SINGAPORE - A reticulated python swallowed a 6kg 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 (Aug 29) 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 members could have taken the trouble to find out if the cat belonged to someone.
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," said Ms Low.
Ben liked to sun itself so the family allowed it 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 said: "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."
Members of the public who come across snakes in a public area or on their property should call NParks' 24-hour Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.
They are advised to keep their distance. Snakes will not attack unless disturbed or provoked, said NParks on its website.
If a snake is found inside a room, residents should keep all doors and windows that lead outside open for the snake to exit.
Pets should be kept on a tight leash as they might chase the snake and frighten it, said NParks.
The Straits Times has contacted Acres and Mandai Wildlife Reserve for comment.