a company ship. After deliberation, the CFA board found no probable cause of wrongdoing and voted to take no action against the Meadows.
Some breeders felt that it mattered little whether the Singapura was imported from Singapore in 1971 or in 1975. However, other breeders weren’t satisfied with the explanation, and some believed the three original cats were actually Abyssinian-Burmese crosses bred in Texas and imported to Singapore as part of a money-making scheme. Since some breeders were already unhappy with the USS’s policies, the controversy fueled the rift.
Despite the discord among the human fanciers, the Singapura gained new breeders and association support, since fanciers agreed on one thing: Singapuras are wonderful cats. Today, although the Singapura is still a minority breed, it is recognized worldwide and is being shown and bred in many countries besides the United States.
This breed is still rare and you’ll need to hurry up and wait to get a Pura. Most breeders maintain waiting lists. Because the gene pool is small and no outcrosses are allowed, inbreeding is a serious concern. Repeated breeding of cats who are too closely related leads to a reduction in genetic diversity, and increased physical expression of recessive genes. This can result in what’s called “inbreeding depression,” which means reduced fitness resulting in increased suceptibility to diseases and decreased fertility.
Some breeders say that the gene pool was closed too early in the breed’s development, and insist that more Singapore imports are necessary to keep the breed from becoming unhealthy. They say the small physical size and small litter sizes are symptoms that inbreeding depression is already taking place. Additional Singapore Puras have been imported, but in most associations the offspring of such imports must have at least a four-generation pedigree showing only Singapura ancestors if they are to be registered and shown, and Puras picked off the streets in Singapore don’t come with such pedigrees. The fresh bloodlines help, but it takes time for the offspring of these cats to be considered Singapuras. Be sure to get a written health guarantee before you buy a Singapura.
Puras require little grooming since their coats are short, lie close to the body, and lack downy undercoats. Brushing and nail clipping every other week is usually enough, although all cats benefit from being groomed more often. In addition, Singapuras usually enjoy the attention and the extra grooming will help you bond with your cat.
Did you know?
The Singapura is the world’s smallest breed of domestic cat. In fact, the breed was listed as such in the Guinness Book of World Records.
One look into those soulful eyes and you’re hooked, say Singapura fans. Singapuras get along well with other cats and cat-friendly dogs, as long as the proper introductions are made, but their favorite playmates are humans. Their humans are just as passionate about their little purr persons. Personality has fanciers singing the praises of their Puras, as these cats are affectionately called. All who know these feisty little mouse slayers agree that Singapuras are beautiful, lively, intelligent and loving. Singapuras tend to bond with one or several family members, but they also enjoy guests.
Fanciers of this breed call them anti-Persians because of their quick paws and quicker wits. Like most active cats, Singapuras thrive on attention and interactive play, and they exhibit all the cocky confidence you’d expect from a lion rather than the smallest domestic feline. They must be in the middle of every activity—open a drawer, and your Pura will be right there to help you paw through the contents. No matter how old they get, they never outgrow their love of play. Singapuras also easily learn new tricks, like getting into places they’re not supposed to be. Puras also quickly learn their names, and other choice words such as “treat,” “dinner” and “trip to the vet’s.”
This breed likes to keep an eye on the action, and particularly likes doing so from the tallest perch in the room. As if they can defy gravity, they spring to the top of the refrigerator with the grace of small, furry acrobats. These small, agile kitties are stronger than they look. In a pinch, your shoulder makes a convenient, portable perch. Unlike most very active breeds, when Puras are done streaking around the house like maniacs and dangling from the highest cat trees, they look for a warm lap. As soon as a favorite human sits down, they stop zipping around and settle in for purrs, head presses and loving gazes from those large, trusting eyes.
Singapuras dislike loud noises, so they may not be the best breed for a busy household with boisterous children. However, this depends on the cat and the family. Many are outgoing around strangers while others are reserved. However, they are very people-oriented social cats who need human companionship, so plan on spending a good deal of time with your feline friend. They want to be near you whether you’re watching TV or steaming in the shower. They are fascinated by water, but only on their terms, of course.