Cracks Appearing in the Concept of Cat Cafés

It is not as easy as some businessmen think to make a success out of the cat café while ensuring the highest standards of cat welfare.

Cuddles cat cafe in Singapore has a cat problem
Cuddles cat café in Singapore has a cat problem. Photo: Wee Teck Hian
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There is a cat café in Singapore called Cuddles (a good name). It opened in September 2014. Having read the story of this troubled cat café I have to come to the conclusion that some entrepreneurs who want to open cat cafés haven’t really grasped the difficulties that they are likely to encounter.

The cat café seems to be, almost, an amalgamation of a cat rescue facility and a coffee shop. Rescue cats are used to populate cat cafés but, of course, need to be selected extremely carefully. For example, they should be highly socialised and have placid characters.

In addition, and critically, they should all be extremely healthy and in the case of Cuddles there’s been an allegation by a former employee of the café who has said that up to 8 cats have died, which has been confirmed by the owner, Jonathan Tan.

Interestingly, he says he bought 30 cats for the business. I wonder why he bought them? Perhaps he bought them from a backstreet breeder? Why didn’t he adopt them from a rescue centre? Perhaps he did and perhaps he is using the word “bought” in the wrong way. He might mean the adoption fee.

In any case, he bought too many cats because the authorities limited the number of cats at the café to 20. As a result, he says that 10 of the cats were left at his home. That is a rather concerning statement to make because it raises questions about who is looking after them and their general welfare.

Perhaps more concerning is that we are told that the cats died either as a result of the sterilisation operation or because they had contracted feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).

Feline Infectious Peritonitis is transmitted between cats through close and continuous contact with infected secretions which can be through sneezing or sharing a food bowl, for example. The most common form of transmission is through faeces and the virus (the coronavirus) enters the cats of the nose and mouth.

So it is a contagious disease which begs the question as to whether the remaining cats are healthy because if they were all together at one time and if the management of these cats was, let’s say, substandard then some of the remaining cats may also have the disease. Three quarters of exposed cats show no signs of infection. This is quite a complicated disease and there are two forms of it.

It seems unlikely to me that cats can die as a result of complications arising out of sterilisation. I’m sure it is possible but unlikely and I find, therefore, that what the owner says slightly unbelievable.

In addition, the former employee says that they were not trained properly and here lies one of the problems with cat cafés, as I see it. Not only do the employees have to know about preparing and serving coffee and food they also need to have good cat caring skills.

It takes time to acquire these skills. In addition, it could be argued that the skills required are more demanding than  usual when a large number of cats need to be cared for in one place which is complicated by the fact that the cats are interacting with strangers as well as the staff. So, the “skill set”, is quite extensive and the responsibilities high because, unusually, the “assets” of the cat café include living creatures (the cats).

As a result of the concerningly high number of cat deaths, the local authority in the form of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority have become involved and are investigating.

The concept of the cat café as a high street business with lots of potential for success is burgeoning both in the West and the East. We read in the online press new openings of cat cafés all the time.

I would hope that the story of Cuddles serves as a warning to business people that there are particular complications, which need to be addressed very carefully before proceeding.

2 thoughts on “Cracks Appearing in the Concept of Cat Cafés”

  1. It takes a animal lover to understand the economics of running a “CAT CAFE”.If properly administered a cat cafe can be a profitable business.I have just returned from a “Little Rann of Kutch” safari tour where we were put up in a excellent farm house resort “Rann Riders” which resembled “Old McDonalds Farm”.The huge resort akin to a English country mansion had a “Horse Stud Farm” and numerous pets and farm animals mingling with the tourists.They had two traditional Persian cats that roamed freely on the palatial estate akin to common cats, thrilling the tourists.The cats got along extremely well with the two labrador and one Great Bernard dog living on the resort.Geese and ducks also gaggled along the pathways with the occasional peacock darting across the lawn.I have travelled many parts of the globe and stayed in a variety of hotels, lodges and hostels but “Rann Riders” was a experience of a lifetime for a lover of nature.Have posted a photo of their Persian cat relaxing in the dining lounge.Entrepreneurs wanting to study the method of running a “CAT CAFE” should visit “Rann Riders” in Dasada village of Gujarat to understand the method of the existence and management of harmony between pet animals and humans.

    Reply
    • It takes a animal lover to understand the economics of running a “CAT CAFE”

      Yes, it requires an intimate understanding of the cat and good knowledge of managing multi-cat situations. The cat cafe is basically good but there is an uncomfortable relationship between making money and looking after 10 cats in a high street cafe.

      I love your description of Rann Riders. It sounds like a great place. The Persian looks very exotic on the brightly coloured rug. I envy you that trip. It is the sort of thing I’d enjoy.

      Reply

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