The Singapura 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 8 pounds; adult females weight 4 to 6 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, and 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; it’s 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 that 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 all-breed 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, which 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, the 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 United Singapura Society kept 10% 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, because the breed was developed from only four cats. Because of this and other disputes, some 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, as 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 the 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 appear before the board and 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 because 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. Because 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, the Singapura is still a relatively rare breed; according to CFA’s 2014 registration totals, the Singapura is 22nd out of the 41 breeds CFA accepts for championship. However, it is recognized by associations worldwide and is being shown and bred in many countries besides the United States and Canada.