Is it goodbye to annual photo exhibition Cats Of The World?

Cat brooches by ceramic artist Amy Woo. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
Cat brooches by ceramic artist Amy Woo. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
A painting by artist My Itchy Fingers. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
A painting by artist My Itchy Fingers. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
Cat-nap eye pillows by Shu Ning of Momshoo. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
Cat-nap eye pillows by Shu Ning of Momshoo. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
Cat wheel by Rebecca Ho of Mystic Cat SG. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
Cat wheel by Rebecca Ho of Mystic Cat SG. -- PHOTO: CATS OF THE WORLD
Basket Of Cats by Lim Siew Khim, one of 22 photos at the exhibition. -- PHOTO: LIM SIEW KHIM
Basket Of Cats by Lim Siew Khim, one of 22 photos at the exhibition. -- PHOTO: LIM SIEW KHIM
Sultan Hamet’s Timekeepers by Sim Ee Waun, one of 22 photos at the exhibition. -- PHOTO: SIM EE WAUN
Sultan Hamet’s Timekeepers by Sim Ee Waun, one of 22 photos at the exhibition. -- PHOTO: SIM EE WAUN
Guardian Of The Provision Shop by Wong Chee Huey, one of 22 photos at this year's Cats Of The World Photo Exhibition. -- PHOTO: WONG CHEE HUEY
Guardian Of The Provision Shop by Wong Chee Huey, one of 22 photos at this year's Cats Of The World Photo Exhibition. -- PHOTO: WONG CHEE HUEY

Organisers of the annual photo exhibition and Purrzaar Market struggle to find time to keep them going

After eight years, the popular annual Cats Of The World Photo Exhibition might be coming to a close.

It is not for lack of funding or interest.

The current showcase at The Arts House of 22 photographs of cats taken in Singapore and other places such as Istanbul, Kyoto and the Roman ruins in Italy, has attracted around 100 visitors a day so far. It is held till July 28.

Visitorship peaks to more than 1,600 people during the exhibition's Saturday Purrzaar Market, a fair of 18 vendors selling mostly cat-related products, accessories and clothing.

Both events could be at the end of the road because the organisers - public relations consultants Carlyn Law and Noelle Tan - say they are struggling to find the time to keep them going.

The exhibition takes about three months to organise, from selecting and printing photographs to publicising the event, all of which Ms Law, 39, and Ms Tan, 36, do by themselves.

"Both of us work full-time and with increasing commitments in work and our personal lives, we face challenges in finding time to manage the exhibition, but we do love it," says Ms Tan.

The exhibition started eight years ago when she and Ms Law thought it would be fun to combine their shared passions - cats, travel and photography.

They opened the project up to their friends and other cat lovers and decided at the same time to raise funds for animal welfare group Cat Welfare Society by selling prints and postcards of the exhibition photographs.

Three years ago, they added the Purrzaar Market, reaching out to local artists, designers and crafters to expand the range of goods for sale to include cat-themed items such as jewellery, toys, pillows, brooches and bags.

With 18 vendors, this year's Purrzaar is the biggest yet, up from 14 vendors last year.

Ms Tan and Ms Law have also expanded the exhibition to include an Instagram photo category, selecting 30 Instagram photos with the hashtag #catsoftheworldphotoexhibition, which are displayed alongside the fine photography prints.

Also introduced this year: cat-inspired artworks by local artists such as Namiko Chan Takahashi, Wyn-Lyn Tan, SBTG and SlothStudio.

They are sold during the exhibition at $100 each.

Ms Ang Li Tin, 33, was one of the 1,600 visitors to the Purrzaar last Saturday.

The television producer, who has attended the exhibition and Purrzaar for the past three years wearing her cat ears, says the unique selection of photographs and the fun atmosphere of the market keep her coming back.

"It is more casual and fun than Cat Welfare Society events I have been to - those are more focused on raising awareness about the society's cause. This event is just about celebrating cats and seeing pictures of them in places that I normally would not get to see," she says.

"It would be really sad if the event did not happen again because I look forward to it every year. I would miss meeting up with other cat lovers, some of whom have become familiar faces to me."

Ms Lim Shu Ning, 24, of popular craft brand Momshoo has been selling cat-themed products such as cat brooches, passport covers and "cat nap" eye pillows at the Purrzaar for the past three years.

"Even though I don't own a cat myself, it is amazing to meet people who are so passionate about cats. It is quite a different atmosphere from other fairs, everyone is so excited to be there and to see people wearing their best kitty outfits is quite a sight," she says.

All proceeds from the sale of the exhibition's photographs and 10 to 20 per cent of the profits made during the Purrzaar are donated to the Cat Welfare Society.

More than $4,000 was raised for the animal welfare group last year, which was used mainly to fund cat sterilisation efforts.

Whether or not the society will have to go without these funds next year is up in the air.

Ms Tan and Ms Law are tired but reluctant to let the project go. They are still trying to find a way to balance the exhibition and Purrzaar with their other commitments.

Ms Law says: "We have had some people who would like to volunteer and that might be a good idea - to get people to help us with logistics for future editions, or we might hold it once every two years instead."

Ms Thenuga Vijakumar, 29, president of Cat Welfare Society, which is also a vendor at the Purrzaar, says the exhibition is a great platform for reaching out to the public, not only as a fund-raising initiative, but also as a way to spread the word on the mass appeal of cats as pets.

"I think it would be a big loss if this event were to come to an end. I see a lot of people who mark down this event in their calendar and there are Cat Welfare supporters whom we see there every year. It's a way to gather the cat-loving community," she says.

vlydia@sph.com.sg