Since it’s opening in December 2013, Neko no Niwa or popularly known as Cat Café Singapore, has attracted a lot of buzz. Curiosity kills the cat, which is why we decided to venture for feline therapy on a weekday night.
Centrally located in downtown Singapore along Boat Quay stretch facing the river, the cafe has a long list of bookings (especially on weekends) and usually not possible for walk-ins. My advise is to make reservation at least two weeks prior and go on a weekday evening.
The cafe is divided into two areas – one for food and drinks, the other is a lounge area to interact with the cats. There is a cover charge or as they called it – a “cuddle fee” of $12 for the first hour. Subsequent charge is at $5 for every 30 minutes.
According to their website, they have to impose the rate.. “to keep our cats happy and healthy, a time-based fee will be charged to cover the cost of their lodging, regular grooming and medical. Some cats take time to warm up to people and therefore a minimum stay of 1 hour is necessary to fully appreciate the environment we have created.”
When you enter Neko no Niwa, the staff will direct you to sterilise your hands. After which, they will pass you a guide book follow by a short briefing. Basically they will highlight to you the 6 main rules, which are: No pulling of cat’s tail, No waking up of sleeping cats, No holding or hugging of cats, No flash photography, No cats are allowed to drink from your cup, No loud chats.
For me personally, there wasn’t much opportunities for interactive with the cats. The cats there don’t like to be petted. There is a staff around who will warn you not to get too close to take photographs in case cats scratch you. I feel that they focus too much on safety and there’s the ‘Big Brother’ mentality that doesn’t treat us as mature adults that know how to handle cats. It’s not a bad thing though ‘cos Singaporeans tend to be difficult customers who complaints a lot.
My friend, Ming Li shared their experience at two cat cafes in Taipei, “Both locations are easily accessible, about 25 minutes train ride from Taipei central follow by 5 min walk from the train station.” One cafe has no cover charge, just need to pay for drinks starting from $4 or select from the meals available. It’s like a normal cafe where cats roam freely around. At the second cafe I visited, customers are required to purchase a drink or dessert plus an entry charge of $10. The second cafe is similiar to Neko no Niwa in the sense that the food area is separated from the cat area.”
In contrast, there is no time limit. It’s true that cats need to get used to your human presence. Once they are comfortable, they will come to you. The cat cafes in Taiwan are also more spacious. There are few benches and no space-consuming sofa. Most importantly they have several breeds of Pedigree cats.
My other friend, Kate who had been to cat cafes in Korea, agreed with Ming Li, and added that, “There is minimal rule, just no flash photography. There is no one there to ‘guard’ you. Customers feel at ease and relax.” Ming Li said that the Taipei ones are better because there is no time limit, more trust (as no one is there to watch over you) and patrons are allowed to hug cats.
Perhaps the cat cafe in Singapore has just been newly set up and the cats there are still not used to being petted, so the staff are more cautious and safety is always a main concern in this republic. As a paying customer, I don’t agree with the time limit rule and feel that the place is too small. But as a business, they need to make money, and retail leasing in Singapore is high, so it’s understandable. I hope that can consider a second outlet in the heartland and charge a lower rate.
Generally, I enjoy the cosy feel of the place as if I am at the living room of a friend’s house who own cats. My two cents worth is this: Go only if you are a cat lover. But even as a cat lover, I feel that $12 for an hour is pricey, and you don’t get much interaction as the cats are either shy or aloof. I would rather spend the money on cat food to feed strays below my block.
Neko no Niwa is located at 54A Boat Quay (level 2, river-facing side), Singapore 049843. Reservation is recommended and you can ring them at (+65) 6536 5319. Check out their website on the opening hours and their Facebook for updates.
Cuddle fee : $12 for 1st hour, $5 for subsequent 30 mins there after. No service charge for food & drinks. Cash payment only.
Alternatively, you can hug a cat with these animal welfare organisations:
Cat Welfare Society – regularly organises Adoptation where you can bring a former stray cat home
SPCA Singapore – they have a cat area there you can go in and interact with cats, for free.
Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS) – located in Johor, this “mini zoo” run by volunteers houses various stray and rescued animals.
Do you know of any other cat cafe to recommend? Please commend below. 🙂
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