Are you thinking of getting your child, niece, nephew or any other child a pet? Before you go out and buy the cutest animal you can find, it may be a good idea to take the kid for a tryout…
Yes, we have written articles about the benefits of having your child grow up with pets. Indeed, there are many ways a family’s life is enhanced by dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, even fish and birds.
(See also: How A Pet Can Help Your Child)
And yes, we all love scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and finding insanely adorable photos of children cuddling up to their furry BFFs. And you’re thinking, there would be none cuter than your chubby bubs with his very own fluffy friend!
But what’s going to happen once the initial glow fades away? While we encourage the idea of adopting a pet for your family if you can, we also hope that it will be a good fit. Pets should become part of the family, and that adoption should be for its lifetime. So as to avoid unnecessary pain for both family and pet, it may be a good idea for the child – and the whole family if possible – to visit one of these places to for a hands-on experience, with no strings attached.
Finding Feline Friends
1. The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion of Singapore
Occupying three storeys of a shophouse in Purvis Street, The Cat Museum is often mistaken for being a cat café. However, it doesn’t serve food or drinks (except for cats!). Instead, it’s a non-profit three-in-one space that lets you trace the history of Singapore’s cats, see how cats really live – and possibly be inspired to adopt one – and meet the nine resident famous felines a.k.a. ‘Supurrstars’.
The main floor is an actual Museum with a wide range of artwork, memorabilia and displays about cats. Head up a level to discover the Muses – you are welcome to draw, photograph and simply hang out with cats and kittens in a home environment. On the top floor is the Mansion, where you’ll get to meet the famous crossed-eyed mascot, Prince Harry (above left), and his other famous friends, each named for a celebrity. There’s Brad (Pitt) and Georgie (Clooney), as well as sisters Angie (Jolie; above right) and JenJen (Aniston), just to name a few.
Admission is by per entry. Adults and teens aged 13 years and above pay $12 each, while kids seven to 12 years pay $10 each. Kids six years and below enter free. The cutest attractions have to be the Kitten Kindergarten and the new Mamas & Munchkins Nursery (you have to be at least 13 years to enter the nursery). Many of the cats and kittens on-site are available for adoption. Just check with the one of the friendly volunteers. Visit www.thecatmuseum.com.sg to learn more.
2. Cat Café Neko no Niwa
Located on level two of a row of shophouses at Boat Quay, Neko no Niwa is a classic cat café. You can go there to have a coffee, a slice of cake, and hang out with the kitties who call it home. Owners Sam and Sue had visited several cat cafés in Japan, and wanted to bring that therapeutic experience to Singapore.
There are 13 resident cats at Neko no Niwa, all of which were abandoned or stray cats who were adopted by the café in 2013, ahead of its opening on Christmas Day the same year. Each of the cats has a different personality. For example, pure white Emma (above left) with the striking blue eyes is a social creature, while Miley (above right) with her luxurious coat is shy but loving once she warms to you.
A time-based fee is charged (from $12 for the first hour per person), and drinks and desserts are charged separately. Do note that children below seven years of age are not allowed in the cat space, while children aged seven to 14 must be accompanied by an adult. These rules ensure the safety for both cats and children. Visit www.catcafe.com.sg for more information.
Doggy Day Out
3. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)
To get acquainted with dogs, as well as cats and other small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, who would love to be a part of your family, visit the SPCA at its new premises in Sungei Tengah. Chat with volunteers and staff at the adoption centre to learn about the personalities of individual animals you and your family find an affinity with.
Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the SPCA, says that finding the perfect pet companion may take more than one visit. However, interacting with potential pets before actually adopting them is a good experience, and is something that should involve the entire family, domestic helpers included! “Get the children involved with picking out collars, leashes, litter boxes, food bowls and so on,” he adds, “if everyone feels a part of the adoption process, they are more likely to take on the responsibilities of caring for their pet in the long run.”
There are no charges to visit the SPCA and to show the animals some love. Successful adopters are charged adoption fees that cover vaccination, sterilisation, deworming, microchipping, registration and licensing. Find out more details at www.spca.org.sg. You can also preview the animals currently up for adoption on their adoption gallery online.
4. Animal Lovers League (ALL)
Another animal shelter where you can meet potential adoptees is ALL, which is located at Pasir Ris Farmway. Founders Cathy and Mohan, together with a team of committed volunteers, care for approximately 700 dogs and cats with the aim of finding them each their own forever home. These include strays hungry for affection, once-loved pets that were later abandoned, and even victims of abuse.
You can start by viewing some of the dogs and cats available for adoption and reading their stories online. The next step is to visit the shelter to get the chance to interact with the animals. If you do find your paw-fect match, the staff will conduct an interview and home visit to ensure that your family is ready. If that goes well, you will host your potential pet for a two-week home stay to confirm that you are indeed meant for each other before the adoption is finalised. There are no fees required – just lots of tender loving care.
Check out their website at www.animalloversleague.com for more details about ALL. If, after visiting the shelter, you decide that your child is not ready to adopt a fur-sibling, consider sponsoring one of the animals instead. A monthly sponsorship package lets you provide for your chosen friend and entitles you to weekly visits as well.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm…
5. Farmart Centre Singapore
Also situated in the Sungei Tengah area is Farmart Centre, a rustic destination where kids can get up close and personal with farm animals. These run the gamut from rabbits and birds to turtles and even goats! While some of these animals don’t qualify as family pets, it’s still a great experience for the little ones.
Visitors are welcome to feed the farm animals. Just ask the friendly farmers for more information when you are there. Apart from the petting zoo, Farmart Centre also offers educational farm tours, a prawning pond and shops offering fresh farm produce. You can even tuck into barbecued seafood and other hawker food while enjoying the tranquil surroundings.
Admission to Farmart Centre is free. The management hopes that in today’s world of modern technology and electronic devices, that more children can be exposed to the natural environment. Starting from 1 Jan 2017, a free shuttle bus service from Choa Chu Kang is available on weekends and public holidays, as well as daily in June and December. Visit www.farmart.com.sg for updates.
6. The Animal Resort
Another kampung-style space where children can hang out with farmyard animals is The Animal Resort at Seletar West Farmway. One of the highlights here are birds big and small roaming around. Don’t be surprised to see turkeys, peacocks and even an exotic cassowary. There’s also a resident horse who will appreciate a carrot or two. You can purchase different kinds of feed for the animals on the premises.
For animals more suited to be family pets, check out the rabbit hut. It’s home to different breeds of bunnies, guinea pigs and even skinny pigs – a quirky looking breed of hairless guinea pig. The Animal Resort also has a cosy rest area with kiddy rides, swings and climbing structures for kids. You can also purchase refreshments there.
Admission is free. The Animal Resort operates with the aim of introducing children to the good old days, and to provide them with close encounters with animals in a rustic setting. Visit www.theanimalresort.com to learn more.
(See also: Kampong-style Fun at The Animal Resort)
If you do decide to adopt a pet after having some hands-on experience, we also encourage you to do some research about the species and breed, together with your child. There are many online platforms like Pet Central and mobile apps such as Pet Widget where you can chat with other pet owners and learn more about how to best care for your family pet. Good luck!
Featured image courtesy of The Cat Museum; Header image courtesy of Neko no Niwa.