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Engaging our four-legged friends
Boutique feline lodging
The Nekoya Cat Hotel
80 Changi Road
The Centropod, #02-03
Tel: 9345 6989
IT'S a known fact that cats are solitary creatures, unlike their canine counterparts. So they're usually not particularly keen on social interactions, especially with other living beings they are not familiar with.
That's why Debrah Lau believes that leaving your house cat in a regular boarding house catering to both dogs and cats might not be the best idea.
She explains: "The noise and environment tends to stress cats out a lot so it becomes a negative experience for them. They want their own space, but some boarding places put all the cats in a big room. I feel that when stressed, cats prefer a small, cosy area - that's why they like cardboard boxes so much."
With this in mind, she opened The Nekoya Cat Hotel last November. It is Singapore's first boutique cat hotel which is located in a quiet shopping mall near Joo Chiat. The hotel has a total of 15 cabins, where each can house a maximum of two cats only if they are from the same household.
It costs S$39 per night to put up one cat in one cabin, and an additional S$25 for a second cat in the same cabin. Working like a hotel, check-in can take place anytime between 2pm and 7pm, while check-out is before 11am.
"I run an online pet store, so I've received a lot of feedback from cat owners who said they don't know a place they can trust to leave their cats when they go overseas. Even cat-sitters aren't ideal. In some cases, the owners don't go on holidays altogether because it's so stressful to leave their cat behind," explains Ms Lau, who runs both Nekoya and her four-year-old online pet store Nekojam with her husband.
In order to cater to these customers - who are usually young couples or families used to services like Airbnb - she tries to go beyond just providing cat litter and a place to sleep by having some value-added services. For instance, the hotel makes sure all the cats are let out from their individual cabins on rotation, and all the staff hired are ex-vet nurses who are comfortable with handling animals.
So far, demand has been fairly high, and the hotel has already had some repeat customers.
Another outlet might even be on the cards - this time probably in the West - later this year.
Adds Ms Lau: "I think being a cat lover is not always enough to run a hotel, especially when you are tasked with the responsibility of caring for up to 30 cats. So having ex-vet nurses around and sending regular updates to owners help alleviate some of their worries, and they can go on holiday knowing their cats are in good hands."
A pooch's haven
Paws N Pans
327 Joo Chiat Rd
Tel: 6509 6506
CAN'T decide where to take your dog to play on a rainy weekend? Perhaps try Paws N Pans, a two-storey pet-friendly cafe in Joo Chiat that not only allows you to dine with your own pets, but also has in-house dogs for you and your pup to interact with.
Its co-founder Tracy Tan says: "I myself am a dog-owner, so I know how hard it is to find a place for my dog to roam without having to be on a leash - a place where everybody there likes dogs - so we hope to be that."
Her cafe opened in mid-2016, after Ms Tan and her other two co-founders took over a space which used to house another pet-friendly cafe called Tree Bark. The concept is a little different, though - Tree Bark simply allowed people to bring their pets, but had none in-house.
Ms Tan explains that this difference results from the cafe's main aim - to give their in-house dogs some extra exposure and increase their chances of getting adopted.
"We run the cafe just to sustain rental and operating costs; other than that the main mission is for our resident dogs to meet their potential adopters. We also work with shelters and host adoption drives, so that we always have at least two dogs up for adoption," she points out.
Ms Tan met her fellow co-founders while volunteering for dog shelters in the past, where they realised that one of the biggest challenges shelters faced was finding a suitable space to hold adoption drives.
So when they came across Tree Bark, it gave them the idea of starting a cafe that would also provide shelters a space they could use for free.
And it's not just dogs that you could take home either. They've even hosted rabbit-adoption drives - with an upcoming one on Feb 18.
Of course, Paws N Pans still functions like a regular cafe, serving simple dishes like fish and chips (S$12.80), sesame chicken wings (S$8.90) and waffles (from S$9.80).
It also offers a separate menu for dogs - a portion of either salmon, hormone-free chicken, or lean pork with two side-dishes (from S$7.80 to S$20.80).
Since all three co-founders have day jobs, anything that the cafe earns goes back to covering its operating costs, as well as any of their dogs' necessary healthcare.
Adds Ms Lau: "Unlike other dogs you may see at cafes, we need to keep in mind that ours need some form of rehabilitation. All of them have a history. Putting them in a casual cafe setting helps with rehabilitating them, so they can correct the behavioural problems that make them hard to rehome."
Healthy snacks for dogs
BONE broth, green kale, and goji berries. They might sound like foods that only health-conscious yogis with deep pockets would be eating on a regular basis but they are also ingredients in the "Rawsome Pawsome Green Slush" by online artisanal pet kitchen and bakery, Wholesome Paws.
This "slush" (S$18 a pint) is a cold-pressed mixture of these ingredients, as well as celery, lemon, organic coconut oil and seasonal vegetables, which pet owners can feed directly to their dogs, or mix into their kibble.
One of the partners at Wholesome Paws is Gilda Su, 33, who set up the business with her sister Bibiana Soh and her sister's boyfriend Nicholas Lim. All three still keep their full-time jobs, but started this business to raise funds for one of their own dogs' surgery and rehabilitation bills.
While most of their business is done online, they can also be spotted at flea markets and neighbourhood pet fairs from time to time.
Aside from the "slush", Wholesome Paws also sells dehydrated dog treats made from real animal meat, and dog-safe cakes that are gluten-free. Upon request, they also make customised meal plans that they freeze and deliver to customers' homes every week. "We use only human-grade products," Ms Su says. "And if you are wondering if the dogs we feed eat better than us, they probably do - I mean, we eat normal chicken from NTUC yet we feed them probiotic, hormone-free chicken."
This also means Wholesome Paws' products come with at a premium - S$12 for 100g of duck neck treats, and meal plans that work out to about S$45 to S$55 a week for a small 7-8kg dog.
"Admittedly our costs aren't cheap, but we feel this investment in our pets' health pays off because when they are healthier, that means less visits to the vet, and vets are tons more expensive than human doctors," notes Ms Su.
She adds: "We've spoken with many pet owners, and we realised that many lack knowledge about commercial pet food and what it contains. So what we advocate is healthy, wholesome food, without any preservatives, chemicals, fillers, artificial colouring or flavouring."
Pampering your pets
155 Kallang Way, #03-01/02
Tel: 6748 3135
IN the past, bathing your pets probably entailed spraying them with a hose, and drying them off with a towel. These days, most have switched to using a hair dryer, but there are others who take it one step further with a newfangled contraption known as the pet-drying room.
One of the latest brands available in Singapore is Vuum, a Korean import with a warm air shower blowing from five sides of the container, and a built-in filter to collect dust and loose fur. It even has an infra-red LED light that's also supposed to help with skin problems and blood circulation. Oh, and lest we forget, a MP3 player to play calming music. In short, it's a portable pet spa.
Ken Chong, the owner of Pet Connexions which distributes Vuum here, says that this new system is targeted at higher-end consumers who want an easier way of cleaning their pets after a walk, and drying them after showers.
"The boss's family in Korea has dogs as well, and their company uses airflow technology so they thought of applying it to drying pets," explains Mr Chong. "I have three dogs myself, and when I walk them, they get dust and dirt on their feet and fur. So after a walk, I put them in the Vuum for 20 minutes so that they're cleaner when they run around the house."
The Vuum pet-care rooms range from S$1,588 for the K50 single-door mode suitable for small pets including rabbits and hamsters, to S$5,488 for the W400 double door model that can house two medium-sized or one extra-large pet.
Pet Connexion was launched in June, after Mr Chong met Vuum's founders who happened to be his sister's friends. He himself is no stranger to the pet industry as he also runs Tengoku, a seven-year-old business specialising in single pet cremation.
On the advantages of Vuum, he says: "Some of the benefits of a pet-drying system are long-term... But other than the immediate fact that your pet is dry after a 20- to 30-minute session, I know Vuum is less stressful for an animal than traditional hair dryers - for most of my customers this is most important."