An increasing number of pet cafes are being called out for animal abuse – here’s what to do if you spot one

In 2014, seven cats in the now-defunct Cuddles Cat Cafe, owned by Johnathan Tan (above), have died within three months of the cafe’s opening.
The Straits Times

Pet cafes have started popping up all over the world, featuring all kinds of animals that you can think of – including hedgehogs, goats, meerkats, lizards and even owls. But dig deeper and you might find the hidden truth about some of these pet cafes as reports of ill-treatment of the animals make new headlines around the world.

Reteurs reported that according to Chihiro Okada of the Animal Rights Centre in the Japanese capital, owl cafes, which are wildly popular in Japan, provide unsuitable living conditions for these birds of prey.

This is because their sleep cycles are disrupted, their feet are tied to perches and the environment is too bright and noisy for their keen hearing and vision. As a result, many can develop neurotic behaviour, such as pulling at their feathers, pacing and rocking back and forth, activists say.

Singaporean pet cafe owners have reportedly abused animals as well. The Straits Times reported that seven cats had died within three months of the opening of the Cuddles Cat Cafe in Orchard Road, which was owned by Jonathan Tan.

Last year, the 33-year-old owner was sentenced to a total of two weeks’ jail and fined S$3,500 (US$2,561). Apart from providing falsified cat health records, investigations by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) found that the Singaporean had breached its licensing conditions by not keeping the cats in good health, and not ensuring that they tested negative for toxoplasmosis – a disease that can infect animals and humans – before keeping them in the cafe.

Another Singaporean man was accused of not properly caring for his animals in a Thai cafe placed under his charge in 2017. Facebook user Niyomrad Beerleo Itsarachai alleged in post that the man used to have a pet cafe in Singapore and eight of the cats that were living there had died from Feline Infectious Peritonitis.

The man was sentenced to two weeks in prison and after serving the sentence, he then fled to Thailand with the remaining cats and opened another cafe there called Kitties & Bears Cafe, where, similarly, around seven to eight of the dogs that lived there died within a month of the cafe’s opening. Despite warnings from specialists, he did not bring diseased animals to the vet, and the contagious virus eventually infected more animals.

AVA regulates pet cafes that keep cats for public interaction through licensing and routine unannounced inspections. Those that fail to comply with licensing conditions can be fined up to S$5,000.

“Safeguarding animal welfare is a shared responsibility,” the authority said. “The public can play an important role by being AVA’s eyes and ears, and provide feedback on animal welfare issues.”