The time of the straits
September 1, 2022
A reticulated python swallowed a stray pet cat in the condominium of its owner’s home in Tanah Merah.
Teacher Angel Low, 28, feared the worst when her cat, Ben, failed to return home on Monday evening after learning that a bulging-bellied reticulated python had been caught earlier in the day.
“Ben usually comes back when my mom calls him. We suspected something was wrong when we saw the python’s belly in a video shared by other residents and immediately contacted the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society. (Acres), which had removed the snake,” Ms Low said.
Her three-year-old tabby weighed around 6kg, she said.
Much to his family’s horror, they learned the next day that the python had vomited up their pet’s carcass while the reptile was being transported to Singapore Zoo.
But it was too late for them to retrieve the carcass, which was thrown away by staff.
“I wish they had been a little more sensitive in dealing with the issue…especially when my cat had a collar on,” said Ms Low, who felt staff could have bothered to find out if the cat belonged to someone.
Responding to questions from The Straits Times, Mandai Wildlife Group and Acres said the python was taken to the group’s veterinary hospital, which is the central point of treatment for all rescued pythons in Singapore.
On the way to the hospital, the snake regurgitated the cat and, when scanned at the hospital, the carcass did not have a microchip indicating its origin, they said.
“Acres called the security guard to provide an update and was advised that no missing cat reports had been made to date. After discussion between the two organisations, the body was carefully disposed of, in accordance with the zoo’s standard biosecurity protocols,” they added.
Following the incident, the Mandai Wildlife Group Veterinary Service is reviewing its processes to temporarily hold dead pets taken to hospital, they said.
It was the first time Ms Low and her family, who live in a three-storey house, had seen a snake at D’Manor since moving to the estate more than 10 years ago.
Ms. Low said she was surprised to see one because the condo is not near any natural areas.
“My mum is devastated because she was so close to Ben, who we’ve had since he was a week old. He was a very sweet cat who didn’t hurt anyone and snuggled up to us when we were upset. “
“Every time we think about what happened, we still cry,” she added.
The three-year-old tabby weighed around 6kg, Ms Angel Low said. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANGEL LOW
Ben liked to sunbathe, so the family allowed him to roam around the compound, she said, adding that the cat would come home on its own.
After the incident, they are now more vigilant about the fate of their six-year-old dog and two other cats.
Reticulated pythons, native to Singapore, can grow up to 10m and eat mammals ranging from mice to deer, according to the National Parks Board (NParks) website.
They are known to devour pets, including cats, birds, and dogs.
Reticulated pythons are regularly spotted in urban storm drains and play an important role in controlling the rat population, said Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, president of the Herpetological Society of Singapore.
He added: “Our thoughts are with the cat’s family and we sincerely hope they find an end to this incident.
“These animals mean us no harm. It is advisable not to leave pets outside unattended. In general, keep a safe distance from wildlife.”
Acres co-CEO Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan said: “While such cases of snakes attacking pets are not common, we live in increasingly integrated environments which can lead to more wildlife encounters.
“It is advisable to closely supervise pets outdoors and use a leash if possible or keep pets safely indoors for the welfare of pets and other wildlife such than snakes.”
People who encounter snakes in a public space or on their property should call the NParks 24-Hour Animal Assistance Center at 1800-476-1600.