Photo Essay

The pet cafe craze in Singapore is growing with the National Environment Agency reporting that licenses to operate in pet cafes have doubled from 10 to 21 this year. These pet cafes – cats and dogs in particular – provide Singaporeans who don’t own pets the joy of playing with them.

The photo essay explores the environment of pet cafes and how they are becoming increasingly popular with Singaporeans who love to cuddle a cat or pat a dog in their leisure time. Now who needs to watch YouTube cat videos?

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“These cats are so cute!” and “Awww aren’t you just adorable!” are just some of the many phrases you’ll hear whenever you visit a pet cafe. Singaporeans throng to these cafes especially on weekends to cozy up to the animals while enjoying a nice meal and drink. Some cafes are so popular that you have to call and make a reservation.

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The first pet cafe in Singapore, Neko No Niwa, first opened its doors in 2012 and since then, 4 cat cafes have joined in to spread the love of felines all over the island. Drawing influences from cat cafes in Japan and Korea, the cafes adopt the concept of cat therapy, a scientifically proven method of healing and relaxation through interaction with cats.

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“I always thought that cats were quite unfriendly. They do what they want and don’t really play with you, but coming here has made me realize that they can be quite feisty,” Clarissa Chiam laughed as she pried a soggy toy from Caramel’s (pictured) mouth.

Cafes like Neko No Niwa and The Cat Cafe rescue cats from the streets and give them a comfy new home complete with cushy beds and cat kibble available 24/7. Combined, they’ve given over 28 cats a new home.

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Besides cats, patrons can get up close with dogs over at WTF (We are The Furballs). The tongue-in-cheek name lives up to its hype with friendly canines just begging to be your friend.

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Similar to cat cafes, WTF hopes to bring people together over the love of dogs. “It’s a place where you can visit on your own without feeling out of place. Everyone has a common topic to talk about – our insanely adorable dogs!” said Ms Debbie Kok, owner of WTF.

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Many pet cafes evoke a warm cozy ambience with mood music like jazz or acoustic covers complementing the rustic wooden interiors and cushy furniture. Cleanliness also plays a big part in the cafes as stated in AVA’s Pet Cafe regulations, where customers are advised to remove their shoes and wash their hands before entering the play area.

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The high cost of operating these cafes is reflected in the entry fees which typically range from $12 to $15, with some charging extra dollars for additional hours. Apart from rental costs, Ms Kok added that cafes have to think about the welfare of the animals and the issue of manpower, both which raise operational costs.

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Despite how pet cafes continue to be immensely popular, cafe owners like Ms Debbie Kok remains on the fence if this bodes well for business.

She said: “On one end, people believe such cafes are exploiting the animals ‘working’ there and when the cafe closes down, all these poor animals will be homeless. Others say it’s good because people now have an outlet to interact with these animals without needing to buy them. This reduces the chance of people purchasing animals on impulse and then abandoning them. Whether it’s good or bad, I leave it up to Singaporeans to decide.”

Photos are taken with an iPhone 5s. Edited using Snapseed  & Pic FX

Cafe Information:

Neko No Niwa, 54 Boat Quay, Singapore 049843

Open from 11am-10pm Mon, Wed-Fri. 10am to 10pm for Sat, Sun & Public Holidays. (closed on Tues)

The Cat Cafe,  241 Victoria St, Singapore 188030

Open from 3pm-10pm on Mon and 10am-10pm from Tues-Sun & Public Holidays.

Cuddles Cafe, *Scape, 2 Orchard Link #03-01, Singapore 237978

Open from 11am to 11pm Mon-Sun.

We Are The Furballs, 45 E Coast Rd, Singapore 428765

Open from 2:30pm-9:30pm Tues-Thurs. 2:30pm-10:30pm for Fri-Sat. 1:30pm-9:30pm for Sun (closed on Mon)