Another cat cafe to purr about

Another cat cafe to purr about
TheCatCafe at Bugis Village, which will have free-roaming resident felines, will open in early May.

SINGAPORE - Cat lovers can look forward to another hangout featuring free-roaming felines that are former strays.

Following the opening of Singapore's first cat cafe Neko no Niwa ("cat garden" in Japanese) at 54A Boat Quay last December, TheCatCafe will open in Bugis Village in early May.

The second cat cafe here will take up 1,200 sq ft on the third floor of a shophouse at 241B Victoria Street.

A check with the National Environment Agency showed that as of this month, there are 15 licensed pet-friendly eateries here. There was only one in 2004.

The latest cafes' star attractions are their free-roaming resident animals. Earlier ones mainly allow customers to dine with their own pets, although some shops have a resident pet or two belonging to the shop owners.

Stores with resident pets that customers can interact with need an additional animal-exhibition licence from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority.

The owners of both cat cafes took in their strays from different people. The cats at Neko no Niwa were adopted from cat fosterers with the Cat Welfare Society's help, while TheCatCafe works with Kittycare Haven, a cat shelter in Lim Chu Kang.

Neko no Niwa has 13 cats, TheCatCafe will have 15 to 20 cats and dog cafe We Are The Furballs, at 45 East Coast Road, has six pooches. Customers are encouraged to not visit with their own pets in consideration of the resident animals.

These cafe owners say their shops cater to a range of animal lovers, from pet owners to those who cannot keep pets.

IT consultant John Lai, a customer at Neko no Niwa, visited the cafe earlier this year to play with the cats. "I like cats but cannot keep one at home due to space constraints," says the 26-year-old, who feeds the stray cats in his neighbourhood.

Neko no Niwa says it enjoys brisk business. The cafe, which accommodates up to 25 customers, is fully booked on weekends up to two weeks in advance, says co-owner Tan Sue Lynn, 37.

Starting next month, the cafe will open from 10am to 10pm on Sundays. It currently opens at 2pm.

TheCatCafe has also created buzz. Even though it has yet to open, its Facebook page has more than 7,000 "likes".

The cafe has also pre-sold about $2,700 worth of offers on crowd-funding website Indiegogo. The money helps defray its estimated renovation cost of $50,000. Its total set-up cost, like Neko no Niwa's, amounts up to about $100,000.

These offers include entry passes for a sneak preview of the cafe two weeks before its official opening, and complimentary drinks and snacks.

Neko no Niwa spends about $20,000 a month on paying rent, utility bills and staff who help to care for the cats.

"I hope this business goes beyond making money," says TheCatCafe's owner Candice Neo, 27, a former civil servant. "Many people think that street cats are dirty. We hope to change that mindset."

As for Neko no Niwa's Ms Tan, she works with merchandisers who donate part of their profits to causes such as animal shelters. They sell trinkets in her store, and include brands such as Goood Cat Collars and Stuff Susie Made, which make fabric collars and cat-inspired jewellery.

Ms Tan, who used to work as a marketing executive at an asset management company, says that she and her co-owner plan to conduct workshops and talks about cats in her shop when business stabilises.

Animal welfare organisations give the thumbs-up to local cat cafes, and hope they can sustain their social mission.

"When the first cat cafe opened, there was a lot of hype, and it was good as it put Singapore's cats in the limelight," says Ms Thenuga Vijakumar, 28, a volunteer of four years with the Cat Welfare Society.

But, she adds: "If these cafes are adopting cats, it is a 20-year commitment based on the cats' life span, and businesses should plan for that."

Both cafes have laid out plans for their resident cats, should things go wrong with the business.

"We will work with Kittycare Haven to arrange for re-homing," said Ms Neo. "We will also stay in touch with them when running our business."

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