Whisker Network: The New Age of Cat Distribution

Join IRFAN ALI as he explores how cats made their way into the lives of humans way before the social media trend bearing the fun moniker “cat distribution system”.


Irfan Ali   

The UrbanWire Deputy Production Editor

Hype Issue #59

Published on
July 5, 2024

SINGAPORE – In recent times, the habit of cats entering people’s homes and lives unknowingly and adopting their human counterparts has taken social media by storm. Hence, this begs the question – is this all just a gimmick or did these felines have a symbiotic relationship with humans way before modern civilisations?


Cat and Human Relationship

Pet Sitter

A man cuddling his cat (Image from Shutterstock)

History records the Egyptians as the most notable civilisation to have formed a bond with our feline friends around 5000 years ago, according to yahoo.com. The cats endeared as domestic pets nowadays are perhaps the rather meek successors to their feline predecessors who had exceptional hunting prowess and were held in such high esteem thousands of years ago. 

Despite being the first ones to honour cats by burying them in pyramids and creating massive statues for them, the Egyptians were not the first ones to embrace the inseparable bond between them and their feline counterparts.

Some 9000 years ago, there was a man from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus who was buried with his eight-month-old cat, with both bodies facing the west, so that the man may be guided into his afterlife. This demonstrates that the man had valued his bond with his cat long before the Egyptians came on the scene.

However, even before this, there is evidence of the cat-human relationship as far as 10,000 years in the past. As people moved from scavenging to farming, they needed to store surplus grain, which pulled in pests. Carnivorous cats were drawn to these pests, not the grain itself. 

Rapidly, cats got to be esteemed and cherished for their innate competence with pest control. Proof of this bond includes old burials and various stone and clay figures found all through the Near East, highlighting the uncommon relationship between people and cats for centuries. Overall, the way cats exist in human culture, both now and in the past, stands out when compared to other animals that have become relevant to humans over time. 

Over time, the relationship between felines and humans has evolved. Cats were once regarded as sacrosanct and were notorious for hunting pests, which explains their maverick nature. However, cats have been domesticated to adapt to society and are no longer as independent as they once were. Therefore, cats have now turned their attention to humans in hopes of a better life. 

Though humans and felines share a bond that dates back millennia, more recently people have been going crazy over the growing TikTok trend called the “Cat Distribution System” in which felines choose their cat “parent” after an incidental encounter with humans and gradually become a part of their lives.

Cat Distribution System

According to KnowYourMeme.com, the “cat distribution system” is a phrase coined by TikToker @hermes.the.cynic to illustrate the frequent incidence of cats unexpectedly entering people’s homes and lives, and becoming adopted. The cat distribution system revolves around the narrative that you do not adopt a cat but rather a cat adopts you.

One such individual who got “adopted” by a stray feline is Hype Magazine’s very own editor, Annika Mei Das. When Annika’s neighbour stopped nurturing Sasha, she asked her dad to feed Sasha when one day he came across Sasha at the communal stairway outside their flat. “We continued feeding him until he felt comfortable enough with us to come into our house and explore. After that, we started domesticating him and now he’s a house cat,” said Annika.

Annika’s domesticated stray cat Sasha lying in his “crib” (Photo by Annika Mei Das).

Unlike adult feral cats which are often hostile to human contact and difficult to socialise, some stray cats interact with humans in hopes of kinship, home and food. Moreover, these “affable”stray cats are usually lost domestic cats, hence they are more acquainted with humans and therefore, “manifest” a better life by unknowingly entering the lives of humans.

Apart from the idea of taking in a stray cat, Annika believes that the cost of purchasing and raising one plays a huge factor in the cat distribution system. “Also, it’s cheaper to adopt [one] rather than to buy premium breeds. Our neighbours have cats as well and collectively they cost $18,000,” said Annika. “Owning a cat is also not cheap so trying to save money when you can is good. Plus, there are so many stray cats around so it’s much better to adopt rather than to buy.”

Despite just being a meme, there have been close to 41000 videos made on TikTok under the hashtag catdistributionsystem which shows that the cat distribution system is more than just a mere global phenomenon or serendipitous clash in lives. The meme is emblematic of the unparalleled bond between humans and felines, and how a cat assimilates with its human counterparts to become a part of their family.

Revised Cat Framework

Infographic made on Canva by Irfan Ali. Sources: NParks

However, before you go on a hunt for cats, be cautious of the revised Cat Management Framework by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), which is part of National Parks Board (NParks). According to NParks, only up to two cats are allowed in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, and up to three in private premises.

Moreover, all pet cats must be licensed and microchipped by their owners. The finalised Cat Management Framework aims to improve the traceability and welfare of cats, protect public and animal wellbeing, and promote responsible cat proprietorship and caregiving.

“I think it’s super good! I’m glad there is now a law to keep stray cats safe and it’s great because we don’t need to hide our cats anymore,” shared Annika regarding the new cat framework.

A two-year transition period will kickstart on 1 September 2024 and end on 31 August 2026, to allow cat owners to cope with these changes. This means keeping unlicensed cats as domestic pets from 1 September 2026 onwards would be a crime. ‘For existing cat owners, as long as you license your cats during the transition period, you can keep all your cats. 

Pet cat licensing will be accessible via AVS’ Pet Animal Licensing System (Pals) from 1 September 2024 however all pet cats will require to be microchipped, to begin with, and all first-time cat (or dog) licence applicants will need to complete a one-time free online pet ownership course before they can be issued a cat licence. 

Aside from being allowed to keep their cats, existing and future cat owners will also have their licence fees waived during the transition period. Now that you are more aware of the cat framework, you can officially start looking for your furry pals; who knows, you might end up with a cat like Sasha, as Annika did!