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AVA investigates allegations of animal deaths at cat cafe

SINGAPORE — Cat cafe Cuddles, which opened at *SCAPE in mid-September, is being investigated by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) over some cat deaths and complaints about its training for staff, among other things.

Former employees of Cuddles Cafe said as many as eight cats had died before the cafe opened for business in September.
Photo:  Wee Teck Hian

Former employees of Cuddles Cafe said as many as eight cats had died before the cafe opened for business in September.
Photo: Wee Teck Hian

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SINGAPORE — Cat cafe Cuddles, which opened at *SCAPE in mid-September, is being investigated by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) over some cat deaths and complaints about its training for staff, among other things.

The allegations are made by some ex-employees of the cafe, who said as many as eight cats have died.

Mr Jonathan Tan, who owns the cafe, confirmed the cat deaths but declined to say how many of the 30 he had bought for the business had died. He left 10 of these cats in his home after the authorities capped the number of cats he could have at the shop at 20.

Mr Tan said the cats died after undergoing sterilisation or had feline infectious peritonitis — a disease caused by a coronavirus that attacks the cells of the intestinal wall and is fatal in more than 95 per cent of cases, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

When contacted, the AVA would only say it is “investigating the various allegations against Cuddles Cafe”.

Dr Jeremy Lee, a veterinary surgeon interviewed by TODAY, said cat deaths arising from sterilisations are quite rare “although we do see complications such as infections of surgical wounds caused by animals licking its wounds”. He said: “The risk of complications also depends on the health status of the cat at the time of the operation — healthy cats are at lower risks of complications.”

Dr Lee added that feline infectious peritonitis is “not as common now as compared to the early days of vet medicine”, noting that he sees an average of one case every three months. “It’s not an infectious disease but it’s fatal most of the time.”

The former staff of Cuddles Cafe also claimed that there was no proper training provided to staff on handling and taking care of cats — something that Mr Tan refuted. One of the ex-employees, who only wanted to be known as KJ, said: “The owner of Cuddles Cafe would just show us YouTube videos of how to shower cats.”

Mr Tan, however, said that his staff are taught how to handle cats, including checking for cats’ comfort level, grooming, showering, cleaning them, as well as how to disinfect their food and water sources, and litter boxes.

The ex-employees also expressed concern over the health of the cats in the cafe as they had had contact with the cats that died before the cafe opened for business.

In response, Mr Tan said that although the cats “lived together at some point before the cafe opened”, the cats in the cafe are all healthy.

“We constantly monitor the cats’ health and their general well-being, and bring them for veterinary attention should they be sick,” he added.

Mr Tan also told TODAY that the interim licence the AVA issued to it for the display of cats expires tomorrow but he has not heard from the authorities about the licence renewal.

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