With 15 cats to care for, simple tasks like feeding and grooming need to be done 15 times over.
Being surrounded by cats and caring for them as part of your job may sound like heaven to many, especially if you love cats.
As a cat lover with five of my own 'fur kids', I expected to breeze through my tasks while working at The Cat Café.
Despite having cared for and lived with cats my whole life, it was not enough to prepare me – even for just two hours on the job. Simple tasks like feeding and grooming become infinitely harder when you have so many cats to care for at once.
Located in Bugis Village, the cosy café is home to 15 cats. Their cats are rescued from the streets and adopted from local shelters.
The café also advocates patrons to adopt stray or shelter cats.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ARIELE TAN
One of the first things that struck me was how young the staff were.
My liaison for the day, Alicia Goh, had just graduated from secondary school, while The Cat Café co-owner, Jefferson Soh, is 33 years old. He opened the café when he was only 29.
"There are a lot of stray cats in Singapore without homes. Through this place, we want people to realise that stray cats can be home cats and have a different view of having cats at home," said Jefferson, a proud cat owner himself.
"We hope that people will learn more about [our local cats] while giving them a safe and fun environment to interact with them," he added.
The second was the sheer number of cats I had to feed, brush and clean during my short stint at the café.
While the tasks were all familiar to me as a cat owner, I still struggled because I had to accomplish them all before the café opened for the day.
I felt overwhelmed when I was feeding the cats. It was like being ambushed by an army of very hungry kitties. I even spilled some food while trying to keep track of the correct mix of food and supplements I needed to feed each cat.
I froze and watched on as others helped me clean up the mess and prepare another bowl of food. How do they manage to do this on a daily basis?
Familiar tasks like brushing were made so much harder due to the sheer number of cats that needed to be groomed.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/JANICE CHUA
On top of these tasks, the cats have to be groomed to perfection every week with baths, claw trimming, ear cleaning and even brushing their teeth.
Now, these are all things that I already struggle with on a monthly basis with my own house cats. I could not fathom how The Cat Café team managed to keep up with the regular grooming, and with 15 cats to boot.
Working at a cat café is not just about caring for the cats vigilantly. It also comes with its fair share of human challenges.
"We have customers that are very familiar with cats but still want to know more, and who are those terrified of cats. [We have to] recognise their expectations and meet their demands.
"We want our customers to be happy when they enter and when they leave," he explained.
Most importantly, the shadowing experience has also taught me a few neat tricks to help me better care for my own pets.
For example, cleaning cats' ears is a lot easier when you distract them with pets and scruff them first.
Another useful trick I picked up was to lift and tilt litter trays before scooping out any waste to prevent small clumps from getting mixed in with clean litter.
Even though I have been caring for cats for my entire life, working in a cat café was not as easy as I expected.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ARIELE TAN
So, the next time you visit a cat café, be sure to remember how much effort goes into ensuring that you have healthy and well-groomed cats to make your experience a fun and informative one.
And do thank the staff, because you never know how many scratches they endured or how many nights they've spent caring for sick cats, just so that you can enjoy your time with the cats!
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/JANICE CHUA