Speech by SMS Tan Kiat How at Pets' Day Out

May 11, 2024

A very good morning to everyone. I am happy to join the Pets’ Day Out event, and see many friends and familiar faces.

Public consultation on cat management framework        

Today, I am glad to announce our cat management framework to enhance the management and welfare of both pet and community cats in Singapore. The government intends to start implementing the framework from 1 September this year.

Since we launched the public consultation on our proposed approach to cat management in September 2022, we have engaged a diverse range of individuals and groups through a series of public surveys and focus group discussions.

We heard invaluable insights from many residents such as cat lovers and owners, community cat caregivers, and representatives of animal welfare groups, as well as those who have had less positive experiences with cats. 

The different groups of people we spoke to had diverse and oftentimes deeply held views on a variety of issues, such as sterilisation, the limits on number of cats in homes, and the rules and responsibilities of cat ownership. 

These discussions have affirmed the complexity of the issue and the need to delicately balance the interests of different segments of the community.

We spoke to these groups together, so they could hear one another’s perspectives, identify areas of agreement as much as possible, and work towards practical and feasible solutions.

While there were diverse views, there was broad consensus on many issues.

One issue was that around greater accountability. For instance, there was a desire to prevent incidents involving cruelty and abuse. Many raised concerns after hearing about cases involving failure in duty of care, of cats living in cramped and unhygienic conditions, and cats being poorly looked after.

There was also broad consensus on the importance of responsible cat ownership.

One example often cited was cats falling from heights. Most cats fall to their deaths. Those that survive often end up badly injured and no households are willing to come forward to claim the cats.

Our respondents unanimously agreed that we must take reasonable steps to manage these issues, and enhance the welfare of pet and community cats.  

Based on the responses, we were able to distil the following key principles that have shaped our approach:

Firstly, we should work towards having greater traceability for cats; secondly, we should ensure greater responsibility by cat owners; and thirdly, we should better manage and responsibly care for cats in our community.

Thank you for taking the time to provide valuable feedback and ideas. The team has taken in your feedback and tried to incorporate as many of the inputs as possible.  The framework that we are launching today is a collaborative effort by everyone, very much a labour of love from all. 

Finalised cat management framework

Now, let me share the three key areas of the finalised framework.

Pet cat licensing and microchipping

First, for greater accountability and traceability, we will introduce a mandatory licensing and microchipping scheme for pet cats, similar to the existing one for pet dogs.

Licensing will enhance the traceability of pet cats and allow us to respond to animal disease outbreaks more effectively, and thereby better safeguard public health.

Licensing will also allow us to hold irresponsible cat owners to greater account if they abandon, neglect, or abuse their cats. 

To ensure that cat owners have a greater responsibility towards their pet cats, we will introduce licensing conditions to safeguard the health and welfare of pet cats, and to mitigate disamenities caused by irresponsible cat ownership.

For instance, owners must take reasonable steps to ensure a safe environment for their cats, such as by meshing their windows or installing grilles.

All first-time cat licence applicants will also be required to complete a one-time free online course on pet ownership.

Alongside our cat licensing scheme, we intend to start allowing cats to be kept in HDB flats. 

In our latest public survey, more than 80% of respondents were open to this. Majority of respondents supported allowing at least two cats per HDB household.

That said, almost 1 in 10 expressed reservations at allowing cats in HDB flats. We heard different views on the limits on the number of pet cats that each household should keep, and we need to strike a balance between these differences, while maintaining a harmonious living environment for all.

Keeping in mind the key principles of accountability, traceability, and responsibility, we will allow up to two cats per household for HDB flats. 

Transition period

We recognise that there are some HDB households that are already keeping cats.

Many animal welfare group partners and cat owners shared the concern that introducing a limit on the number of cats per household might cause people to abandon their existing pet cats once the licensing scheme is rolled out.

There are also others who may be concerned about the costs of licensing your cats.

Don’t worry – there is a two-year transition period, starting from 1 September this year. I would like to assure everyone that we will work with you throughout the two-year transition period, and we will provide supporting measures to help cat owners to adjust to the new licensing scheme.

During the two-year transition period, cat owners will be able to apply for free licences for all of your existing cats, even those in excess of the limits.

After the transition period, you will still be able to keep all of your cats, as long as they have been licensed and are properly cared for. So, all of your cats can continue being part of the family, and there is no need to give any of them up.

After the two-year transition period ends on 31 August 2026, applicants for new cat licences will have to abide by the cat ownership limits.

As with the existing licensing scheme for pet dogs, exceptions to the limits can be approved by AVS and HDB, with valid reasons. Working with the community, we will monitor the need to review the pet ownership limits subsequently.

Fosterers play an important role in caring for cats while helping them find their forever homes. Some fosterers shared that their work may give rise to certain needs.

For example, they may keep multiple cats in their homes, more than our upcoming stipulated limits, and cats that require care might come in batches.

We appreciate the hard work of fosterers, which is selfless work that they often undertake in their own time and at their own cost. So, we are working out measures to support you in keeping cats above the stipulated limits.

As a start, we will work with fosterers and our animal welfare group partners to co-develop guidelines for responsible cat fostering.

Following that, we are looking at rolling out an arrangement to recognise and support responsible fosterers in keeping cats above the stipulated limits. We intend to do so soon, during the transition period, and will share more details in due course.

In the meantime, do not worry about your existing fostered cats. Similar to pet cat owners, once the transition period begins, fosterers can also apply to AVS to license and keep all of your existing fostered cats.

We will also provide free sterilisation and microchipping for pet cats from low-income households, through a Pet Cat Sterilisation Support, or PCSS, programme, which we will launch on 1 September this year.

Since last year, AVS has organised three successful pilot Pet Cat Sterilisation Days, in collaboration with the Cat Welfare Society, the Singapore Veterinary Association, and Temasek Polytechnic. We will continue these under the PCSS programme and more registration details will be released later.

We hope that these measures will ease existing cat owners and fosterers into our new cat licensing scheme.

Pet cat licensing and sterilisation

Through our public consultation, we heard some calls to make sterilisation mandatory to stem unintended breeding.

We recognise that sterilisation has health and behavioural benefits, as it reduces the risk of some cancers. Sterilisation also minimises disamenities, as sterilised cats are less inclined to roam and caterwaul.

Our latest survey found that while a vast majority of cat-owning respondents have already sterilised their cats, there is also a small but not insignificant number of cat owners who have chosen not to sterilise their cats for various reasons, including personal beliefs, sterilisation costs, or because they are not well informed on the benefits of sterilisation.

While we acknowledge the benefits of sterilisation, we are mindful that if we were to require the mandatory sterilisation of pet cats via licensing conditions, we could inadvertently deter these owners from licensing their cats. This would undermine our primary objective to license all pet cats in Singapore for accountability and traceability, to protect public and animal health.

Worse still, some owners might even respond by abandoning their cats. So, we will take a measured approach to pet cat sterilisation. For a start, as we roll out our pet cat licensing scheme, we will strongly encourage all cat owners to sterilise their cats.

We will issue licences with a lifetime validity for sterilised cats for free during the transition period. 

In contrast, owners of unsterilised cats will have to regularly renew their cats’ licences once the transition period ends on 31 August 2026. Higher fees will apply for the renewal of such licences beyond the transition period. This is in line with our approach for pet dogs.

While we have not ruled out making sterilisation mandatory in future, for now, during the transition period, we will closely monitor the situation to understand if there might be a need to adjust our measures down the road.

We are also concerned about cases where individuals keep very large numbers of cats, which impact the cats’ health and welfare, and result in disamenities to neighbours. I am sure we have seen such cases in the news recently. We will continue to work with various agencies on managing such cases, and we invite our community partners to work closely with us on this.

TNRM for community cats

Alongside our pet cats, our community cats also hold a special place in our hearts and are a beloved part of our neighbourhoods.

Our current estimate is that there are around 13,000 free-roaming cats in publicly accessible ground-level areas in Singapore. As we continue to survey the community cat population, this number might increase.

Through our new Trap-Neuter-Rehome/Release-Manage, or TNRM, programme for community cats, we hope to better manage our community cat population in a holistic, humane, and science-based manner. 

As part of the Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme, or SCSP, AVS has been subsidising the sterilisation and microchipping of community cats since 2011.

Starting also on 1 September 2024, the new TNRM programme for community cats will replace the SCSP, and build on our past efforts.

We will enhance funding support beyond sterilisation and microchipping, to include areas such as the trapping and boarding of community cats.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to our key partners under the SCSP: animal welfare groups such as the Cat Welfare Society and SPCA, vet clinics such as James Tan Vet Centre, and community caregivers.

We look forward to your continued support and hope that more partners like yourselves, will come on board as we embark on our TNRM programme for cats from September.

Education and Outreach

Lastly, as part of our efforts to foster a community that practices empathy and care towards pet and community cats, we will be introducing new education and outreach initiatives.

As developing empathy and care towards animals starts at a young age, we will be reaching out to more schools to organise education programmes.

Our community partners and grassroots organisations will also be engaging residents on our new framework to address their concerns, and HDB and Town Councils will continue managing cat-related disamenities.

The public can look forward to cat-related roadshows and community events in their neighbourhoods. 

These outreach efforts will cover topics such as responsible pet cat ownership, the benefits of sterilisation for cats, and living with community cats in our neighbourhoods.

AVS is also engaging stakeholders, such as animal welfare groups, community cat caregivers, agencies, and Town Councils, to develop a set of guidelines on responsible community cat caregiving.

We will be piloting these guidelines in Boon Lay, with the support of our partners.

We aim to share the draft guidelines this September, and will continue working with stakeholders to refine the guidelines, as we did with the broader framework.


The cat management framework is a significant milestone in our efforts to improve animal health and welfare standards in Singapore, and enhance accountability and responsibility towards our pet and community cats.

Firstly, our pet cat licensing and microchipping scheme will improve traceability in the event of a disease outbreak, while allowing us to hold irresponsible cat owners to greater account.

Secondly, our TNRM programme for community cats will manage the community cat population in a holistic, sustainable, and science-based manner.

And finally, our stepped-up education and outreach efforts will foster a community that demonstrates empathy and care towards our pet and community cats.   

We will begin our two-year transition period for cat licensing on 1 September this year and roll out the various key initiatives under the cat management framework. More details on the range of measures to support the transition to our new framework can be found on AVS’s website.

I am grateful for the hard work from everyone who has been with us on this journey over the last couple of years, including my colleagues from MND, NParks, and HDB. This framework is a collective effort, and we look forward to your continued support as we refine our approach along the way. 

Thank you and have a wonderful Pets’ Day Out.