Situated along the Singapore River carefully nestled amongst the countless restaurants and bars, Neko no niwa (Cat Café 猫の庭) is the first of its kind to be in operation in Singapore. Overlooking the iconic Singapore River, its cosy environment makes up for the rather small space and the sunlight shines in to reflect the pleasant wooden finish of the interior.
Sue (the owner) warmly welcomes her guests – and so does her 13 resident cats that live in the café itself. Just as the name suggests, this is no ordinary café but a place where one can eat desserts or sip on tea while interacting with the furry friends that roam freely in the room. There are even toys provided for customers to play with the cats.
Sue tells me that this idea is quite common in places like Japan, where she first experienced the likes of dining with cats and liked it very much, therefore they decided to bring the concept back to Singapore to let Singaporeans have a similar taste of what it feels like as well. As a cat lover who has 3 cats of her own, Sue hopes that interaction between humans and cats can help eradicate the stereotype that cats are “dirty and aloof”. “Cats are actually very responsive,” Sue explains carefully, “they can actually be as good of a companion as dogs.”
Educating the Public
This is what I found most amazing – all 13 cats were adopted cats that were once strays or abandoned by their previous owners. The very purpose of this cat-oriented café is to, as Sue nicely puts it, “educate the public” that one should “adopt and not buy”.
“I believe that animals should all have a second chance at life and that adopting is much better than buying a pet. All 13 cats were adopted and we had to keep them in for a few months before letting them interact with other humans. I’ve seen them grow and have grown with them as well during those few months. All of them are gentle and good with people.
Young and Old, Curious and Fearful
When asked who are the most frequent visitors to the café, Sue expressed that there are no specific age groups or types of people that frequent the café. Instead, the age range can be very wide, and there are even tourists and expatriates who visit the café. Those who want to have cats at home but cannot because of allergies or personal issues also do pay a visit to the café for that experience.
“Some even come here for tips and advice for cat ownership and I will gladly share my own expertise with them, like information on cat nutrition and precautionary measures to keep the cats safe. There are some who also come here to face their phobias and fear of cats as well.”
Indeed, the people who visit the café can be very diverse in nature.
Sue has no plans to set up more cat cafés here in Singapore as there are “many other things to consider as well” before getting to set up new cafés. However, she would not mind if there are others out there who want to set up their own pet cafés as well. Instead, she thinks that this is a good way for Singaporeans to familiarise and be educated about cats.
Her motivation for now is her beloved cats – both at home and in her café. She finds playing with them a brilliant way to “de-stress” and it certainly “brightens up (her) day”.
As I made my way out of the café, I cannot help but admire Sue’s passion and her great love for cats. I will definitely visit the cat café again to enjoy the unique experience the café offers.
Cat Cafe Neko no Niwa
54A Boat Quay (Level 2)
Phone number: 6536 5319
(Reservations are recommended as the café only holds 25 people every 1 hour)
Prices: $12 an hour, $5 for subsequent hour (excluding food and drinks)
Mondays to Fridays: 11am to 10pm
Saturdays and Public Holidays: 10am to 10pm
Sundays: 2pm to 9pm