With the rise of cat ownership in dense city spaces, there is also a rise in the demand for boarding facilities and temporary retreats for these feline royalties. In 2012, Nekojam was created as an online pet shop for pet parents to purchase quality pet food and supplies. The holistic web store quickly rose to be one of top online pet stores locally, selling over 8000 products online. Inspired by the famous Japanese concept of capsule hotels, the Nekojam team aspired to overcome urban spatial limitations and create a boarding facility for proper cat care. In late 2016, Nekoya Cat Boarding Hotel came to fruition, nestled inside Centropod@Changi. Just last month, its second outlet opened its doors at King Albert Park (KAP) Residence Mall, meowing for all the cat owners in the West to come forth and grant their feline creatures a retreat. What is it like to be running Singapore’s first minimalist capsule cat hotel? We spoke to Debrah, the founder of Nekoya Cat Boarding Hotel, to find out.
Hey Debrah! How did you guys decide to open a cat boarding hotel?
Nekoya is preceded by Nekojam — our online pet store arm that was founded in late 2012. We cater to many cat owners there and as a cat owner myself, I felt that there was a hole in the market for quality cat boarding services in Singapore. Further research led me to discover that there are no guidelines in place to regulate the industry. Many cat owners resort to using home-boarding services, or other commercial cat boarding facilities that do not uphold stringent hygiene standards, and have a lack of understanding in terms of cat behaviour etc.
Congratulations on your new outlet! How is this new outlet different from the Changi Road outlet?
The Nekoya KAP outlet is more spacious and able to house up to 18 cats from separate households. Unlike the Changi Road outlet which is airier and brighter, this outlet has a cozier setting. It also features a retail section that stocks high quality cat supplies for our clients to purchase (walk-in) or enhance their cat’s boarding experience.
Is there a particular reason for the capsule-style design of the cats’ boarding quarters?
You may have heard of the term “catification”. The term is commonly used to describe the action of designing and creating living spaces that are both functional and stylish for cats and their human counterparts. Our hoteliers were created with a minimalist take on design in mind. The cabins were designed to cater to a cat’s basic need for routine and a clean living environment—there are clearly defined sections for resting, eating, and even bathroom usage. When each cat is introduced to the cabin, it is easy for them to understand their new surroundings simply because it makes sense to them.
Apart from the really well-thought-out design, how is Nekoya different from other pet daycare and boarding places?
Our business was not created with the intention of providing temporary lodging for cats — it goes deeper than that, and we’re looking at providing a solution to a larger problem. I would say that we are in the business of managing your cat’s expectations, and hence, their experiences, out of home. It is a common misconception that cats dislike going out, and as a result of this, many cat owners fall back on the option that they can only request for a cat sitter to come by, or worse still, shy away from going on holidays at all. It is in both the cat and owner’s interest to provide the pet with a good experience — it simply makes ownership easier and interactions pleasant as a whole. It is possible to own a well adjusted cat who does not hate vet visits, or boarding when you have to go away. It’s just a matter of finding the right people for the job.
Nekoya hoteliers are designed to resemble homes. We are the first indoor cat boarding facility inside of shopping centres in Singapore, because we believe that it is possible for cats to co-exist with humans, even in small and dense communities. We do not accept dogs for boarding, because we recognise that dogs and cats simply should not be boarded in the same facility, despite the cost advantages of providing both services at once. We aspire for each guest to walk in curious, and walk out; well, not wanting to leave at all. We want cat owners to know and trust that their cats are in good hands, and that they can count on us to be transparent about their cat’s wellbeing and experience while being boarded. Most importantly, we want to work against the feline stereotype, and help to change mindsets about cat ownership as well as raise the standards of cat boarding in Singapore.
Pet owners often get fearful when sending their pets to boarding facilities. How do you provide reassurance to your customers?
That is true. We have even had clients ask if we could help them FaceTime their cats! We understand that being apart from your cat is just as much a stressful experience for the owner, as it is for the pet. We provide text updates of the kitties throughout the stay, and make it a point to maintain a line of contact with the travelling owners. They can also request for photo and video updates of the kitties at an additional charge of $5 daily. To help our clients understand how they may like this service provided on their stay, we provide media updates on their first reservation absolutely free of charge.
Describe a typical day’s routine for you and your feline customers.
A typical day begins with housekeeping. We refresh each cabin to ensure that the cats are happy and healthy, and have a clean cabin to rest in. The same is done for the rest of the hotelier to ensure that the premise is sanitised for the cats to use, and we repeat this process in between handling each cat. This is done without fail each morning. We move on to meal times, and play time for our guests, attending to check-ins and checkouts in between.
Last but not least, tell us more about your Angel Program!
The hotelier does occasionally experience low peak periods. We like to take this opportunity to care for kittens in need of homes under our Angel program, where we foster and handle adoption of these cats. We host viewings every weekend, and realise that it is a very good way to get to know our clients, their cats, as well as educate them on cat care. Such private interactions are a good way for us to understand potential adopters, and they in turn have an intimate opportunity to interact with the cat they’re keen to make a part of their family. We’ve so far had five kittens go to loving homes, the most interesting of which would be Momo. Momo was supposed to live with her original rescuers, but unfortunately, one of the dogs at home suffered from life threatening seizures that made it unsafe for Momo to be around. It was a real shame because Momo really loved her large canine friend, and he loved her too. It was difficult for the family to let her go, so we took her in and they were able to visit Momo whenever they wanted.
Finding a home for Momo was a challenge. Because she was raised around dogs, she was feisty, very active, and had a bad habit of nipping us. Potential adopters were also put off by her behaviour, and opted for other kittens in our care instead as they were easier to care for, and generally more docile. A few adoptions fell through, but finally Momo found the perfect family for her. She now lives with rabbits, and has learnt to respect their boundaries. Despite her rescuer having severe allergies to Momo, they both never gave up on each other. We could see the happiness in Momo’s eyes, each time her new owner came to visit, and even when we brought her to her new home. She was happy, and knew that she had found her place in the world.
For an in-depth review of the Nekoya experience by a cat owner, head to Spoiltbytes’ blog post on her experience at Nekoya@Centropod.
Visit Nekoya Cat Boarding Hotel’s website here.
Nekoya Cat Boarding Hotel is currently offering 15% off all first-time reservations to those interested to lodge with them. Quote ANDWHYTE during conversations with Nekoya Cat Boarding Hotel to enjoy the discount. Discount is eligible for both outlets.
Nekoya Cat Boarding Hotel Centropod Outlet
80 Changi Road
Contact: +65 6910 6260
Nekoya King Albert Park Outlet
9 King Albert Park
KAP Residences Mall
Contact: +65 6969 6278