Covid-19 has taken its toll on Singapore’s businesses, including Joo Chiat cat boarding house Catopia. The ‘cat hotel’ offers staycations for kitties who are recuperating from surgery or whose owners are travelling or renovating their homes. But the number of feline boarders dropped drastically this year, when people started working from home and travel grounded to a halt as the pandemic worsened. “Over the past two years, we’ve had over 500 cats who boarded with us. But during the Covid-19 period, we got almost no business. We had to give it up ’cos nobody was allowed to travel, but a café was always in the pipeline,” says Catopia’s founder, Kevin Chiak, 54. When the lease at his Joo Chiat space was up, he took the opportunity to pivot to a café concept with 22 resident felines. “Most of them are rescues, and some of the special breeds are gifts from friends,” he says.

Kevin also shifted his operations to a two-storey shophouse unit in Little India. “Our space at Joo Chiat was not proofed for F&B,” he explains. “A lot of cat cafés in Japan are located on the second floor. Cats are very fast. One open door and ‘poof’! They slip out. Here, we have three doors in between the cats and the street downstairs.”

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