PETALING JAYA: Normally, the cat hotel business is booming now with bookings for the end of Ramadan as Muslims leave their beloved mousers in the lap of luxury while they travel to their hometowns to celebrate Hari Raya.
If owners can’t find a neighbourly cat-sitter then a cat hotel is an expensive alternative which suits many moneyed moggie owners just fine.
Except that this year Covid-19 has really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons. Balik kampung is not allowed, so pampered pussies get to stay at home with their human housekeepers.
The cat boarding business is on paws.
In recent years, the number of well-off cat lovers has been increasing and has led to the sudden growth of luxury cat hotels for when owners and their furry friends must be temporarily parted.
Catzonia is a very high end cat hotel and spa with four swanky branches around Selangor and Petaling Jaya normally itching to spoil your fluffy friend.
“Usually, we receive bookings starting from about two months before Raya, and then during the fasting month all rooms are quickly fully booked,” founder Syahir Zainal told FMT.
His luxury lockup is popular because owners can keep tabs on their pets 24 hours a day on CCTV through their phones.
It’s not recommended for alley cats though, and its five star facilities were favourably featured in the UK Daily Mail in 2017.
“Sadly, we are down about 80% compared to previous years,” Syahir said. “We always have good business during other festivals but Hari Raya is the big one.”
Most years besotted cat owners beg him to open his booking slots as early as five months before Hari Raya so they can be sure of a reservation.
“And those who leave it too late to get kitty a room even ask us to help find them any boarding places that we might know as they can’t find any.”
To run a successful cat hotel, it helps to be a feline fanatic.
“We miss the good old times when we had so many cats around to play with,” said Syahir. “All the empty rooms are depressing.”
He fears that business won’t pick up any time soon as the boarding service is highly dependent on owners travelling away from home.
“Currently, there’s no reason for pet-parents to board their cats as people are not travelling and no longer have to work outstation.
“Bookings started falling at the beginning of the year but began to plummet in March. And a lot of bookings were cancelled.”
However, Syahir is trying to be optimistic that business will bounce back when travel restrictions are lifted and owners go back to work and start travelling away from home.
“Many pet-parents nowadays are willing to spend as much money as they can to provide the best for their cats. They care about them like their own children.”
For the time being, Syahir is relying solely on his cat grooming service to keep the business going. This is a money-spinner right now as many owners are worried that their pets are at risk of Covid-19 infection.
Lifelong kitty cuddler Nurah Haron, who owns Cat Square, in Kuala Lumpur and specialises in stress-free cageless boarding is also experiencing a downturn.
She has decided to shutter her business temporarily to avoid the risk of infection.
“It’s risky for us to do boarding since we are home-based. Our equipment, like carriers and toys, could be contaminated with the virus too,” she explained to FMT.
Nurah hopes to be able to reopen her business again as soon as there are fewer health risks.
Everyone is hoping moggie mollycoddling will be back in business and purring again before too long.
Until then, we wish all future customer cats and their meowners a cuddly Raya together on the couch.