Two months ago, when samoyed puppy Audi Saint Laurent turned one, her owner, Mr Augustine Chai, threw her a birthday party at Happenstance Cafe.
The celebration was attended by close to 20 other furry friends and their owners, complete with cake and food for both humans and canines.
Happenstance Cafe, which opened in May, is among a growing number of pet cafes that have set up in Singapore over the last few years. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the number of licensed pet cafes has doubled from 10 in 2012 to 21 this year.
At least eight pet cafes have sprung up this year alone. Mr Chai, 47, is one of many pet owners here cheering the rise of pet cafes.
"I wanted to do something special for Audi since it was her first birthday," says the events director, who owns another three-year-old samoyed.
The number of licensed dogs has increased from about 59,000 in 2011 to about 65,000 last year, according to figures from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Four new pet cafes - Happenstance Cafe, T.A.Z Cafe & Bistro, Dee Ohh Gee Cafe and Dog Dot Cafe - opened between April and August, serving food to both pet owners and canines. Each cafe owner has at least one dog.
Ms Adeline Ho, 28, owner of T.A.Z Cafe & Bistro at Jalan Leban, has always had a soft spot for dogs and has rescued over 20 stray and lost dogs from the streets. She has three dogs that she rescued. Their names, Teddy, Ah Girl and Zenus, inspired the cafe's name
"There really aren't many pet-friendly dining options or indoor places in Singapore for pet owners to take their furkids along," she says.
"One day, I just decided to pursue my dream and set up a pet cafe where owners can enjoy a good meal and their pets can mingle with other animals."
Ms Ho says she invested her life savings - forking out close to $100,000. Business has been steadily growing since the cafe opened in late June and the number of customers has doubled since it started, she adds.
Feline lovers, too, now have more options. Four more cat cafes have set up shop since the first, Neko no Niwa, opened in Boat Quay last December.
Unlike the cafes where customers are welcome to take their pets along, cat cafes house resident felines and patrons are not allowed to take their own cats to the premises.
Establishments that exhibit animals for customers to interact with require an animal exhibition licence from AVA on top of the pet cafe licence.
After the opening of Neko no Niwa, cat lover Edwin Tan was inspired to set up his own cat cafe. Eight months later, Meomi Cat Cafe was born. The 650 sq m space near Arab Street houses seven cats.
Mr Tan, 31, says he refrained from having too many cats in the cafe, explaining: "It is a business that involves living animals which we have to be responsible for for their entire lives."
Having worked in his family's wholesale business before he set up the cafe, Mr Tan is aware of the risks of catering to a niche market.
"If this is indeed another cafe trend, having fewer cats will be financially safer in the long run," says Mr Tan, who will only reveal that business has been steady since opening in late August.
For Mr Jonathan Tan, 30, owner of Cuddles Cat Cafe, it is a case of the more, the merrier.
His cafe is the largest pet cafe in Singapore - spanning 2,500 sq ft at *Scape in Orchard Road - and has the most number of cats at 20.
"The bigger space allows for a better environment for both our cats and patrons. Our different rooms give our cats their pick of favourite spots for whenever they need time away from their companions, and the patrons also have more space to stretch out and relax," says Mr Tan.
AVA allows only up to 20 cats a cafe so as to minimise the risk of having too many homeless cats should any of the cafes fold.
Having in-house cats in cafes also allows those who love felines but who do not have their own the opportunity to interact with the animals.
University student Ariel Tay, 22, was thoroughly satisfied after her visit to Cuddles Cat Cafe, her first to a cat cafe.
"I absolutely love cats, but my parents don't like them so I could never keep one. Visiting a cat cafe is the next best thing, I get to interact with many cats of different breeds," she says, adding that she has plans to visit other cat cafes.
Cat lover Jensen Ow, 39, even shot his pre-wedding photos at The Cat Cafe in Bugis earlier this month.
"I have always loved cats but prefer not to keep them as they like to roam around. My wife-to-be is actually more of a dog person, so we each chose a location for our shoot and I picked The Cat Cafe. It was fun and we were surrounded by my favourite animal," says the programme manager.
One challenge that pet cafe owners face is keeping the places hygienic and clean.
Happenstance Cafe co-owner Gigi Sng, 26, says she makes sure her customers dine in a stink-free and clean environment.
"We have to ensure there is no pee or poo around. As and when we see any, we will inform the owner if we recognise whose dog did it. If not, we will do the cleaning," she explains.
The NEA stipulates in its guidelines for pet cafes that there must be "separate storage and preparation areas, separate sets of crockery and cooking utensils for human and pet food as well as disinfection of all tables and chairs at the end of their operating hours".
Inconsiderate customers and fights between the animals are other problems that cafe owners face.
Ms Ho says: "There have been fights between dogs before and sometimes, the customer might be too occupied to notice. That is why we have CCTV cameras in the cafe so if a dog is badly hurt, the parties involved can view the footage."
At the cat cafes, staff look out for customers who wake up sleeping cats or play too roughly with the felines.
Mr Jefferson Soh, co-owner of The Cat Cafe, notes that some children need "multiple reminders and extra supervision" at times. The cafe allows children aged six and above, though those below 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
The other cat cafes also have strict minimum age requirements.
For blogger and dog owner Sarah Chong, who has been visiting dog- friendly establishments for the past two years, having more pet cafes is good news. But she hopes that more regular cafes would open up their spaces to pets.
"I prefer to have my dog with me most times of the day instead of leaving her at home. It will be great if more regular cafes allow customers to take along their pets," says the 26-year-old.
FOR CAT LOVERS
The Cat Cafe
The cafe charges a flat per-entry rate. Cat lovers get their money's worth by spending as much time as they want with the 15 felines.
Overhead cat bridges allow the kitties to take a breather from customers.
Where: 241B Victoria Street
Open: 3 to 10pm (Monday), 10am to 10pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Admission: Flat rate of $15 an entry with a soft drink
Info: Call 6338-6815 or go to thecatcafe.sg
Meomi Cat Cafe
The small space makes for a more intimate experience with the cafe's seven cats. The staff in the interaction area dishes out information on the characteristics of each cat and tips for those who want to spend more time with their favourite feline.
Where: 668 North Bridge Road
Open: 11am to 10pm daily
Admission: $13 for first hour with complimentary drink, $5 for every subsequent 30 minutes. Kids aged seven to 12 pay $7, $3 for subsequent 30 minutes.
Info: Call 6296-0339 or go to www.facebook.com/meomicatcafe
Cuddles Cat Cafe
It is Singapore's biggest cafe in terms of space and the number of cats - there are three themed areas within the 2,500 sq ft area and 20 cats.
From cat books and toys for customers to accessories on sale, the cafe boasts everything to do with felines.
Where: 03-01 *Scape, 2 Orchard Link
Open: 11am to 11pm daily
Admission: $12 for first hour, $3 for every subsequent 15 minutes.
Info: Call 6988-0089 or go to www.cuddlescatcafe.com
FOR DOG LOVERS
T.A.Z Cafe & Bistro
Located next to a Pet Lovers Centre outlet and within walking distance to Lower Peirce Reservoir Park and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, T.A.Z Cafe & Bistro makes for a perfect pit stop on a day out with your dog. It also offers doggy daycare services.
With plans to build an indoor pet’s playground complete with slides and toys in a separate room within the cafe, owner Adeline Ho is slowly realising her dream of making the place a one-stop haven for dog owners and their furkids. Menu highlights: Ms Ho doubles as the head chef and takes pride in whipping up a good variety of Asian and Western dishes for her customers.
Her best-selling items include the black pepper pork chop ($14.90) and papaya soup noodle ($12.90), a Tuesday special.
Equal emphasis is placed on the grub for dogs with a menu of seven items such as the pork mud pie ($7.90) that looks deceptively like a cupcake, and beef mud loaf cake ($8.90).
Where: 10 Jalan Leban
Open: Noon to 10pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 11am to 11pm (Friday to Sunday), closed on Monday
Info: Call 9027-6109 or go to www.facebook.com/taz.cafe.bistro
The layout of the cosy and warmly-lit cafe has ample playing space for dogs – they can either mingle with other dogs in the open area near the front or race along a walkway towards the back of the cafe.
Look out for Milky, the cafe’s mascot that belongs to co-owner Gigi Sng. The adorable and fluffy canine is sure to get you coo-ing and aww-ing. Menu highlights: With items such as truffle fries ($12), the Happenstance Signature Burger ($14.90) and a createyour- own-Happenstance pasta (from $8.90), it is no wonder that this pet cafe is receiving rave customer reviews for not cutting corners on its food for humans.
Believing that pet owners know their dogs best, the canine menu is customisable – owners can choose from a particular food group (from $6.50) or pick items if they want a more balanced meal for their dogs.
Where: 35 Opal Crescent
Open: Noon to 10pm (weekdays except Wednesday), 11am to 10pm (weekend), closed on Wednesday
Info: Call 6341-7871 or go to www.facebook.com/HappenstanceCafe
Dee Ohh Gee Cafe
Large wall stickers of trees, extendable wooden tables, swing chairs and green flooring add to the garden atmosphere of the cafe. With a big space in the middle of the cafe, owners can keep an eye on their pets as they enjoy their meals. Menu highlights: There is greater emphasis on the food for dogs. Tantalising canine treats include Pork Liver Parmesan Quiche ($7.90), Cheesy Beef Balls ($7.90) and desserts like Peanut Butter Popz ($3.90).
For pet owners, there is finger food such as chicken wings ($7.90 for eight pieces) and pastas. There is a wide selection of hot and cold beverages and the cafe plans to introduce alcohol to the menu soon.
Where: 110 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Goh & Goh Building
Open: 3 to 11pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 3pm to 1am (Friday), 11 to 1am (Saturday), 11am to 11pm (Sunday), closed on Monday
Info: Call 9228-5117 or go to www.facebook.com/pages/Dee-Ohh-Gee-Cafe/234709873378967