Cuddles cat cafe, a local cat cafe is said to be investigated by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) over the alleged deaths of cats and complaints over matters such as lack of training by employees to handle the animals.
The allegations are made by some ex-employees of the cafe, who said as many as eight cats have died while the cat cafe said that seven had died under its care.
Mr Jonathan Tan, who owns the cafe which allows customers to interact with cats in close proximity, confirmed the cat deaths with the local press but declined to say how many of the 30 he had bought for the business had died. He said that he left 10 of these cats in his home after the authorities capped the number of cats he could have at the shop at 20.
It is noted that the cat cafe which opened at *SCAPE in mid-September had created a petition earlier this year to urge AVA to approve of their proposal to have 50 cats in the cafe.
"At the moment, we have been allowed to start out with 12 cats in the cafe and will be introducing several more over the course of the next week. We have a total of 30 cats at the moment, with the other 18 cats being at the cafe owner’s house.
Painfully, we’ve had to split up several best friends and siblings, and some of the cats at home have already shown signs of missing their friends, partners, sisters and brothers. The staff at Cuddles terribly miss seeing all of our furry babies enjoying themselves together with their new family. 🙁
We feel it was unfair of AVA to not voice objections to our initial proposal of having 50 cats in the cafe, then abruptly introduce this restriction, halfway through the renovations in June. We had already rented the floor space and begun installing all the shop’s fittings as there had been no mention of any cat limit mentioned previously at all. All our attempts to engage in dialogue and propose alternative workarounds were rejected."
Mr Tan explained the deaths of the cats by saying that they died after undergoing sterilisation or had feline infectious peritonitis.
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal, incurable disease that affects cats. It is caused by Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), which is a mutation of Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV).
FECV is very common, especially in places where large groups of cats are kept together (animal shelters, catteries, etc.). Cats become infected by inhaling or ingesting the virus. The most commonly cited transmission source is feces, although contaminated surfaces such as food dishes and clothing can transmit the virus as well.
AVA only said that it is “investigating the various allegations against Cuddles Cafe” when it was contacted by local press.
The former staff of Cuddles Cafe also claimed that there was no proper training provided to staff on handling and taking care of cats — something that Mr Tan refuted.
One of the ex-employees also said: “The owner of Cuddles Cafe would just show us YouTube videos of how to shower cats.”
Mr Tan defended the cafe by saying that his staff are taught how to handle cats, including checking for cats’ comfort level, grooming, showering, cleaning them, as well as how to disinfect their food and water sources, and litter boxes.
An open letter was written on Cuddles Cafe also touched on this aspect by stating that the employees are not given any training. Employees were only welcomed to work and was told to bring the cats outside (play area) if they ever wander inside the staff room.
Ex-employees of the cat cafe also expressed concern over the health of the cats in the cafe as they were in contact with the cats that died before the cafe opened for business.
In response, Mr Tan said that although the cats “lived together at some point before the cafe opened”, the cats in the cafe are all healthy.
“We constantly monitor the cats’ health and their general well-being, and bring them for veterinary attention should they be sick,” he added.
It is understood that the interim licence the AVA issued to the cat cafe for the display of cats will expire on 17 December but nothing is heard from the authorities about the licence renewal.
In a facebook post by the Cuddles cat cafe, it apologized to the public "for any upset caused".