Aina posing for a picture with one of her cats. Image: The Bruneian

Play with some furry friends as you enjoy good bakes at the latest talk of the town – the Great Catsby Café.

The home-based outlet which was opened last week is the brainchild of sisters Aina and Anna Shahrol as well as her husband Shauw Liew who recently returned from their studies in the UK.

The beginning

A look inside the cafe. Image: The Bruneian

When the trio came back, they were aware that the employment situation in Brunei was not really the same as it was when they left.

As reported continuously in the media, the sultanate is currently struggling to curb its unemployment rate which remained close to 10 percent of the population to this day.

Anna said she was aware some people had to wait more than six months before securing a job.

While studying in the UK, Anna and her husband Liew had the chance to work as Pharmacists.

“We’re so used to working in the UK, so coming back home, we were looking for ways on how to continue nurturing the skills that we’ve already gained such as leadership and communication,” she said.

After much thought and discussion, they decided to open up a café – a decision which was also initiated from encouragement by their friends.

One of the furry little friends at the Great Catsby Cafe. Image: The Bruneian

As for how Aina, Anna and Liew arrived at making it a cat café, Anna said: “People kept coming to our house to ask if they could see our cats, which happen to love getting people’s attention – which we could not give, and so that’s how we arrived at the concept.”

After much deliberation, the trio then began renovating their home in June this year and finished installing the necessary equipment by September.

“We bought most of our items in the UK. It took us two months to set up everything – including designing our logo,” Anna said.

Catspiration

A look inside the new cat cafe. Image: The Bruneian

For its design, the cafe is decorated minimally, influenced by the Japanese concept of a comfortable and cozy environment with jazz music playing in the background aimed to relax visitors as they interact with the cats.

Aina said the overall design was inspired from various cat cafes in the UK that carried different themes.

“We observed (their systems), how they built the toilets, shower area (and overall mechanics). We also have a shower room so it’s convenient for us to give them a shower if something happens.”

Cleanliness, safety and challenges

A look inside the cat cafe. Image: The Bruneian

One of the important aspects they took into consideration was the smell and cleanliness of the establishment.

“We had to think of ways to clean the area which is where our expertise comes in – as Pharmacists, we’re used to cleaning rooms so we’ll definitely make sure there’s no mess and that it’s well sterilized,” said Anna.

Liew said this includes providing proper ventilation and adding an air purifier to control cat hairs from floating around.

“We need proper ventilation as cats are known to release odour when they sweat and since we’re also serving food, we need to keep everything clean.”

The area is cleaned every morning and in between sessions and a thorough cleaning session is held every Monday when the café is closed.

Furry little friends playing around the cafe. Image: The Bruneian

When it comes to the cats’ wellbeing, the felines are given time to rest and a certain number is allowed in the room during sessions.

“Although they rest at the café most of the time, we do need a room to separate them because they do fight.”

Liew said cats that misbehave are quarantined or given time out from the others and placed in a separate room to cool down.

“After about half an hour, we’d let them out but if they do it again, then they’d be staying in for a longer period.”

A cat posing for a picture inside the cafe. Image: The Bruneian

“Whereas if they’re stressed or don’t feel like interacting with people, they’d usually climb up the racks that we built in and sleep or just rest.”

When it comes to challenges, Anna said it would be the cats’ unpredictable moods.

“Some days they want to socialize and other days they’re just lazy or don’t feel like interacting with anyone.”

The Meownu

The cafe’s menu. Image: The Bruneian

Apart from interaction with the cats, the café offers guests home-made delectables that are worth every penny.

This includes flavoured fries, chicken quiches, Nutella cheesecake and Japanese Milk Choux.

The café also serves ‘The Purrfect Pour’ specialty tea in various interesting flavours from the Calico Strawberry Sundae, the Ragdoll Camomile, The Sphynx Valentine’s Day and the Siamese Sawatdee Blend.

Some of the dishes served by the cafe. Image: The Bruneian

Don’t forget to try their signature Milano Hot Chocolate with Catsby’s homemade marshmallow fluff – you won’t regret it!

Meals are on a pre-order basis to give the trio time to prepare the dishes.

Customers can choose from three options:
Option 1: entrance fee, main course and soft drinks.
Option 2: entrance fee, light bites/Catsby Indomee and choice of selected drinks.
Option 3: entrance fee, any dessert and choice of selected drinks.

Sessions

Cats resting on the grass carpet inside the cafe. Image: The Bruneian

Eight sessions are available in a day where each slot is allocated an hour with a maximum number of six people at one time.

“However, if customers want to bring an extra person, we allow a maximum of eight people but it’s no more than that,” said Anna.

The fee is $10 per person during weekdays and $12 per person during weekends.

A cat climbing some of the props at the cafe. Image: the Bruneian

Customers are recommended to book a slot in advance in order to avoid disappointment. Bookings can be made through Instagram @TheGreatCatsby.bn.

Spend a purrfect day at the latest café in town open every Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 9.30pm .

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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