SINGAPORE: Three years after opening, Singapore's only cat museum will shut its doors for good on Jun 10.
With the lease on its premises expiring in five months, the top priority is to find homes for two dozen cats and kittens, founder Jessica Seet said in a media release on Thursday (Jan 25).
The cat museum currently operates out of the second floor of a pre-war shophouse in Purvis Street. It moved out of the third and fourth floors in September last year, after Seet got embroiled in a dispute with the authorities over the use of its upper floors for the museum’s cat shelter and adoption centre. The landlord has since decided not to renew Seet’s lease at the shophouse altogether.
Without a place to house the cats in sight, the former Gold 90.5FM radio deejay will have to close the museum's doors.
MORE THAN 20 CATS UP FOR ADOPTION
Visitors to The Lion City Kitty - The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion come and interact with its resident cats - named after the likes of George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Benedict Cumberbatch - while learning more about them.
There's also an adoption centre for potential pet owners to meet with rescued felines.
When Channel NewsAsia visited the cat museum on Jan 16, three volunteers were busy with daily chores, such as cleaning the numerous litter boxes, grooming and feeding the cats. Seet also had her hands full, nursing a grey newborn kitten with a milk bottle.
“It is incredibly sad that it has to close,” said Kim, an Australian expatriate who has been a volunteer for over a year. “But I always think that when one door closes, another door opens. Hopefully, something will happen and they’ll find a new space so the work can continue.”
“The worry is what will happen if they don’t find a new home,” said 43-year-old Tina, another volunteer.
Seet said that the resident cats would head home with her and a few volunteers at the end of June.
However, the rest of the cats will have to find new homes. The museum put out an adoption call on its social media pages earlier this month but so far, only one kitten has been taken home.
With the June deadline looming, the urgency has set in to find permanent homes for the remaining 24 cats and kittens.
Four-month-old Snowman was part of a litter of three kittens that was rescued during the festive period last December. They were found in the Little India area by a regular cat feeder, who quickly realised that the litter were all down with cat flu. Once nursed back to health, Snowman and his siblings - Santa and Little Elf - were taken to the museum.
And there is Sid, a playful grey-and-white tabby that was found as a kitten with his three siblings in Bishan. Rescuers noticed a pair of young boys playing roughly with two kittens, and found two more in a cardboard box nearby. All four kittens were all covered with ants.
While Sid's siblings - Diego, Manny and Scrat - have since been adopted, the one-year-old is still looking for a home.
NOT THE END OF THE ROAD?
While the business winds down over the next few months, Seet has her focus set on the next chapter of the cat museum.
“This is something that we really hope we can continue. This place has become so much more than just about the cats, because we have so many amazing volunteers from all walks of life … coming out in force to run this place,” the 51-year-old said.
She admitted that the September incident had left her “exhausted” and she contemplated giving up.
But speaking with Singaporeans and volunteers gave her the encouragement and resolve that it was a project worth fighting for.
On Thursday, she launched a campaign to raise S$1 million, half of which would go towards putting a down-payment for a new place for the establishment.
“(The tenancy issues) got us on the path of thinking we should buy a place. If we continued to rent, we would always encounter issues like this,” said Seet.
She said that the landlord would not be returning their S$21,000 rental deposit, citing "unreasonable repairs".
Seet is hoping that the museum’s next home would still be in the Civic District, citing the location's accessibility for visitors and potential adopters. If the fundraising is successful, she wants to restart the business at the end of the year.
“This time we will work very closely with MND (Ministry of National Development),” said Seet. She added that, while scouting for a new location, she would also check on the proper licenses needed, in a bid to avoid disputes with the authorities in the future.
In the meantime, Seet said she draws inspiration from singer Jason Mraz's I Won't Give Up. "Every time we sing it, we all start crying!"