By Tay Jing Xuan (20S03C) and Emily Ni (20S03C)
Do you still remember that one April Fools’ article, “Cat Cafe To Open in Raffles Institution”? Students were excited at the prospect of a cat cafe opening in school, with Teddy as its resident. It certainly disappointed quite a number of students when it turned out to be a deliberate prank. But we certainly wouldn’t leave our readers with such a sad conclusion to the saga. While the school will not be able to set up a cat cafe here, one can still visit some of the cafes on this little island. To make up for the dismay some readers might have felt, we (Emily and Jing Xuan) have decided to speed up the decision-making process for everyone and embarked on a journey to two cat cafés in Singapore (ignoring the threat of impending CTs and our thin wallets—after all, one can’t spell ‘cat cafe’ without ‘C’ and ‘T’, right?)
What is a cafe without beverages and snacks? With hungry bellies, we picked out drinks and desserts from each cafe’s menus to try out.
Meomi Cat Cafe:
The first item was the chamomile tea (or chamomeow, as the owner called it). Upon opening the lid, one’s nerves would be immediately soothed by the calming fragrance of the tea. It is often said that a piping 70 degrees Celsius is the best temperature to steep chamomile, but even as we sipped the beverage, none of it scalded us. Such care to ensure customers enjoyed their drinks at optimum temperatures was evident.
This comforting temperature and aroma was balanced out by the hint of bitterness every good tea would have, a true delight for any tea drinker out there. Although neither of us drink tea frequently, we both agreed that it was a good choice for anyone seeking relaxation and repose in the cafe.
Next up was the hot chocolate. It was served in a cat-themed mug, much to our amusement, along with a cute paw-studded lid to prevent any fur from getting in and any heat from getting out.
The beverage was foamy and light brown, reminiscent of a soft, warm pillow. Although named hot chocolate, the taste leaned more towards creamy marshmallows than anything. Perhaps avid fans of chocolate and cocoa might want to choose something else on the menu, but this drink was a warm and tantalising choice aside from the taste.
Now, what about the food? Oreo cheesecake is a popular item on the menu, according to the kind owners of the cafe. Intrigued, we chose to try that out.
The first cut through the cake was solid—one might think it means the cheese was too hard, but it melted wonderfully in the mouth and left no dry aftertaste. Sweet and rich as the cookie crumble filling was, it balanced out the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate crust. While eating it along with other creamy drinks might make the dessert a bit cloying, there is no harm in indulging oneself with a sweet treat by itself now and then, and this Oreo cheesecake will hit the spot. Just remember to order a less rich drink along with it if you do decide to sip something.
Neko no Niwa:
There was a wide selection of desserts and drinks available, but we boiled their decisions down to another hot chocolate (as a point of comparison) and an apple crumble. Here, none of the food was served on cat-themed dishes or utensils, instead being placed in a plastic box and a glass.
First: the hot chocolate. As the lid was removed, a puff of steam wafted from the surface, a good indication of its warmth. While the hot chocolate at Meomi Cat Cafe was topped with a layer of creamy foam, this one had none. However, this also meant the beverage was thinner and milkier, and a good portion of chocolate was clearly blended in the drink. This hot chocolate slipped down our throats smooth as silk—being much less thick and marshmallow-like—and roused the appetite of the writers.
What makes a good apple crumble? Crunchy apples, pastry that falls apart in your mouth, and nothing too sugary, right? This was exactly what the apple crumble at Neko no Niwa was like—refreshing. The apple slices were fresh and crisp, tangy enough to even out the sweetness of the filling. A crumbly delight for everyone to savour, the crust provided a good base to bring the whole pastry together. The apple crumble, light and simple as a whole, was certainly a good choice for anyone looking for something easy on their palates.
What’s a cat café without the cats? Possibility the most important factor of our ranking, these adorable furballs are the stars of our adventure.
Meowmi Cat Café:
Upon entering the café, we were greeted by a boisterous British Shorthair named George. He was arguably the most active of the cats—curiously sniffing and bouncing around our legs. We would learn later that he was the newest and youngest of the cats, which could explain his enthusiasm. There were cats napping peacefully in baskets scattered around the floor, content to let patrons stroke their heads soothingly as they dozed.
Once there was a sizeable crowd in the cafe, the owner brought out treat bowls to let everyone have a go at feeding the cats. He regaled us with entertaining anecdotes of the resident cats, like how their WiFi password is derived from a chubby cat mistaken for pregnancy, and an incident where an unfortunate patron got puked on from the skies. There were a few awkward, cheesy moments (“Catvengers, Assemble!”), but the owner’s dedication was evident.
The visitors were given some treats and allowed to let them eat from their hands. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of a soft feline tongue gently licking your palm and long whiskers tickling your fingers. Visitors were passed a few kinds of treats and were even briefed on which ones certain cats liked. Fluffy residents who were once huddled in their cat beds were lured out by the prospect of food, which added to the fun and enjoyment of every visitor in the cafe. As visitors fed the felines, the owner told them stories about each cat, such as Luna (a slim cat with beautiful shiny black fur) bravely following the owners back from the nearby Haji Lane to the cafe to “work”.
Sadly, there were a few cats who chose not to leave their perch high above us, which meant that we did not get to interact with them. No matter how much visitors might like to play with them,every person should respect the cats’ alone time and temperaments and not attempt to push them past their comfort zones and limits. In this case, everyone admired the sleepy faces of cats lounging above and took pictures, but never once swatted them with the toys provided. This was a true testament to the effectiveness of the rules enforced at Meomi Cat Cafe, so both cats and customers could spend time together safely and happily.
Neko no Niwa:
The first thing one would notice upon stepping into the cafe area would be the sheer number of cats lounging on the floor, on scratching posts, and even on the shelves. There are ten cats living in this establishment, according to a list of cats distributed to us. Most of these cats were rescued from shelters and dark alleyways along places like Ubi or Geylang. Some of them darted across the floor and snaked between visitors’ legs, while others slept soundly in beds or sprawled on a mat as a couple more played hide-and-seek in a cardboard box.
When we approached a large maine coon/ragdoll napping on the floor, a staff member rushed over to us and advised us not to touch him. Although startled by the interjection, we agreed and opted to admire his long fur instead. We later learnt that at least two staff members would always be standing at a corner of the cafe, watching visitors interact with the cats, and interrupting whenever they felt visitors were not playing with the cats correctly. One even taught us how to optimise playing with a beautiful white cat whose attention span was rather limited.
A little tip for those thinking of visiting Neko no Niwa: the cats love action. Rest your toy on a cat’s side for longer than three seconds and they’ll be fascinated no more. So to maximise your playtime with them, keep your toy moving. Hide it behind a cardboard box, rustle it against the floor to rouse their attention, keep them engaged and curious. If you follow this tip, there’s an almost guaranteed chance they’ll stick next to you to play instead of dozing in their cardboard boxes.
Food and cats aren’t the only things that make up a cat cafe. What about the overall atmosphere, the lighting and seats? One couldn’t just forget that, could they?
Meomi Cat Cafe:
When one walks into the local Starbucks or a hipster cafe along Tiong Bahru, one, as a human being, would definitely expect elevated seats and coffee tables. In Meomi, however, the seats were on the ground, where cushions in the shape of the residents’ likeness were scattered. A curious feline would pop by occasionally, darting through the small tables and lounging beside visitors as they enjoyed their food. This gave visitors and cats free access to each other, and everyone was allowed access to each other’s environments.
The little cafe was swathed in light, no corner unlit and unfriendly. And why is that? The answer lies in the glass ceiling, allowing natural light to stream in with no inhibition whatsoever. Visitors and felines alike can bask in the sunlight on clear days and watch the raindrops fall above them in the comfort of the air-conditioned cafe on rainy days. A trivial thing, one might think, but to our writers, it made all the difference to the ambience.
Neko no Niwa:
We were told right from the very start that the cats were feisty, sprightly critters who loved action. We even witnessed it first-hand, when a cat darted in front of them while they were walking to their seats. That is why the elevated seats were suitable for both visitors and cats—humans could separate themselves from the world of felines to enjoy their food if they’ve had enough, and cats could jump up and down to relieve their restlessness anytime they needed.
There wasn’t any shortage of natural light in Neko no Niwa either. Being situated in Boat Quay, there was a great view of the Singapore River many visitors took pictures in front of. A few sleepy cats dozed cosily in the beds that were laid out on the table next to the window, so visitors could enjoy some downtime along with their feline friends too.
Emily: If your primary focus was the food, I’d definitely recommend Neko no Niwa. However, the most important part of a cat cafe is, well, the cats. And for that reason, I would have to rank Meowmi higher than Neko no Niwa (and their food isn’t anything to sneeze at either!). I really enjoyed the interactions and feeding of the cats, as well as the owner’s cheesy but well-intentioned jokes. I felt more connected to the cats through the sharing of little anecdotes, and overall the atmosphere was really relaxing and enjoyable.
Neko no Niwa’s cats were still superb, but there was not much information given about the cats other than their origins and names. In addition, the influx of patrons meant that the cafe was rather bustling the whole day—not ideal for a chill afternoon.
Jing Xuan: Neko no Niwa, while having an admittedly better quality of food with less cloying and more refreshing items, was rather strict with their cats, with staff often interrupting play and interaction with the cats. While it was done with good intentions—for customers to better understand how to play with the cats as well as for the cats’ safety and comfort—it could get slightly excessive at times.
Meomi, on the other hand, allowed cats to interact closely with customers (see: seats on ground, funny anecdotes and interesting stories about how they take care of/retire the cats, giving treats to cats), only intervening when customers get overly rowdy or rough. For example, there were multiple warnings given to a young boy to keep his hands to himself as he kept swatting at George, the young British Shorthair, who eventually lashed out at the boy when the cat ran out of patience.
Ultimately, the novelty of a cat cafe lies with the cats themselves: you can find good food in other places in Singapore, but you can’t find the same experience with the cats. Thus, if you wish to have a fun time with a good atmosphere, Meomi Cat Cafe is the place to go.
Both of us unanimously agree that we prefer Meowmi Cat Cafe! Of course, Neko no Niwa has its strengths, but if you’re looking for a calm afternoon with lots of furry friends, Meowmi is the place for you.