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The Straits Times
September 1, 2022
A reticulated python swallowed a pet cat roaming the condominium compound of its owner's house in Tanah Merah.
Teacher Angel Low, 28, feared the worst when her cat, Ben, did not return home on Monday night, after she learnt that a reticulated python with a bulging belly had been caught earlier that day.
"Ben usually comes back when my mum calls him. We suspected that 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," said Ms Low.
Her three-year-old tabby cat weighed about 6kg, she said.
To her family's horror, they learnt the next day that the python had vomited their pet's carcass while the reptile was being transported to the Singapore Zoo.
But it was too late for them to retrieve the carcass, which was thrown out by staff.
"I wish they had been a bit more sensitive in handling the issue... especially when my cat had a collar," said Ms Low, who felt that the staff could have taken the trouble to find out if the cat belonged to someone.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Mandai Wildlife Group and Acres said the python was taken to the group’s animal hospital, which is the central processing point 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 had no microchip indicating its origin, they said.
“Acres made a call to the security officer to provide an update and was informed that no reports of a missing cat had been made up until then. After a discussion between the two organisations, the body was carefully disposed of, in accordance with the zoo’s standard protocols for biosecurity,” they added.
Following the incident, the veterinary department at Mandai Wildlife Group is reviewing its processes to temporarily keep dead domestic animals taken to the hospital, they said.
This was the first time Ms Low and her family, who live in a three-storey house, had seen a snake at D'Manor since they moved into the estate more than 10 years ago.
Ms Low said they were surprised to see one as the condominium is not near any nature areas.
"My mum is devastated because she was very close to Ben, whom we've had since he was one week old. He was a very sweet cat that wouldn't hurt anyone and would cuddle up to us when we were upset."
"Every time we think about what happened, we still cry," she added.
The three-year-old tabby cat weighed about 6kg, Ms Angel Low said. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANGEL LOW
Ben liked to sun himself so the family allowed him to roam the compound, she said, adding that the cat would return home on its own.
After the incident, they are now more vigilant of the whereabouts of their six-year-old dog and two other cats.
Reticulated pythons, which are native to Singapore, can grow up to 10m and eat mammals ranging from mice to deer, according to the National Parks Board's (NParks) website.
They have been 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 population of rats, said Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, president of the Herpetological Society of Singapore.
He added: "Our hearts go out to the family of the cat, and we sincerely hope they find closure from this incident.
"These animals do not mean us any harm. It is advisable not to let house pets outdoors unsupervised. In general, keep a safe distance from wildlife."
Said Acres co-chief executive Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan: “While such occurrences of snakes preying on pets are not common, we are living in increasingly integrated environments that may result in more wildlife encounters.
“It is advised to keep a close eye on pets when outdoors and use a leash if possible or keep pets safely indoors for the well-being of both the pets and other wildlife such as snakes.”
People who come across snakes in a public area or on their property should call NParks’ 24-hour Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.