Categories: Singapura

Singapura cat’s history was an elaborate deception by the founders of the breed

The Singapura is quite a rare cat breed and arguably the smallest of all the breeds. It looks like a small, elegant product of a cross between Burmese and Abyssinian cats. Critics of the history of the breed as stated by the founders, Mrs Tommy Meadow and her husband Hal Meadow, felt that the cat was really a product of selective breeding Burmese and Abyssinian cats and did not believe their story. So what is the original story and how was it changed?

The point that should be made initially is that some cat breeders want to find fame by creating a new breed. The ‘new breed marketplace’ is quite crowded and probably too crowded now to find room for more new breeds but back in the 1950s and moving forward, there was a spate of new cat breeds. The Singapura was one of those new breeds.

A real Singapura. My thanks to Sarah Hartwell of messybeast.com (see link to her page below).

The original elaborate deception on the history of the Singapura

In a 1988 interview, Mrs Tommy Meadow spoke about the origins of the Singapura cat. I’m able to quote her verbatim. The story was found to be an elaborate deception.

In April [1975] Saigon fell and in July I was moving back to the United States, with my husband Hal following a few days later. With me I brought my orchids, ten hooded rats and six cats. Of the six cats, five were cats that acquired the breed name of Singapura while in Singapore and had been registered with the Singapore Feline Society…The oldest one was Pusse who had been found near the Goldhill Building in the centre of the 225 square mile island. The next in age was a male, Tickle, and his little sister Tessa found near the waterfront. George and Gladys, named after members of the Singapore Feline Society, were four month old kittens travelling with mum Pusse and had been sired by Tickle. The 1975 immigrants into the United States were joined in 1980 by a cat named Chiko who had been located at the SPCA by another American breeder vacationing in Singapore. Subsequently, Chiko was shipped to a Singapura breeder [Barbara Gilbertson] in the state of Washington.

It is a bit convoluted but to recap and summarise, the founders of the breed, Hal and Tommy Meadow declared to the world that they had discovered it in Singapore in 1974. They found these cats on the streets of Singapore and selectively bred from them while still in Singapore and then in 1975 took five of them home back to the United States.

Singapura Cat. Photo: copyright Helmi Flick

The amended story

The scepticism of critics about the story forced Tommy Meadow to make a new statement which corrected her earlier comments. In a 1994 interview, Tommy admitted that there had been ‘inaccuracies’ in the way she had told the original version of her story. Her new account was slightly but significantly different. Personally, I’m not sure that I can even believe her new account. I am one of those people, a true skeptic, who believe that she simply bred from Burmese and Abyssinian cat in America. This is the amended story:

Tommy Meadow had been a successful exhibitor of Siamese, Burmese and Abyssinian cats. She met Hal, her husband to be, in 1970. He was a geophysicist working for an oil company which took him out to the Far East including Singapore. He was always fascinated with cats and developed an interest in the cat fancy because of his association with Tommy. When Hal was on a trip to Singapore in 1971 he saw some local cats which he thought were unusual with coats like an Abyssinian’s but more silvery. He liked them so much that he had four of them shipped to the United States. This group of cats consisted of a male and three females. The couple bred from these cats.

In 1974, after Hal and Tommy were married they returned to Singapore together and took with them some of their cats including three grandchildren of the original four cats mentioned above. These three were called Pusse, Tess (or Tes) and Ticle. Notice the slightly different spelling of “Tickle” and Tessa has changed. This may be an error in the record.

The Meadows bred from these cats while in Singapore. They had wanted to stay there for 10 years but they returned earlier to the USA because of the fall of Saigon in July 1975 and the collapse of the American involvement in Vietnam. They took with them five Singapuras including the original three plus two others whose names were Gladys and George who had been born in Singapore. After they returned home to the US they established the new breed and gained recognition by the cat associations.

THE FULL STORY IS FAR MORE COMPLICATED! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I DON’T WANT TO BORE PEOPLE WITH IT BUT IF YOU ARE INTERESTED SARAH HARTWELL RECOUNTS IT ON HER SITE (links to outside sites sometimes break please note).

Comment

I have set this out in some detail (and it is tortuous and rather confusing) thanks to the work of Dr Desmond Morris in his book Cat World who may have taken it from Sarah Hartwell’s article. The second version of Meadow’s story is not too dissimilar from the first in that she states that the origins of this breed are street cats from Singapore. The original exotic connection to a Far Eastern country is maintained. However, in my mind, the question remains whether they were simply bred, as I originally alluded to, from Abyssinian and Burmese cats in America with no connection to Singapore.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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